I managed to fit 30 miles cycling around my working day today.
In addition to the usual 13 mile round trip to work I cycled to Eccles in my lunch hour to check out a part of National Cycle Route 55 which had been signed by the council early this year. Sustrans are the custodians of the cycle network in that their Volunteer Rangers periodically check the routes, replace missing and vandalised signage and alert the local council to damage and obstructions which are too much for a Ranger (or two) to remove. We then promote the network and encourage its use. Occasionally the land actually belong to Sustrans but in the main the cycle paths, be they on road or trail, is actually owned by the local council.
Another Ranger and I marked route 55 along Eccles New Road into the town centre about 18 months ago, this bit was easy as the council had put marked an on road cyclepath a few years ago when the tram line was installed along that road. The cars and trams co-exist without any problem and despite a few unconventional junctions and points where the cycle path crosses tram lines, the facility is good and safe considering it runs along a busy road. There are plenty of signs to highlight the cycle facility, we just had to chose which one to affix the number 55s to.
However, on the other side of Eccles town centre things are not so good. At one point signs direct cyclists onto the pavement in order to cross a road at a zebra and then take advantage of a couple of short cut-throughs. Cyclists are asked to dismount at this point but that is unlikely to happen. The signage is confusing, drop kerbs have not been installed where the cyclist is to cross a minor road, and there needs to be markings to prevent parked cars from obstructing this crossing point (as they were this lunchtime). I would have preferred the route to have stayed on road. There was a complaint about this route from a local resident at the last Salford cycle forum meeting and I can understand his frustration. The response was that the council was aware of the outstanding modifications that were required safe but there was no current schedule of work or allocation of funds to cover this. The council were a bit too keen to sign this section and as the Ranger closest to this route has just moved away from the area I’ll take it upon myself to persue the council and press for the work to be done in the next financial year if not sooner.
This evening I attend the Trafford Cycle Forum, the first to be held for many years. There were 21 people there and despite the venue being 4 miles in the wrong direction to my homeward journey it was certainly worth my inconvenience. There were other representatives from Sustrans including the local Bike It officer, members of the GMCC, representation from the GMP crime prevention unit as well as 5 officers of the council from various departments. During the initial introductions I explained I was a good distance from home (10 miles along the A56) and although I don’t actually work or commute in the borough either, as the self appointed Sage Manchester Cycling Tsar, my interest was in the safety of colleagues who live in Trafford that I am trying to encourage to cycle to work. The ride home was good, the rush hour traffic had passed and I pelted along at a good pace, but I must admit I was knackered when I got home after a long day and those 30 miles done at an average of about 15mph.