By Ola Young
Once you mentally accept the joy of Manchester’s weather, the challenge of the terrain, the bugs, the bad hair day, the close overtaking of angry or distracted drivers, the impulsive road crossing choices of pedestrians and finding usable bike routes that are not covered in broken glass from what must have been a great night out… Cycling really isn’t so bad!
One year ago, when I started cycling to work, my 4-mile trek through Manchester at rush hour took me almost an hour. Although this was partly due to my poor sense of navigation and uncertainty of the network, my perception of danger on the roads of Manchester made me very uncomfortable cycling amongst the traffic. However now that I try to cycle every day, I leave the house earlier, get in lane earlier and have a constant awareness of my surroundings on the road. I have finally got my commute to work under 25 minutes.
For me, cycling is great because it really makes me consciously organise myself for the whole day and be prepared for unexpected circumstances. It helps me find unusual places that I wouldn’t pass on public transport or find the energy to discover on foot. For short or medium distance travel, cycling is by far the fastest mode of transport, you can go at your own pace, take a detour and there are never any connection issues. Living in an area of Manchester where the tram network doesn’t stretch to, hasn’t felt like a disadvantage because I have my bike.
Studies show that the benefits of active travel outweigh the health risk of air pollution exposure and accidents by far (The Guardian), however at present only 2% of Manchester journeys are made by bike. There are ongoing improvements being made to the cycle network party funded by the £42m Cycle City Ambition Grants and Local Sustainable Transport Fund (TfGM Cycling). Hopefully these improvements will help to convince commuters to feel happier to take up the bike.
I am extremely grateful that cyclists can use the designated bus lanes as part of their daily commutes and it’s very satisfying being able to fly past the rows of cars in traffic to and from work. Even in the worst weather if you wrap up warm, after a few minutes, you don’t feel the shock of the cold, and if you’re all geared up with your lights and reflective gear, cycling in the dark can be quite relaxing. Now in the morning, whenever I’m waiting for the bus, that’s when it hits me how much I miss cycling and I’d even say that feeling the wind and rain on your face and the buzz of successfully powering up that last hill, only adds to the fun of cycling.