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.