Sunday, 2 August 2009

Fridays and 'Sky' days

Apologies for the long gap since my last post – only partly due to a brief holiday in the Asturias region of Northern Spain (reached by surface transport in case you ask!).

I seem to have returned to a flurry of activity on the cycling front. I have posted previously on Manchester’s split personality on the cycling front here
and maybe one of the two events I will describe below is an intention to bridge that gap.

But first things first; for some time now there has been an organised cycle commute from various points in the city on the last Friday of every month known as Critical Commute’ (the Critical being taken from the spikier Critical Mass which has a longer and wider pedigree). I have partaken on a number of occasions, although my more usual means of commuting is by bus. Numbers were getting fairly thin on the ground, which may be why the organisers (Friends of the earth/ loveyourbike) have amended the name to the less opaque ‘Bike Friday’.
This last Friday, 31st July was more widely advertised as a ‘launch’ and that certainly got more people out on the streets (there were about 70 at Albert Square - see photo - and 15 in the convoy from Chorlton alone). So whilst I rather preferred ‘Critical Commute’, if the new branding gets the numbers up that is all to the good.
Any minor quibbles about the name on that event were well eclipsed by my reservations on the name of today’s big cycling event in Manchester – ‘Skyride’ (due to sponsorship from Sky – you know, Murdoch’s lot), organised by British Cycling who are based in the city. From the advance publicity I naively thought that the whole city centre was closed to traffic, for cyclists to enjoy at will. It wasn’t as good as that, but it was good enough to tempt me to join the riders round the route from Albert Square to the velodrome and back. I have to say it look extremely well attended, and it was a pleasant change to cycle along traffic-free roads, especially with large numbers of other cyclists, of all ages. Less pleasant to see the s k y combination on everyone’s hi-vis jackets but that’s another debate.

This is the first of four such ‘Skyrides’ in various cities (Manchester taking the lead as it often does – for good or ill) ; we’ll have to wait until London for it to really make the news.
It will be interesting to see if this leads to any long-term rise in road cycling in Manchester (or indeed if the Bike Friday initiative really takes off). An encouraging sign was the number of families taking part in the Skyride.
However, a one-off event is one thing; what we really need is for people to feel safe cycling in Manchester not just on ‘Sky’ days, or even just on Fridays, but on every day.

No comments: