Bike Friday and Salford’s Big Transport Debate

After making a local appeal for support for the Prestwich Bike Friday ride I did have a little bit of company this morning for my leg of our critical commute into Manchester city centre. The Prestwich ride leader Jonathan was there without wife this month and their move away from Prestwich sounds complicated so I won’t be taking on the mantle of North Manchester leader this year at least.
One of my mates turned up proudly sporting a fixed wheel bike he’s recently had ‘refurbished’. That word is a bit of a misnomer as only the (heavy steel) frame remains from the 21 speed Raleigh bike he bought as a teenager (and that had to be straightened) and the sentimental fool has spent more on his project than I will probably spend on my new road bike but it looks great and there’s already an emotional attachment. Whilst we waited in vain for a 4th rider to turn up I had a little play on it and the fixed wheel sensation was a strange one which I likened to ‘a tail wagging its dog’ as I struggled at times to forget the concept of coasting.

The ride was quicker than normal, lovely conditions with no excuse for others not turning up. We met up with 30 other riders by the big wheel in Exchange Square and were given our battery charger reward which was generously supplied as an appropriate winter incentive from Manchester Friends of the Earth.
Yesterday I took a day off work to attend Salford City Council’s Big Transport Debate at the Lowry on Salford Quays. There was a certain irony to this as I made a 13 mile round trip in rush hour traffic to a destination just a mile from my office. The BBC are moving to Salford Quays over the next few years with Radio 5’s Peter Allen being ceremonially handed the keys a couple of weeks ago (though he and many of his London based colleagues have made clear their reluctance to move north). It will be 6 months before the first departments move in properly and maybe another year before broadcasts start from the Quays but the BBC will be the cornerstone of Peel Holding’s MediaCityUK development that will draw over 10,000 more people to work on the Quays. The roads are busy now and obviously will get much worse so what is the solution?
As a member of the Cycle forum I had been invited to represent the cycling Joe Public, however the day was dominated by pensioners ranting about the state of the buses. They are appalling to be honest (the buses not the pensioners) and it all went tits up when they were de-regulated in 1986 (again the buses not…).  As it would take an act of Parliament to undo this mess we are stuck with it but none of the oldies seemed to grasp this. The bus services are sadly still declining and the only solutions we could suggest were extending the existing subsidies to ensure essential but non-profitable route were maintained, more enforcement of service level agreements and creating bus lanes that would give a benefit to bus travel over cars. I tried to make the case for extended 20mph zones in residential areas to make them safer for walkers and cyclists but nobody really grabbed onto this. The morning of Question Time style debates was interesting with the good and great being placed on a series of panels to be quizzed by us. The opportunity to make a few more local contacts was handy but my afternoon workshop was shambolick with the bus moaners dominating our particular question of "How to tempt more people into walking, cycling or bus travel".
I think cycling will grow out of necessity around the Quays in the next few years. The educated and generally groovy media workers and students will know that if they live fairly local the bike will be the default mode of transport.  Traffic will be so gridlocked that we will be by far the fastest movers around. We are going to have a series of footbridges put across the Irwell and Ship Canal that will make movement quicker and safer and I can already get to Deansgate from my office quicker by bike on a mostly traffic free route than anyone could by car.  I just hope some of the major junctions we cannot avoid can be made safer over the next few years.


About holmesinho

Happily married father of 2 living in Prestwich 5 miles north of Manchester, England. I cycle most days though mostly commuting and also enjoy running and triathlon.
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3 Responses to Bike Friday and Salford’s Big Transport Debate

  1. darrell says:

    HelloAs an infrequent visitor to the Quays I really cannot imagine how the traffic will be when the BBC move in fully. It seems crazy that more thought and infrastructure has not gone into encouraging cycling as an option for visitors/workers/residents there.Also, as a Prestwich resident I have been keen to join a Bike Friday ride into the city, but as a shift worker who job takes him to Bury and soon to Cheetham Hill, I have just not had the opportunity to lend my support. Maybe 2010 will offer the required time slot!Cheers

  2. Nigel says:

    Hi Darrell, yes management of traffic flow around the Quay is going to be ‘challenging’ for the City Council. There are already some good traffic free routes around for us to enjoy such as the path but the side of the ship canal, the Bridgewater canal and the Castlefield basin. They just need linking up to the Quays and promoting so there are plenty of opportunities. The harder work is in supporting and promoting cycle commuting through the Salford streets which currently is just for the bravehearted.Sorry the Bike Friday rides are going the wrong way for you, hope to bump into you cycling around Prestwich but hopefully not literally!

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