Today I went to Ashton-Under-Lyne. Ashton is one of the towns in the periphery of Manchester, probably one of the closest at around 12 km out from the city centre. The fairly short distance combined with the fact that it is largely downhill into Manchester would make Aston ideal for commuting into Manchester from, an easy ride in (mostly downhill) for when you are feeling less motivated (on the way to work) and slightly uphill on the way back (but at least you’re going home). The reason I went to Ashton is the market stall “Sweets of Yesteryear” who sell pick and mix of nice quality and a good range for about half of what you would pay in the city centre. The road to Ashton (Ashton old Road) isn’t that bad to cycle on for a fairly busy A road, I think there was the odd bit of painted on bike road but nothing consistent. At Snipe retail park I turned left onto Lord Sheldon Way, a recently (ish) built dual carriageway leading to Ashton Moss leisure park and IKEA and then the town centre. lord Sheldon Way had some particularly useless cycle infrastructure:
The cycle lane is on the pavement, raised off the road. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the bike path had the same priorities as the road it is a part of.
At this traffic signal, cyclists are expected to go left, stop, use the pedestrian crossing and then re-join the rest of the road where the path continues. It gave me the distinct impression that the lanes were painted on as an afterthought when they realised the pavements were slightly wider than usual. Surely its not too big of an ask to have the bike lane go straight along the road with anyone wanting to turn left having to give way to the traffic in the bike lane. That is how they do it in countries which don’t actively discourage cycling like we do. There were about 5 of these civil engineering failures along the length of the road. I am only thankful for the fact that facilities such as these remain optional in this country, you can just use the road instead. Still its a shame to see an opportunity missed, and money thrown away. The roundabout at the end of the road used a similar arrangement for the bike lane, but by this point it had long been abandoned in favour of the road.
Once in Ashton, the search for bike parking began. There are a number of multi-storey car parks in Ashton but a long search revealed only two bike parking stands
The people of Ashton interpret the meaning of bike parking quite loosely.
After buying copious quantities of sweets, the decision was made to have lunch at Ashton Moss, a leisure park containing several restaurants, a cinema and bowling lanes. Ashton Moss is owned by the property developer King Sturge, a rather large company, and despite the fact that it was 2-3 km out of Ashton town centre 9easily cycle-able by a novice), provided hundreds of car parking spaces and was surrounded by the attempted bike infrastructure discussed above, there were no bike parking facilities at all. I was genuinely surprised, I didn’t expect anything good, maybe just those wall mounted locking points which are great if you really love your front or back wheel but are not too fussy about keeping the rest of your bike, but there was nothing. Quite unbelievable in 2010.
Anyway, Ashton is nice for the sweets, not so nice for the bike infrastructure.