07 December 2006

The route

Like in so many other things, this was a case of trial n error.

The way from Whitefield into Manchester was straightforward enough. The A56 goes South to the city centre in pretty much a straight line. On the whole, it is downhill - you do have to climb from Strangeways prison to Lower Broughton, but this done it is the most direct way to get into the city centre from where I live.

Much of my early attempts were guided by my car driving days. The problem of course is ontologic: the car mediates our perception and our knowledge of the road and its attributes.


In plain English: following your favourite car route on a bike will reveal to you how many rather slopes the road has that you were not fully aware of. In the car all you have to do is put your foot down and gear down if it gets a bit steep. You do it without thinking, without sensing... on the bike, on the other hand, any incline of the terrain is noticed immediately. One minute you can be riding fast, effortlessly. And suddenly you struggle to move uphill.

This was the problem with the A56 going back home. It was all uphill up to Prestwich. Then you have to cross the M60 roundabout (J17), in the dark during winter. Also, the junction of Higher Lane and Bury New Rd in Besses O'th'Barn is somewhat unforgiving, as traffic is heavy and much off it turns left on Higher Lane - where I needed to go straight across. I often found that when I got to Higher Lane I wasted lots of time negotiating traffic lights and pedestrian crossings after being forced to take an unwanted left turn. The last thing when you are shattered.

After the first couple of weeks I settle on a different return route, along Cheetham Hill Rd. This way has the advantage of sloping more gradually towards Whitefield. After Polefield you reach the cusp, after which there is a downhill stretch across the M60 (no roundabout here). This point is the beginning of the 'home run'. Here, I know I am 10' to 15' away from home - and save for a couple of short slopes it is reasonably level roads.

Getting into and out of the city centre is a pain whichever way you play it. There are too many traffic lights, designed mostly (it seems) for the benefit of those pesky pedestrians.... who don't take any notice of them anyway. It can sometimes take me 15' to get from Manchester Cathedral to the office (barely 1.5m) where the previous 5.5m took me only 30'. One day, I'll campaign to 'bicyclecise' some streets. More on that later.

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