Sunday, 19 October 2008

A Tale of Two Cycling Cities

With 1966 becoming a fading memory it's good to know that there is another sport in which we rule the world, and have done consistently over several recent events. I am of course referring to track cycling, which was back in the news this week with two-wheeled gold medallists taking pride of place in the first bus for the Olympic parade in London. The current home of British cycling is at Manchester's velodrome, and there is even a chance of seeing some of these medallist out and about on the streets of the conurbation. Indeed one or two may have passed me, but at the speed I pedal on my 1985 Coventry Eagle, I would not have seen them for dust.

So Manchester leads the world in track cycling, and this can rightly be seen as a source of civic pride; this is one of the Cycling cities referred to in the title. Given that you would think that Manchester would be a leading city for ordinary cyclists too. Alas not.

This other of the two cities was also in the news this week, with figures on the accident rates for cyclists in the city, and its didn't make encouraging reading. Whilst facilities are better than they were, Manchester and other large British cities still trail comparable cities in continental Europe by miles. Some comparative statistics can be seen here for countries and for comparable-sized cities
This year Manchester had the chance to become Britain's cycling city, but lost out to Bristol. Some reason why may be gleaned from the following comment at a recent Cycle Forum meeting "Cycling England basically said that the Council had shown no leadership in promoting Cycling or increasing the amount of Cyclists in Manchester…when the bid went through the Council didn’t even have a Cycling Officer as he moved job and wasn’t replaced for 3 months."
In Manchester's current great transport debate cycling was little more than an afterthought, and its increasing profile during the consultation is due entirely to hard work by environmental groups such as FoE and Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign. This despite the leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese no less, being a cycle user.
Daft Comment of the Week
I'm introducing this as a new feature. For our inaugural comment we go from the least polluting form of transport to the most polluting, and a comment from John Twigg of Manchester Airport. What follows is as reported by the Manchester Evening News (so it must be accurate) from their Greenlife debate on Sustainable Cities this week. Bizarrely given the title, this event was sponsored by Manchester Airport (a bit like King Herod sponsoring a conference on successful child-rearing). The quote is "Creating a sustainable city is part of the long-term plan for us - we want to maximise the potential that air travel brings to the economy and population".
I think Mr Twigg has set a high standard for daftness here; however I fear there will be anough material around to maintain the standard for weeks to come.

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