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Friday, 30 October 2009

Places not to cycle in Manchester #1

In addition to the places in Manchester which provide a pleasant dedicated cycleway such as the Fallowfield Loop, there are also many roads which are pleasant to ride along.  The best Manchester road riding can generally be found on streets without cycle lanes, due to the incompetent efforts of the local council in providing a cycling “infrastructure” which takes the form of inconsistent cycle lanes which often take you onto the pavement (such as at the precinct near Whitworth Hall off Oxford Road).  The problem with these lanes is that people waking in the vicinity of these clearly-marked green cycle lanes seem to unconsciously gravitate towards them like some kind of retarded moth, forcing any cyclist who uses the lane to slow down to walking speed, rendering them pointless.  An additional problem with this particular example of a road-adjacent cycle lane is that it is approximately 500 m long, and if you are heading south it requires you to cross the road twice at two sets of lights which are set to give you a disadvantage (I just use the road).

The situation with on-road cycle lanes is not much better.  Take Parrs Wood Road as an example, providing a potential alternative to Wilmslow Road or Kingsway  for those travelling from Fallowfield to Parrs Wood or Didsbury.  I can see the logic in putting a cycle lane in on this road in theory, however because it is a residential area and the cycle lane is not coupled with double-yellow lines, the whole cycle lane is rendered useless by the sheer number of parked cars in the cycle lane.  I would go as far as to say that the council have actually reduced cyclists’ safety on that particular road due to the effect of risk compensation on the part of motorists who generally see that white line and the 8 mm of green tarmac and then switch off with respect to checking adequately for cyclists.

Seymore Grove links Chorlton to Old Trafford and acts as a link between the Fallowfield Loop and the River Irwell/Salford Quays.  It is also home to one of the narrowest cycle lanes I have encountered in Manchester:


I feel I can highlight this further with an action-shot:


Now bikes, as we all know are fairly narrow vehicles.  You may think me old-fashioned for feeling that a lane designed for a particular vehicle should be at least slightly wider than said vehicle, but it’s just one of my quirks.  The first picture highlights another issue I have with the cycle lane policy of the local councils, the cycle lane puts the cyclist directly in the door-zone of the cars parked on the roadside, which puts anyone who uses it in danger.  If the lane simply did not exist then cyclists would feel more comfortable riding outside of the door-zone without encountering aggressive “Back in yer lane” behaviour from motorists.

Friday, 23 October 2009

How not to lock your bike

Bike theft is a terrible thing, not least because its quite easy to become attached to the bike which has been almost an extension of your body since a few weeks after that first ride.  Its also quite galling because you know that the police, through a combination of lack of resources and apathy see bicycle theft as a, “non-serious crime.”  Obviously it helps to have bike insurance, make a note of your frame number (stamped into the bottom bracket shell) and possibly register it with a service such as Immobilise (this should stop some of the less dodgy pawn shops from buying your bike from a thief).  The main line of defence is the lock, but even then the best locks can be let down by the stupidity of their owners:

CIMG1712 (800x600) 

Take this classic example, the D-lock was a good choice, but just slinging it around your top-tube and through a Sheffield stand doesn’t magically protect the rest of your bike components, especially if you have quick-release (“easy-steal”) wheels.

Sometimes I see the D-lock through top-tube lock in conjunction with a cable through the wheels, which is a slight improvement but brings me neatly to my second point; D-locks aren’t invulnerable to leverage attacks, and leaving a big section of your “D” not filled-up with bike just makes it all the easier to break it open with a scaffolding pole and 15 seconds to spare.  Its also worth remembering that a thief will choose the bike where the leverage attack on the lock won’t leave the bike un-rideable or in need of repair, so the top tube is the worst place to thread-through your D-lock (apart from the front-wheel only; around Manchester you’ll see the occasional colourful-rimmed hipster wheel alone on a Sheffield stand, its owner having seen fit to secure the rest of the bicycle with nothing more than the front wheel nuts or QR skewer).

The best way I have found to use a D-lock is to put it through the seat stays and back wheel rim and Sheffield stand, and use cables to lock up anything else you’re not willing to lose.  This has the effect of reducing the leverage attack area for some scumbag with a scaffolding pole, whilst giving me the satisfaction of knowing that if they do get my bike, they’re probably not riding it anywhere anytime soon.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Places to cycle in Manchester #1

For those of a nervous disposition with regards to road cycling, the Fallowfield Loop offers a reasonably long traffic-free cycleway.  Stretching from Chorlton (near Morrisons) to Debdale Reservoir via Fallowfield and Highfield Country Park, the 13 km route is thought to be the longest urban cycleway in Britain.  At the Debdale terminus, a cycle-friendly path exists which ends at the Ashton Canal close to City of Manchester Stadium.  Conveniently from there on you can cycle along the towpath all the way to Piccadilly Railway Station in the city centre, offering a traffic free ride from Chorlton right into town (although it’s far from a direct route).


The entrance to the cycleway at Fallowfield (heading to Chorlton).


The beginning of the Fallowfield to Chorlton section of the route.


Perhaps the only downside to using the cycleway is these metal speed traps every few hundred metres.  I assume they are there to prevent people using motorbikes, but you could still get a motorbike up to a fair old speed in the gaps between them.  In practise they just make cycling on a proper bike less fun.

I’d still thoroughly recommend having a bash on the old Fallowfield Loop though.

First Post

You might think that now seems an unusual time to start a blog about cycling in Greater Manchester, with the nights closing in (especially from this coming Sunday onwards) and the weather rapidly deteriorating.  You’re probably right too.  I suppose I’ll have more time to write posts on the days where I am less likely to feel the urge to spontaneously go out for a spin, which come inevitably with the onward march of winter.