Sunday 27 October 2013

Observations from Amsterdam - People

There is a definite empathy between rider and machine in the people I saw cycling in Amsterdam last month.

The choice of pedal cycle seemed to say a lot about the rider.

Some more flamboyant than others,

but many of the machines seemed to be chosen at least as carefully as the clothing.

Just occasionally I felt there was a bit of a mismatch,

but I got the impression that many dutch people put more effort into selecting a bike than they would buying a car,

but then they probably spend more time riding the bike than driving the car...

Saturday 26 October 2013

Horrifying Halloween Critical Mass

With an epic thunderstorm and torrential rain at around five o'clock, everyone was beginning to worry that the Halloween Critical Mass would be a washout. However, the pedal powered party people of Manchester are made of sterner stuff, had spent far to long on the costumes and own sufficient waterproofs to not be put off by rain on a warm autumnal evening. Besides, I'd spent far too long sorting out a music mix for the ride so I wasn't going to let the effort go to waste. In the end between 150 and 200 people turned out, which last year would have been a good turnout on a dry day!

And the costumes really were good.

The ride was colourful if somewhat wet.

Some had painted faces,

others had gone to town on the outfits.

The orange devil with trident was the full works,

whilst little more than bandages were used to horrifying effect.

The ride was pretty wet at times but that just seemed to add to the atmosphere.

The ride ended at Platts Field Park, for the pedal powered film night.

The boat house was dressed with lanterns providing a wonderfully warm welcome, and the interior was even better.

A big thanks to Anna & co for organising the film night.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Blocked Cycle Parking Update

There seems to be some progress on the crap bikes and bike trailers which have been blocking cycle parking in the city centre. Following complaints to a local councillor and some on-line campaigning, there seems to be some progress.

A week ago it was noticeable that the cycle trailers had moved away from the cycle racks and were attached to other pieces of street furniture.

A signpost in Cross Street,

the bollards warning sign in Market Street

and a big lamppost in Piccadilly Gardens.

However, this Saturday, only the trailer in Piccadilly Gardens was still there,

and just round the corner the same company seems to have resorted to people standing around holding placards.

Lets hope with further pressure from bike riders and councillors we can get rid of the remaining few BMX bikes and get some more cycle parking back into use.

However, there is a much greater problem with blocked cycle parking in the city centre, and that is the many motorbikes which block cycle racks. Last Friday, this was the state of the cycle racks outside MOSI. Not a bicycle in sight.

All the bicycles have been displaced onto the nearby iron railings, which are less secure than the purpose built Sheffield bike racks.

That's a campaign for another day...

Saturday 19 October 2013

Observations from Amsterdam - Cycling

You read a lot about how segregated cycle tracks are the key to Dutch cycling, well that is not the whole story.Take this patch of south Amsterdam. Yes the dual carriageways and many of the main roads have segregated two-way cycle paths on both sides...

And they are well maintained and regularly swept for rubbish.

However, many roads in the area do not have separate, protected cycle tracks, they have plain old cycle lanes, and they exist alongside car parking, right in the "door zone"

They work, because they are wide, and every dutch driver is taught to open the car door with the hand they use to change gear, so they have to turn and look as they reach for the door handle.

But there are many roads with neither cycle lanes or cycle tracks, most of which are 30km/h zones.

Strikingly, in this area, most of the residential streets are closed off at one end to motorcars, but are open for cycling.

So, the cycle facilities are a range of measures which all contribute to sustaining cycling levels, but segregation is only common on the major roads.

View Larger Map

Cycling, Chocolate & Coffee Morning

Nina McArthur's Coffee Morning at Popup Bikes was a great success. As well as lots of coffee and chocolate, there were several stalls down the back with information and retail opportunities from clothing to art and jewelry.

It also turned into a great cycle networking opportunity, catching up with familiar faces and new people. Popup Bikes, is a great venue for this kind of event, and we should make more use of the place for social and campaigning events.

