Friday saw the last Bike Friday of 2009 as we don’t hold one at the end of December. I tried to rally some support again via the Facebook group that I have set up but the only cyclists I could muster were riding other legs rather than my Prestwich one. Despite this, the ride was a great success. Our leader Jonathan was there for probably the last time as he hoped that by the end of January he will have moved away from the area, but more importantly the (only) other rider setting off from Prestwich was cycling to work for the very first time. Chris had found out about the rides a couple of days after the last one and since he lives about a mile from our starting point and works in the centre of town, the ride was convenient and just what he needed to get him started. He had a dangerously cheap looking new mountain bike but from the shape of him I’d guess he kept himself fit by some other means. We guided him along Bury New Road using local expertise to navigate between the puddles that masked potholes of hazzardous depth and at the end of the ride he was confident that he’d be riding again in the future (though he still had the evening rush hour home to contend with!). For a couple of miles we were joined by a friendly and sweet looking Felt road bike (despite the painfully slow pace) and I noticed quite a number of cyclists pass us this month including another cluster of 3 who were all hi-viz’d up like ourselves.
At the meet point in the city centre I tried to duck out of Manchester FoE’s photocall with a polar bear to raise the awareness of the Copenhagen summit. There was also a local cyclist who was riding there via London which seems daft to me as Easyjet can fly you Manchester to Copenhagen for less than the price of a new bike wheel (he’s bound to hit a few potholes en route). Instead I guided Chris to the nearby Titchy Coffee company in the Triangle to claim a free tea/coffee for surviving his first Bike Friday ride and Ernie was waiting to see me for a quick chat.
Ernie, is a trained Bikeability instructor, a linchpin of the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign and has cycled around the world. He’s my hero and when I retire I’d like to be just like him. Being the philanthropic good egg that he is, he has offered out his services as a trainer for virtually free during the next few weeks, it being a low point in the cycle trainer’s calendar. He works freelance but has been used by local company Bike Right to give training in schools and to adults. I had already enquired about training through them but being a commercial enterprise rather than a charity it had proved too expensive for either my company or my colleagues to consider.
Bikeability is the replacement for the cycle proficiency test and as with most things in modern life it is more complicated than it used to be as there are 3 levels. First level is basic control of the bike and the old cones in the playground routine, not sure where 2 falls but level 3 is where we need to be to tackle commuting in rush hour traffic. The deal is that Ernie will ride over to our office to give an hours training on the streets and junctions we know and love, taking us quickly through the basics and into the Cyclecraft syllabus that will aid our survival as cycle commuters. He is even prepared to do free follow up 1-2-1 sessions shadowing individual cyclists on their commute to help with specific routes. All he asks in return for this service is some feedback as to the benefits of the training and requires that the recipient takes up membership of the GMCC which costs £10 although I have pointed out to everyone that this cost can easily be recouped by the discount offered on a couple of services and parts at local shops that acknowledge the membership card.
I’ve booked the (first?) training session for next Friday lunchtime and talked one of our regular riders into joining us. So far I have only sent the invite out as wide as our department. I’ll push it around the other 150 people in our Manchester office tomorrow and although I’m very excited about this opportunity (as is our Corporate Social Responsibility officer) I’m prepared to be met with the usual wave of apathy. Regular cyclists seem to think they know it all already and everyone else thinks I’m some kind of luminous looney, I’m sure the training will at least benefit myself and reduce my chances of being knocked down again.