Bike back to work – 30 Days of Biking: Day 22

I saw a surprising update from Transport for Greater Manchester today:

It turns out that TfGM are offering a free bikes to people who have recently found work in the Greater Manchester area. Not only that, but they also include accessories, a helmet and access to TfGM’s cycling training and maintenance courses.

This is a great way to get people into cycling to work routinely and help with the costs of travel in the early days of a job. Cycling to work can also help productivity as well as offering low running costs.

As an extension to this, I’d like to see cycle training being offered as one of the courses at Jobcentres and perhaps even access to bikes for travel to job interviews. It would certainly help towards ‘normalising’ cycling in Manchester and show those looking for work that there are alternative ways to get around.

Last year, Jonnie bought a bike from one of the scheme suppliers: Bespoke Cycle Recycling.

They’re a unique social enterprise that’s offers people who need a “second chance” in life the opportunity to learn new skills. It’s great to see them being supported by TfGM too.

(I know the latest updates have been a bit light, but I’ve got work to do!)

Cycling on canals – 30 Days of Biking: Day 21

I’ve spent most of today recovering from yesterday’s ride to Liverpool and entertaining some guests this evening, so no cycling. I also need to upload some photos from the ride – here’s one:

In the meantime, GMCC have flagged up a consultation that’s taking place about cycling on canals.

Canal towpaths are often brilliant for cycling, traversing cities and complex terrain quite directly. Unfortunately, many have fallen into disrepair or simply blocked off – a shame, given they could be great traffic-free routes for cyclists and walkers. My route to Liverpool involved many canal towpaths, some of which have been recently improved – a brilliant example of how proper maintenance can open up useful leisure and commuting routes.

If you’re interested in using canal towpaths for cycling, go and fill out the consultation now.

Liverpool – 30 Days of Biking: Day 20

Well, we made it to Liverpool!

We set off from Chorlton about 11 am and arrived in Liverpool shortly before 6 pm – that’s around seven hours with four of those in the saddle.

The weather was fine – overcast but dry so no direct sunshine, though the constant light breeze did begin to take its toll by the end of it. The route was also predominantly flat, apart from a couple of short climbs in Liverpool proper. Along the way, we followed the route of NCN 62, aka the Trans Pennine Trail though avoided the mucky bit through Trafford and used the Bridgewater Canal as a smoother alternative. After that, we joined the disused railway to Lymm, crossed the Manchester Ship Canal at Latchford Locks and lunched in Stockton Heath. After a shandy, we continued on recently resurfaced (!) canal towpaths past Fiddlers Ferry Power Station to Runcorn before hitting a bigger road to drop in at Liverpool Airport for a snack break.

The last 10 or so miles took their toll, with the constant oncoming breeze even though it was mostly on the route of the disused Liverpool Loop line. Turning off at Gateacre, we hit a couple of short unexpected hills. After 40 miles, they were not particularly welcome but eventually the bizarre structure of the Liverpool Catholic Cathedral was in sight.

A quick snap and it was to the Liverpool Philharmonic Dining Rooms for a few more pints and a well-earned meal before the train back. I took a few photos along the way and I’ll post them once I’ve got a bit more time and I’m not looking forward to falling asleep! For now, enjoy the route:


Riding to Liverpool – 30 Days of Biking: Day 19

I’ve finally got my ass into gear and arranged a bike ride tomorrow with some pals.

We’re off to Liverpool from Manchester, taking advantage of the disused railway line that’s now part of the Trans Pennine Trail. It’ll be about 45 miles, mostly flat and reasonably sign-posted with the opportunity for pub stops on the way.

I’ve done it before a few times now, so fairly familiar but the ride is still fun. I have to thank Mark for showing me the route the first time – here’s a snap of him gazing out over the Mersey Estuary.

It’s quite something to arrive at your destination and local people sound different to where you started from.

In 2011, I rode with my friend Ella in the opposite direction – here’s the route we took, which I’ll be repeating going west pretty much.

Bank Holiday – 30 Days of Biking: Day 18

It looks like the sun brought out the bikes and this guy:

To the shops by bike – 30 Days of Biking: Day 17

Working from home today, I realised needed to buy a particular adapter for my laptop’s power cable as I’d left mine at the office.

No matter: hop on the bike, head to the Arndale Centre, buy adapter and head back. Done within minutes with no fuss.

Another routine day of cycling.


Dodging flies, fans and trams – 30 Days of Biking: Day 16

Well, I finally did some actual riding today. After work I took the long way home, joining one of my colleagues who cycles part of the same route.

The nice weather helped my inclination to take a long way home, but I’d forgotten what it was like to cycle at early evening down the Fallowfield Loop. It was great to see so many riders out, but unfortunately the combination of shade and wildlife meant there were little flies everywhere.

Now, when cycling, it’s likely that you will come into contact with nature, however desk-bound you might prefer to be. But hitting clouds of flies at regular intervals gets a little tiresome after a while. I’m just glad I wear glasses and I recommend getting a pair of clear biking glasses if they’re particularly sensitive.

I turned off the Manchester Cycleway at Gorton. I guessed that joining up with yet another canal for the final stretch home was just going to bring more flies, but this meant I had to negotiate the Ashton New Road.

This is a particularly notorious stretch of road that includes tram tracks, on-street parking and only advisory bike lanes. Having ridden this route several times before, I was able to negotiate it OK, taking as wide a road position as I could without being too close to the tram tracks. Unfortunately, I hadn’t banked on another hazard: football fans.

Manchester City’s Etihad stadium was hosting a home game this evening and the streets were busy with cars dropping off, taxis, coaches and, of course, somewhat jolly football fans. By this point, the tram tracks diverge and the road is no longer shared so at least I didn’t have to deal with that. Again, the familiarity of the route gave me confidence to negotiate it successfully including using hand signalling to encourage some more challenging drivers to give me space as I overtook taxis unloading wherever and whenever.

I definitely would not recommend cycling here on a busy match day (MCFC don’t seem to).

Ultimately, I was pleased to have exercised good roadcraft and got through what was a more challenging ride than I’d initially set out to do. I really think there’s been a missed opportunity in this part of town though – the legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games is evident in our new sports venues but getting there by bike isn’t as easy, safe or convenient as it should be.

I’ve tried to be pretty positive about cycling in my blog posts so far. But the fact is, there’s still so much to be done for cycling in Manchester.

One of the groups working on making cycling better is the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign (GMCC). Tomorrow evening, they’ve organised a social ride from Manchester City Centre out to a pub in east Manchester, not too far from where I was cycling (though hopefully on a nicer route!). Come along for a very friendly bike ride and meet other social riders. Oh, and you don’t need to be a member to turn up – but if you do sign-up (for free!), you get a 10% discount at a load of bike shops in Manchester.

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