Today is National Cycle to Work Day, commuters are encouraged to abandon their cars for the day and ride a bike into work instead.
Leigh Day’s two offices are based in cities that have played a big part in the rise of cycling’s popularity in recent years, but how does the cycling infrastructure compare in London and Manchester?
We think it is fair to say that London’s investment in better infrastructure for cycling has seen remarkable results.
In March 2016 the Greater London Authority in its report, ‘Human Streets - The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling, three years on’ stated that in Zone 1 during the morning rush hour 32% of all vehicles on the roads are now bicycles.
Nothing seems to have accelerated bike usage quite like the recent intense investment in segregated cycling infrastructure; after only 4 months of introducing Cycle Superhighway 5 there was a recorded increase in cycling across Vauxhall Bridge of 73%.
Away from the cycle superhighways of central London, Transport for London has invested £90m between three London boroughs to help create ‘Mini Hollands’ including complete redesigns of town centres and combinations of segregated and integrated cycle routes and cycle hubs.
Schemes have faced significant opposition from various quarters but TfL has held open consultations and acted quickly in forging ahead with the last Mayor’s vision.
The incoming Mayor continues with very encouraging rhetoric around making London a safer city for cycling and walking. As anyone who has ever tried to park their bike in central London will tell you, there remain challenges ahead.
Lorry danger is a very important issue on which a lot of great work is being done by charities such as RoadPeace and the London Cycling Campaign, however, managing conflict on the transition to a more liveable city must continue to be a priority.
On the whole, we think cyclists in London are starting to feel more protected and that shows in the numbers of people now on their bikes.
It definitely feels like we are approaching some form of critical mass and are paving the way for other UK cities in the process.
Manchester is the home of British Cycling, and the number of GB cyclists based close to the National Cycling Centre meant that an independent nation of Greater Manchester would have managed a very healthy position in the medal table at the recent Rio Olympics!
Away from the track, cycling is an important part of the local authority’s transport planning for the future.
In 2014, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – made up of the ten local councils – published their Cycling Strategy, with the stated goal of increasing journeys made by bike across the region from 2% of total journeys to 10% by 2025.
Already there has been visible progress as more segregated cycle lanes have appeared, cycle hubs have been constructed at a number of public transport stops, and free adult bike training sessions have been offered to residents.
The creation of six Cycleways has improved the cycling experience for many in the region. Perhaps most notably, segregated cycle lanes have been introduced along Wilmslow Road, a busy route linking the south of the city with the centre and passing through areas with large student populations such as Fallowfield and Rusholme.
This is known as one of the busiest bus routes in Europe, but the plans allow cyclists and buses to exist in harmony, with the cycle lane taken behind the bus stops so cyclists are not required to overtake buses.
Work is ongoing to extend these developments along Oxford Road, home to Manchester’s two universities.
There remains plenty of work to be done, as there are weak links even on some of the newer routes. In particular the failure to physically segregate some sections of cycle lane with anything more than a white line means that cyclists still frequently find their path blocked by vehicles using the lane for parking, forcing the cyclist into the stream of traffic.
Nevertheless, things are clearly moving in the right direction and the local authorities appear to be genuine in their desire to encourage cycling. Manchester will have its first elected mayor from May 2017 and, as in London, the mayor will have significant powers over the region’s transport infrastructure.
It is to be hoped that the new mayor will continue the positive progress made in recent years to encourage Mancunians into the saddle, though whether we’ll be riding around on Burnham Bikes in a couple of years remains to be seen!