So this might be tedious for some... however, it's important to recognise *why* people are so wedded to their cars, and why active transport is shunned in various parts of the UK. I can only really speak about where I live- so here you are: a bit about cycle commuting to Manchester from Glossop. (I'm thinking about writing another about cycling around Glossop in general, but that'll have to wait a couple of weeks)
Having recently been doing the whole cycle commuting to Manchester from Home thing (train strikes and the like), I wondered if it might be interesting to go back to my roots and write about it a bit like a fell race- blow by blow, what are the roads like, what am I looking for, etc. It might be of interest to someone else, and it might help people in their decisions about directions to commute etc.
You never know, it might help us get some better cycle infrastructure.
For reference, I was cycling in, mainly along the A57 on a road bike carrying my stuff for the day and a couple of HEFTY locks. There are 2 decent lights on the back of the bike and a bright flashy light on the front- they are on ALL the time. According to the computer I'm averaging about 25kmph in both directions, stopping at all the lights etc, so it takes about about hour door to door.
From the door, the first thing is to get out of Glossop- and rather hack down the main street on the horrible road surface and all the lights, the preferred method of getting to Glossop Caravans is over Dinting Vale with all the speed bumps. It's relatively quiet at that time in the morning for cyclists, and a nice introduction to the roads. A bit of speed up down towards the junction where you turn left to get to the traffic lights, and then a right onto the A57 at the junction opposite Glossop Caravans.
The road to Wooley Bridge roundabout is fairly decent under tyre, and the traffic isn't too bad until you get to within 300m of the roundabout. Currently there are temporary traffic lights which make it a bit of a mare, but filtering up to the lights is fine. Across the roundabout and up Woolley Bridge lane- either you're filtering up the outside of stationary traffic, ducking in to avoid the downward traffic when it comes, or you're being overtaken if the flow is steady.
The traffic lights at Firbank are ok, people generally don't try to cut you up as you turn the corner (generally), and then it's Mottram moor.
Right now, there are Gas works, so it's almost like having a cycle lane, which is fantastic. Otherwise, the options are
a) filter up the outside of the inside lane of stationary traffic- which can be unsafe when the line filters up and you potentially have a lane of traffic passing you on both sides at the same time unless you do some decent filtering to the left of the left hand lane- (and then back out again once the traffic becomes stationary) or
b) go up the pavement. Not the Kosher choice, but sometimes the safest.
If you're turning right at the top of Mottram, unless you're a pretty strong and confident cyclist, being able to filter in the right place to get into the right lane at the right time can be quite nerve racking. I hate to encourage people to use pavements on bikes, but sometimes the safest thing is to go up the pavement and cross at the lights to carry on up the road over to Staly.
Filtering through the idling cars and trucks up to the top, with them then rushing past you only to get held up again at the crossroads brings you to the lights at Mottram post office, where there is a nice wide section for cars in a hurry (to get held up by the next bit of traffic) can pass you without close passing, and then a nice clear downhill stretch towards Hattersley roundabout. Unless you get someone who is *really* impatient and wants to far exceed the speed limit, generally cars don't tend to close pass you here.
Left hand lane for the roundabout, and clear across to the second exit, and a nice downhill run towards Godley- a section that is generally ok under tyre, but there are some frightful holes and grates that you need to keep an eye out for as you'll get a hell of a shake if you run over them on a road bike. A couple of traffic islands where (hopefully) people will wait before they overtake as you'll be going at a decent speed, but watch out for those that are turning into Hattersley as they cut across you if they misread how fast you are going. This is a nice section where there aren't too many cars and then a flat (but fairly bumpy) ride into Hyde.
I still can't really work out how to get through Hyde well. You can go left here, and then right at the main lights and straight down the road, you could go right, over the motorway and then right at the end of the road. There is a kind of bike/taxi/bus option that spits you out halfway through, but on a traffic light that doesn't seem to have any sensors so you have to use the pedestrian crossing to get the lights to work. None of them seem to be great options, and the road surface is pretty crap throughout.
Once through Hyde (good luck, whichever version you choose), it's the A57 onward, there is a downhill; minding out for cars coming out from side streets who don't see you, and an uphill with some traffic lights which are annoying if you get caught at, as it robs you of any momentum that you managed to maintain from the downhill- then it's a slalom into Denton. A number of traffic lights along with dense traffic and buses make this fairly interesting in terms of knowing which lane to use, which ones go off right, or left, and which are in fact parking bays with cars dotted along them.
Straight through Denton, past the roundabout (with lights) and onto a bus lane- with a pitted surface for about 400m, after which, cars on your right swing into the (no longer) bus lane in order to turn left. Traffic lights at a cross roads, and the bus lane now continues up the ramp seemingly leading onto the motorway section just prior to Denton roundabout. Not a lot of signage here for bikes- but you're meant to continue on up the ramp, and just at the top, duck in left into the industrial estate, across the road and onto the pedestrian and cycle bridge across the M67. The only bit of dedicated cycle lane that we've actually come across thus far.
Across the bridge and down the other side to filter straight back onto the main road- 3 lanes wide now as it's come off the M67 as well as the A57. If you filter straight back in where the cycle lane says to, it's not the safest place, so carry on along the inside of the left lane, looking out for people either coming out of, or going into the local roads.
This whole section is fairly often clogged to hell with cars, so keeping up with them, and going faster than them is not a problem- but keeping an eye out for those indicating left- or, more importantly, NOT indicating left and then just manouvering is pretty important.
