Fast Lane Please

Came back from a week in France on Sunday and riding into work on Monday was the first time for lights this winter. Last year my Light and Motion HID battery was flat so I had a ride home without front lighting. This year I made sure on Sunday night it was charged up and then also dug out the LEDs for the back. Battery check was good so looked good for the ride home in the dark. Except that when I went to switch on the LED on the back at home time, the bugger was flat… How does that happen?

It was a chilly morning on Monday. I wasn’t uncomfortable in winter weight roubaix keeping my knees and arms warm. I did think that the guy riding in wearing running shorts and a cotton t-shirt who was so pale that he was almost translucent might be a bit cold. This morning the weather was back up a few degrees so that some of those winter layers feel a bit too much.

Today I attended the first UMBUG meeting at The University of Manchester in what’s probably a couple of years for me. There was some useful discussion regarding different things including the Love Your Bike presentation on Getting Moving: A manifesto for cycling in Greater Manchester. This makes 5 core recommendations and there is a general aim to get 20% of Greater Manchester journeys under 5 miles to be undertaken by bike.

They’ve done some cool stuff in the past, including this rather cool campaign:

Fast or Fat

New Way Home

Amazingly after all these years doing the same old, same old route to and from work, I’ve found that there is a route that runs parallel for just over half of the whole journey and is on quieter roads with a cycle lane. Amazing. It’s my preferred route home and takes about the same amount of time, but is definitely better for my temper. In other news, Eggbeaters are finally off the ‘cross bike in favour of SPDs. First ride on them tonight on the way home, they have to be an improvement even if they are twice the weight. I am not going to miss spontaneous ejection of my feet into the front wheel. Finally, check the tech: Cycling Apps.

Thanks for Nothing

Someone somewhere within the corridors of power clearly thought that it would be a good idea to improve the bike lane markings near the office at work. In essence there are two ways to get to work.

Upper Brook Street Commute

The default route taking in the Bends of Fury and is all on the road (red line). The alternative is to cut across the oncoming traffic or ride over the pedestrian crossing to join the bike lane (green line) on the other side (which technically I think is supposed to be joined via Grosvenor Street). Any way it’s generally a nightmare during rush hour because footpath users tend to walk in the bike land and I’ve become bored with running people over or yelling at them.

The council have now altered the road markings that link into the contraflow bike lane on Sackville Street. Here’s Sackville Street and the contraflow bike lane:

Now what they’ve done is to direct people from the end of the bike lane around to the contraflow. Previously the bike lane just ended, but now your encouraged to ride across the path the pedestrians will use.

If you’re coming down Sackville Street on the Contraflow and now follow the signed rouite you can’t see any pedestrians until you’re round the corner of the wall which may not be enough time to stop running people over depending on the quality of your brakes and the speed your going plus the number of pedestrians.

Quite why they didn’t logically continue the bike lane on the logical side of the wall as a shared but delineated path at first isn’t at first immediately obvious. Yet there is a reason…

Yes people who have been on the bike path are now encouraged to join Sackville Street at it’s narrowest point – just after two lanes of traffic have become one and people are frequently coming off the Mancunian Way Motorway in a squeal of tyres at over 50mph. Brilliant.

When I’m taking the road route (red line in the aerial photo above) there is frequently not enough room to get past cars at this entry point because they swing wide on the bend and end up positioned near the kerb. During rush hour Sackville Street is often backed up with stationary traffic to this point too.

I think I’ll continue ignoring the signs if I take the bike lane option and in either case will be riding up the bike lane on Sackville Street against the contraflow markings. I’ve encountered a cyclist coming the other way once since the path was created…

University of Manchester Bicycle User Group Meeting (UMBUG)

35 members of staff and students attended the December meeting. The majority of people had never attended an UMBUG meeting and had heard about the meeting via the Manchester-Staff weekly email. Here’s a basic summary of what was discussed.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Andrew Hough has recently been appointed as the Green Travel Coordinator for the Manchester Higher Education Precinct (The University of Manchester, MMU, RNCM and the NHS Hospitals on the Oxford Road Corridor). Cycling is one of the aspects of sustainable travel for which he has responsibility.
  • Given the scale of the task he has and that he is working unsupported he requested volunteers and support from members of UMBUG.
  • His involvement in UMBUG seeks to establish a point of reference for cycling matters for all staff and students.