By the end Nina was left smiling, bottom left below, but somewhat worn out by the hard work.

Nice one Nina!

Sunday 13 October 2013

Observations from Amsterdam - the Roads

Last month I spent a few days working at a conference at the RAI centre in Amsterdam. It's a fairly urban part of South Amsterdam and what is striking, at first is the scale of the road network compared to the cycle paths. This road outside the conference centre has 6 lanes of traffic going north and 3 going south with tram tracks down the middle.

The land use is dominated by the roads, with rail next and the cycle network is on the same scale as the pavements. In some ways it reminds me of main roads in parts of South Manchester.

After a while some key differences start to stand out. This 3 lane each way dual carriageway goes into separate lanes for left, straight on and right a long way before the junction.

At the junction itself there is clear separation between the priority for each of the lanes with separate traffic lights for each lane. Any driver trying to change lane at the last minute is in trouble and Dutch drivers don't seem to tolerate such behaviour and use their horns to object to such behaviour.

Generally, what struck me was the complexity of the road designs. Drivers are clearly expected to pay attention and get in the correct lane and cope with trams and bikes at side turnings.

So the differences between Amsterdam and Manchester extend well beyond the cycle routes. There is far more structure and order to the Dutch road design and drivers are expected to conform to this structure. This creates a very different context for the cycle infrastructure to the one here.

View Larger Map

Wednesday 2 October 2013

NCN Route 6 closed for the rest of the year

I discovered today that National Cycle Network Route 6 will be closed on Liverpool Road from 14th October for at least 3 months. It turns out that United Utilities will be closing Liverpool Road and Water Street entirely for around 3 months. Whilst there will still be narrow pedestrian access there will be no provision for cycling whilst the first phase of work is carried out. Anyone cycling along Water Street or along Liverpool Road will have to get off and walk around the junction.

In the new year there may be provision for people cycling to get between Princes Bridge and Liverpool Road along Woollam Place, but don't hold your breath.

So if you regularly use Liverpool Road and Princes Bridge you may find yourself being sent on long unpleasant diversions via Mancunian Way, Chester Road, Bridgewater Viaduct, Deansgate, Quay Street and Water Street and vice versa.

If you are on a bicycle you can get off and push along the pavement, but anyone who uses a trike or trailer may have to go round the long way because the pavements are going to be very narrow at the junction.

UPDATE: this is the diversion which is going to be posted by United Utilities - it's 3/4 mile long and goes up and down a hill.

View Water Street Diversion in a larger map

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Manchester's Biggest Bike Protest!

I have only lived in Manchester for the past few years and I haven't (yet) done any research into the history of cycle campaigning in the area. However, I am fairly certain that Monday night's Space4Cycling ride is the biggest cycle demonstration in a very long time, possibly the biggest ever.

Around 500 people gathered on pedal cycles in St Peter's Square. The start was fairly low key, and the start was announced by a police officer.

The ride was marshaled by people carrying, and occasionally wearing blue GMCC tabards.

The police were holding the traffic well on the main roads,

and had kept the roads around the conference centre clear of traffic.

The ride outside Manchester Town Hall.

The ride then carried on into the Northern Quarter where the smaller roads made policing more difficult, and many critical mass regulars found themselves having to plug side roads.

There were only two sound systems on the ride despite the numbers.

There were a few unusual machines like this rickshaw with it's entourage of youngsters.

The police were also much more effective than Critical Mass at holding the trams for the passing riders.

It was only a short ride and it soon returned to St Peter's Square.

The ride ended quietly, though there was a shout for a bike lift for a group photograph.

As a show of numbers the ride was very successful. However, there has not been much sign of press coverage and there was no clear leadership of the ride, nobody got up to talk about the purpose of the demonstration.

The lessons I learnt from the demo are that we can get large numbers of people out in Manchester to protest about conditions for cycling. However, we need to make sure someone is primed to welcome the riders and we need to make more of an effort to get the press involved to report on this growing groundswell of protest.