The first thing I saw when I got onto the roads of Manchester was a man on a cheap bike cycling on a painted cycle lane in the Belle Vue area. This would have been unremarkable, were it not for the fact the man was on the wrong side of a two-lane road.
Something happened in Manchester, say 10-15 years ago, that meant that the city planners installed loads of segregated cycle lanes on many of the main roads near and around the south east side of the city, many that lead into the city centre. I mean, great things – wide, segregated. You can fault them, but they are on paper, not terrible. Some are inconsistent, slipping easily to pebbled side roads or reverting back to green paint … but it’s remarkable, from a London perspective.And then seemingly forgot about them, and the result is that there are some rough sketches, but now just wind and rain torn, unsmooth. But, that’s not saying the roads that the car’s get around this part of town are much better – it’s all a bit lost. Which is probably why the hotel was so cheap.
I was in Manchester for the Great Manchester Cycle, having previously agreed to sign up to it in a burst of enthusiasm and trying to get a colleague to join the bicycled gang of London. It was his idea, I said yes. I’m glad I did.
The bike ride is a 13 route from the Manchester City stadium along the southern part of the ringroad (major roads all closed down, for BIKES!) to Salford and the Manchester United stadium. You can do the (essentially flat) loop once (13 miles); twice (26miles) or four times (52 miles). My friend opted for twice, and that’s what we did. And, despite a few crashes (there were A LOT of cyclists), it was a great affair – people of all ages, on all bikes, of all varieties showed up and pedalled through. It was great, although I think I’d like to do the 52 miles if I did it again.
But, if there were loads of bikes, where were they on Saturday afternoon when I arrived? The weather wasn’t that bad. Why are the cycle lanes in such bad states? Why are the roads in general in such bad states? It always strikes me as odd when there are lots of fancy buildings going up (and there seem to be a few in Manchester), but the state of the roads is a bit crap? Manchester is not a massive city, and a potentially excellent one to cycle in – what happened to those lanes? It’s a reminder to Cycle Campaigns, elsewhere, not to rest on their laurels once they get some of their own way, as the London ones are starting to.