The current situation at the University

  • The University has recently opened some new secure bike storage locations. These are controlled by swipecard access and are only available to staff and postgraduates. A decision was made during the planning phase that these would not be made available to undergraduates. The reasoning for this is that staff and postgrads tend to work in the same location on a consistent basis, meaning that if they commute by bike the same bike tends to be locked in the same location on a daily basis making it an easier target for thieves. The transient nature of undergraduates it can be argued makes their bikes less vulnerable.
  • The new facilities have been generally well received and there was thanks from UMBUG to Damian Oatway who was representing Estates (he commutes by bike each day from Bolton). There was some feed back to say that the new facilities needed an automatic door closure mechanism or alarm buzzer so people remembered to close the door. There has been a reported theft from within the secure compounds already. The facility at Stopford is over subscribed and there is a waiting list of 30-40 people. In general provision of bike parking facilities outside Stopford is insufficient and as a result bikes get locked up to all sorts of railings and metalwork.
  • It was commented that the safe store under the arches on the Sackville Street site contained many abandoned bikes. There is a plan for Estates to work in conjunction with Security to remove these over the summer and donate them to a local charity.
  • Work is progressing on the physical cycle link between the two campus areas. There are currently two proposals:
    • The first is the widening of the existing Preferred Route path between the Materials Science Building under the Mancunian Way and Sackville Street with soft division via demarcation to create a cycle lane.
    • The alternative is the development of the subway under Upper Brook Street and the Mancunian Way which would join onto the Preferred Route near the MIB building. Due to security this is less likely.

What can the University do to help current and potential cyclists – priorities

  • The cycle to work scheme (being able to get a bike through your employer as a tax deductable) was raised as a priority by members of UMBUG. Andrew Hough responded stating that this was recognised and work was taking place to address this. It is a complicated issue requiring buy-in form the institutions and partnership with local bike shops.
  • A cycle buddy scheme was proposed whereby established bike commuters might be able to show prospective riders established routes onto Campus that avoided the worst of the traffic.
  • There is little information about the group on the University website. I’ve volunteered to help take this forward.
  • Some members commented on the rapport between cyclists and bus drivers and taxi drivers. Avenues for recording driver behaviour need to be opened up.

The structure if the BUG and the route to success

  • The university does have a vision for increasing the number of staff travelling to work by bike. The aim is to reach 10% by 2015. Stats from previous surveys show that in 1999 this was 5% and in 2005, it was 8%. The target is not very ambitious.
  • It was felt that it might be possible to use details of staff on user lists for secure bike parks facilities and the waiting lists for these to gauge the levels more accurately.
  • There is a casual driver parking scheme. Few people know about it and there is confusion over whether or not there is a waiting list to use it or not. If this scheme was more widely recognised it might encourage more people to ride in to work – especially fair weather cyclists.
  • There is an annual bus and train ticket option that is available to staff via an interest free loan that is tax deductible.
  • The various cycle lanes around campus are not clearly defined – i.e. not painted green or red. Outside Whitworth Park was used as an example of where this is a problem.
  • It was expressed that there is a need for coordination between different bodies. i.e. The council have just invested heavily in modifying the road layout outside of Owens Park, but both here and in Rusholme, the cycle lanes are still used as parking spaces because they are not policed by the traffic wardens.
  • An example was given from the University of Newcastle where the University and City Council had gone into partnership of investment and had consulted their BUG.
  • The suggestion was made that council cycle officers should be invited to UMBUG meetings. It was felt that as well as Manchester City Council, officers from Tameside, Salford and Trafford should be invited too so that a coordinated policy could be established.

The online cycle forum and wishlist

  • Members of UMBUG were encouraged to use the forum.
  • It was clarified that it is not actually a webforum, rather a mailing list: – Staff and PGs can sign up to use this. To join send an email to with “subscribe university-cyclists” as the only text in the body of the email.
  • The suggestion was made that a proper web forum would be useful.
  • Lack of student involvement was raised. A proposal that there should be a no promotion, no exclusion policy was made.
  • Members were encouraged to get involved with the Connect2 initiative.

Organisation of future meetings

  • The next meeting for Manchester City Council Cycle Users Group is January 16th at the City Hall. Contact Mark Stevenson for details.
  • The next UMBUG meeting is Wednesday 6th February in the Alan Turing Building.

In follow up the CycleGM website is a pretty good resource for cyclists in Greater Manchester, especially for finding contact details for people and organisations.