29 November 2010

It was a freezing Friday morning

Last Friday was the last 'bike Friday' of 2010.  Forgive the accumulation of 'Fridays' - this used to be called 'Critical Commute' and is supposed to be a demonstration of the effectiveness of cycling for practical purposes (the younger generation, I believe, stage on the same day their 'Critical Mass', a demonstration of the ability of young people to be self-conscious on two wheels too).

Let's face it, for a city the size of Manchester, Bike Friday is a fairly low key affair.  I used to be a regular, and numbers for the North Manchester lot (departing from Prestwich) hovered between 3 and 11 - with 5, I would say, being the more likely number.  Since I stopped working in the city centre (or anywhere else for the matter - for the time being) I had stopped joining this event, so I thought I'd come along this time, for old times' sake, because with it being so cold we are all feeling in the Xmas mood, and to support some sort of petition to the GMPTE which seemed to make this ride special - something to do with bikes being allowed on trams (tricky, I'd say - but visionary:  while trams may only carry 5% of public transport traffic at present, in 50 years I'm sure the network will have expanded enough to compete with buses).

Well, a good time was had by all.  I saw some friendly familiar faces and met some people I had wanted to meet but so far hadn't managed to, photos were taken in front of GMPTE's rather secluded offices opposite Piccadilly station, and - taking advantage of my current freedom - I even joined in the post-ride coffee in Piccadilly Gardens.  OK, waiting 15' or so for the photographer and the tame GMPTE notable to arrive (he confessed, his tram was delayed!) it was bloody freezing, and while I had a couple of fleeces to put on, I didn't want to spoil the yellow & reflective look of the group.  Then at the cafe (well, Pret-a-Mongrel, neither fish nor fowl when it comes to defining it) staff refused to close the door, quoting some company or building policy (never mind their customers turning blue) - still, it was warmer than outside, in the same way the fridge is warmer than the freezer. 

Will this 'campaigning' achieve anything?  It might - just to have a senior GMTPE official on board is a positive thing.  The trouble for me is, the people cycling needs 'on side' are Joe & Josephine Public, the people who give us dirty looks when they overtake us, having been delayed by 0.1 second because we had to negotiate a delivery van parked on a double yellow line going up a slope.  Congregating 40-odd cyclists in a public but almost invisible place one frosty November morning is unlikely to achieve this.

20 November 2010

European style city cycling, attempt 1

I had an event to go to yesterday - something at Salford University.  Options were to fight the traffic and probable shortage of parking spaces, take the tram to Victoria then walk a mile, or do what would take me door to door most easily: to cycle.

I settled for the latter.  I thought I'd try to be more European - do away with the lycra and wear civy clothes, so as to arrive ready for the event.

The experiment was a qualified success.  I settled for a hybrid combination of casual cords, cycling shoes and tops, with a fleece to put on top on arrival so as not to get cold.  Mostly it worked fine, and I achieved the overall goal.  I found however that to cycle so slowly that I would not break a sweat was just not practical, so I picked up the pace and sweat I did, profusely.  Despite refreshing myself on arrival in the university gents, once in the meeting room I realised the idea of wearing a fleece was not good, at least at first, since I was still overheated and needed to cool down.

After the meeting and some lunch kindly provided by the friend through whom I heard of the event, I cycled to Prestwich on another errand.  My friend suggested I followed NCN Route 6 instead of going on the road.  I did try, but gave up after a couple of miles.  It wasn't that it was so lonely as such, but the errand was important, time was tight and, should I had had, say, a flat tyre, I would have needed a plan B, eg. access to public transport (leaving the bike behind).  On the isolated bike trail I would have had no such alternative.  And although in theory the path follows the river so getting lost should be impossible, in practice it crosses the rivers and briefly detours in and out of estates, and there I found the limited signposting the route required to be incomplete or confusing.

Will I try again?  Sure, yes.  But you will not see me cycling to a job interview wearing a suit.