The Interim Strategy for Cycling in Manchester (draft) was recently brought to my attention via the GMCC. The draft can be found here (Hat tip: Manchester FOE). The Manchester Cycling Strategy (MCS) is a result of the Memorandum of Understanding between British Cycling and Manchester City Council. The executive summary on page 4 states, “Manchester is the home of British Cycling – cycling’s national governing body.” Whilst it is true that British Cycling is the governing body of cyclesport, the relevance of British Cycling to transport cycling is at best, dubious. Whilst British Cycling have recently started to devote some attention to cycling as transport, they are first and foremost the governing body of cyclesport and not an organisation for furthering the aims of everyday folk who want to use a bike for transport.
The biggest problems in the MCS draft are often a result of this confusing mixture of sports promotion and facilitating cycling as transport. A good example to illustrate the absurdity of this is to consider motorsport. Whilst I am sure that there are a good number of people in Greater Manchester who participate in the various disciplines of motorsports, from rallying to formula three, the groups which represent these interests rarely weigh in on transport consultations such as the LTP3. Where they do decide to comment, it is extremely unlikely that they would try to present themselves as the ‘voice of the motorist’ because clearly they aren’t – they are the voice of motorsports. Whilst these two groups are superficially similar, their interests, needs and wishes are (quite rightly) lobbied for by separate groups.
In cycling, the distinction is less commonly made, perhaps because there are so few people who regularly use bicycles for any purpose. The problem with this is that cycling is conflated with cyclesport, giving cyclesport a louder voice than it perhaps deserves, whilst making cycling for transport less visible and less attractive to normal people who aren’t interested in getting hot and sweaty in order to go shopping or to work.
This conflation of cycle sport with cycling for transport is illustrated well on page 5 which includes a list of headline figures for investment in ‘cycling’ over the past five years:
- Over £3.2 million on infrastructure through LTP Highways Capital Programme
- £518,000 on child cycle training
- £56,000 promoting bike week
- £24 million building the National Indoor BMX area
- Over £12,000 in small grants to community groups
- £2.5 million on promoting and supporting club and sport cycling
- Over £250,000 on promoting cycling through initiatives such as Sky Rid [sic]
- Is all of this funding coming out of a single pot for ‘cycling?’
- What does the National Indoor BMX Arena, supporting club and sport cycling and to a certain extent, the Sky Ride, have to do with cycling for transport?
- If (1.) is in fact the case, how can £24 million for the National Indoor BMX Arena and £2.5 million on promoting club and sport cycling be justified when only £3.2 million is spent on cycle infrastructure for transport cycling, which has the highest potential for growth and thus has easily the highest potential economic, social and public heath returns.
- The cyclesport-oriented aspects of this report should be part of a wider report on the uptake, promotion and enabling of sports in Manchester (which in itself is an important and laudable aim)
- The cycling for transport-oriented aspects of this report should be part of Manchester’s wider transport strategy (and dramatically increased in their scope)
- Addressing the demand for cycle parking
- Making major junctions safer for cyclists
- Working with partners to reduce cycle theft
- Liaising with City Centre employers to improve workplace cycle parking and changing facilities
- Improving opportunities to cross the inner ring road
- Fear of being killed or injured when cycling with motor traffic
- Separated bicycle tracks on main roads
- Junction designs put cyclists (and pedestrians) in unnecessary danger in order to prioritise private motor traffic
- Rat-running makes riding on streets feel unsafe