Buzz along until you get to the next lights, across those and over, down the hill into Gorton, - a lot of vehicles use the right lane for turning right here, and can create a queue behind them, leading cars in the right lane to cut into the left lane with little warning- this happens twice along this section, so keep a weather eye out on your right. Through a couple of lights and your're onto the straight A57 direct into Manchester now. A speed limit of 40 mph means little to any vehicles hacking along here, it's probably one of the sections I feel least safe on, so it's head down and ride.
No cycle lane to speak of, I certainly wouldn't cycle on the pavement- though as you get past the ring road to the Etihad and the velodrome, eventually a bus lane appears that gives some respite from speedsters and close overtakers. Continue on in past the Manchester Climbing Centre sign and the bus lane soon runs out. At the next lights there is a cycle lane- well.. for about 5 metres- and on the other side of the junction there is a continuation of the lane for about 5 metres, til it turns into a bus stop, and then disappears altogether as the road compresses you back into the full flow of 2 lane traffic with no warning- as you scuttle towards the roundabout at the o2 Apollo.
Getting across this roundabout takes not a little bit of confidence and road sense.
Personally, I turn left here and head on around to MMU, and after about 400 metres I actually get on to a cycle lane. Well- a strip of paint on the floor. If you are to carry straight on, it is the A6 and it dumps you in the middle of town- with nary a bike lane to be seen til you get there.
Once in, the front wheel comes off, the saddle comes off, all extraneous bits- lights, light brackets etc come off, the bike gets locked to a solid post with 2 sodding great bike locks and then you have to find somewhere to have a shower and hopefully hang up your bike clothes to air while you work for the day- otherwise you're putting on sweaty, damp, smelly clothes at the end of the day. (the WORST place to work for clothes storage is the NHS, the best is an outdoors shop... while the shower situation is very much vice versa).
|Im not going to post a pic of my bike all locked up- so have one of Hobbes instead. |
Do a days work, hope your bike hasn't been nicked in the meantime (a heavy bike in both directions is better than no bike at the end of the day), and prepare for the commute home.
The short amount of cycle way/murderstrip ends before I get to the roundabout at the O2 Apollo- again, a bit of a "necessary acceleration" to get onto and off of the roundabout in good time, and then the dual carriage way starts that basically doesn't finish until the M67.
No cycle way, the pavement is pedestrian only, and the road is 40mph limit. So... pretty much anything goes if you have a combustion engine. The road is fairly free flowing with queues everytime you hit a traffic light. I can't be arsed to filter right to the front of every queue every time this happens, so slow I down and filter through at a speed that gets me close to the front of the queue as the lights change- and then filter back into the left side of the left lane... means I don't have to unclip and lose momentum.
Most drivers are pretty courteous to you if you are to them, but some are just dicks, or on their phones. Pretty much be on guard for the entire time all along here. The uphill to the traffic lights at Gorton park is generally ok, but sometimes people like to squash you in- especially if they're racing to get through the lights.
You then have the delights of the run in to the M67 which means you get overtaken a lot by plenty of traffic that then sits in 3 lanes of queues onto Denton roundabout. You have to filter through the traffic here, as the pavement is not a cycle lane until about 5 metres before the juction. Here you have a couple of options again:
a) join the cycle lane, which immediately becomes a pedestrian crossing where you have to cross 5 different crossings to get onto the road into Denton- each time you cross a road you have to wait for the next traffic lights to change.
b) stay on the road, be aware, keep in the correct lane and use decent acceleration to get around the roundabout and onto the road into Denton- which soon becomes a very pitted bus lane for about 300metres.
A little further up, it's still one way, and with cars coming up from behind you have to filter over into the right lane to turn right over the M67 and then directly left back onto the A57 through Denton that you came up this morning... except this time it's home time, everyone is rushing to wait at traffic lights, vans are pulling out all over the place, and all the cars in the parking spaces alongside the road are trying to have their doors ripped off by passing traffic- or trying to door YOU as you go past.
Filter through 2 sets of lights, the down and up into Hyde, and then... well, as I say, I still can't work out the best way through. Either the left that takes you as if you want to go to Ashton, and then over the M67 and then left towards Godley- lots of impatient drivers trying to get to Ashton/on to the Motorway, or straight on through Hyde- with the associated high levels of local traffic.
Either way, you eventually get onto the A57 with a load of people trying to get home with cars blocking up the road on either side, so close passes by landrovers, range rovers, audis and BMWs are now common place before you go through all the potholes that take you onto the long steady ramp up past Hattersley to Hattersley roundabout.
Here there is about 20 metres of cycle lane that then encourages you to cross the 2 lane road as the roundabout turns into a motorway. It's either that or stay on the road and use the roundabout as it is meant to be used and cross the lanes as a "vehicle" onto the roundabout. As you get past the exit onto the motorway, you hit the backlog of traffic from Mottram, so filter around all of this and up the hill towards the lights. Some of the traffic is aware of you and pulls a little bit in to let you past. Others are oblivious and you have to wait til its clear to filter.
Up to the traffic lights, and a speedy downhill to the Gun Inn, a left turn at Firbank- generally if you're in traffic at this point, it's fairly easy to keep up and cars behind you don't get impatient- but if you're at the head of a line of cars (going at EXACTLY the same speed) they all seem to want to pass you dangerously. So I tend to tuck in behind one or 2 cars on the way down.
Always a queue to the roundabout at Wooley Bridge, careful on the right turn as its hard to see if there is someone on the right who is turning toward Hadfield, and then a blast home (well, towards Glossop Caravans) on a relatively wide road.
Up the hill onto Dinting and then home- probably with a van close passing you over the speed bumps just for good measure.
And that's pretty much it. No wonder it isn't a popular route for cycling on. If you're nervous on a bike, don't have decent acceleration and aren't happy to integrate into traffic that might just squish you with out even noticing it, there isn't a lot to entice you into active travel here.