Quick post on the move – 30 Days of Biking: Day 8

I’m shortly heading off to tonight’s event, “can Manchester become a cycling city?” which I mentioned briefly yesterday.

There’s a related blog post here by the two University of Manchester researchers that are involved in the Manchester Cycling Lab project. I don’t want to summarise the detail, but it’s exciting to see data from sources like Strava being used to help find out how many bike riders are in Manchester and where they’re going.

For the first time, it seems there’s real data and analysis going on. The question is whether policy will be changed as a result of the outcomes. We already know that politicians don’t always make policy based on evidence, because that’s not always politically expedient. However, with real, measurable data behind the arguments for cycling, it will be much harder to ignore.

Just today, the All Party Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity said we need to “move more” and launched a campaign to get young people moving for just one hour a day. According to their research, “today’s kids are the least active in history”. The majority of 12-year-olds do not meet the minimum guidelines of 60 minutes of activity per day – pretty shocking given that physical inactivity on the whole is said to cost the UK £20bn per year and a bigger killer than smoking.

It’s not just kids though – it’s grown-ups too. The great thing about cycling is that it usually gives me 30 minutes of activity per day (the rest of which is spent sitting at a screen).

Still, that’s more than most people and it’s a really easy way to introduce some simple, low-impact activity into an already busy daily routine. Given the news articles I see about ‘congestion’  and physical arguments during the school run, surely we’ve got to realise that “active travel” like cycling is a potential solution and it has to start young.

Let’s hope that the Cycling Lab results are taken seriously if we want to bear out this vision.

Here’s the infographic from the Commission:

PS Talking of Strava, I amazingly shaved 66 seconds off my commute time this morning compared to yesterday:

…though I’m pretty sure a combination of low traffic and catching the “green wave” of traffic lights at times meant I maintained a higher average speed than usual.

Still, it’s nice to show that even a minimal amount of extra exertion can pay benefits. As ever, I rode safe and in “normal” clothing: a shirt, jumper, jeans and a hoody. Definitely no Lycra skinsuit…

Back in the saddle as a lab rat – 30 Days of Biking: Day 7

Well after three days off the bike, I didn’t expect to get back in the saddle and beat my best weekday commute time.

(It shows second place because my ‘first’ place is when I rode right past my work on the same route heading off to Chorlton.)

I use Strava to track most of my riding as it’s the best app I’ve found for Android. Before I switched, I used Cyclemeter, which is iPhone/iPad only. Helpfully, you can export your rides from Cyclemeter to Strava by simply emailing your ride straight from the Cyclemeter app to uploads[at]strava.com, using GPX format.

Strava has had a bit of a bad rep at times, being derided in media for ‘turning streets into race courses’ and encouraging reckless riding. Again, this is an area where common-sense has to be applied. Any road user can make poor decisions, putting themselves and others in danger. And the bigger road users tend to get off without injury.

Nonetheless, there is an enjoyable competitive element and I do like seeing how I’ve improved – or, sometimes gotten worse! – over particular sections of roads. Following my friends on Strava also inspires me to go out and ride, or check out different routes. I don’t consider myself an athlete by any means, but it’s a nice extra dimension to riding, if that’s your sort of thing. Plus I love geeking out over the stats – average speed, stopped time and so on.

If this sounds like fun, why not join the virtual 30 Days of Biking club on Strava?

Finally, I’m off to an event tomorrow hosted by the University of Manchester’s urban research group on the topic of whether Manchester can become a cycling city:

It’s one of the events linked to the Manchester Cycling Lab, a project to turn Manchester into a real-life lab for the study of cycling. The panel features researchers and figures from local cycling groups, including a local councillor. My prediction is that everyone will agree – but what defines a cycling city and how far we’ll get there remains to be seen.

Slightly predictably, there appears to be no bike parking around the venue on OpenCycleMap (denoted by a blue square usually), but the organising team have researched some possible locations and plotted them on Google Maps. I’ll be writing a bit more about OpenCycleMap and its basis on the editable OpenStreetMap soon.

I’m not sure about being a real-life lab rat rider, but I hope to learn more about the Cycling Lab project tomorrow. Anything that experiments with ways to improve cycling in this city is sure to be a good thing and I look forward to seeing the results.