Manchester City Council is considering launching a cycle hire scheme similar to that of London as part of a range of measures aimed at turning it into England’s top cycling city with more people riding bikes there than anywhere else in the country by 2017.
It’s an ambitious plan, but one that has been drawn up in partnership with British Cycling, which has its headquarters in the city, as well as Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).
Among the council’s aims to promote cycling, reports the Manchester Evening News, are a network of cycle routes alongside canalside towpaths, centred on Sportcity where the National Cycling Centre is located, a programme to repair potholes on key routes into the city centre, increased provision of cycle parking including underneath apartment blocks that are currently planned, free cycle training and encouraging more women to take to two wheels.
Meanwhile, following the successful launch earlier this year of a Brompton Cycle Hire Dock at Manchester Piccadilly station in March this year, making 40 folding bikes available for hire, the council is now seriously considering private funding options for a cycle hire scheme throughout the city, similar to London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, or the Vélib’ initiative in Paris.
Commenting on the plans, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We hope that this will help cyclists at every level – from novice through to experienced and competitive cyclists – and make cycling a real transport option for people in Manchester as well as promoting recreational and sport cycling.
“This includes offering free training sessions for novices to get them confident enough to get on their bikes and learn new skills. We’re also working with employers to encourage them to provide better facilities for those choosing to cycle to work.”
In 2011, TfGM obtained £4.9 million from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund to help it develop the Greater Manchester Commuter Project to help encourage more people cycle to work, and in April plans were unveiled for a cycle hub underneath the 30-storey City Tower.
Over the past fortnight, TfGM also promoted the Greater Manchester Cycle Challenge, which saw employees from more than 100 businesses and other organisations compete against each other to see who could get the most miles in during their commute.
On Monday, the city hosted the inaugural Daily Mirror Great Manchester Cycle which saw 7,000 cyclists take to a 13-mile closed road circuit and was a huge success by all accounts, and that will be followed next month by the Manchester Skyride on 15 July.
Despite all that positive news, there are still some areas for concern. In March, personal injury solicitors Levenes singled out the ‘Curry Mile’ on Wilmslow Road as the worst place in the city for road traffic incidents involving cyclists, and one person the Manchester Evening News spoke to who regularly commutes along that route said he welcomed any steps that the council could take to make it safer for cyclists and novices in particular.
Joe Smith, who works at Bicycle Doctor in Rusholme said: “Many people hesitate to ride in Manchester as it can be pretty dangerous and they are put off by the traffic. The plans are definitely good for anyone interested in starting as it is a pretty daunting experience to start riding in Manchester.
“I know many people who have been knocked off their bikes – I was when a car collided into me on the Curry Mile. I wasn’t injured but I was badly shaken up and my bike was written off.”
Speaking of the council’s intention to address the danger posed to cyclists by potholes, he added: “Ironing them out will definitely help prevent the collisions that happen when cyclists have to move out of their way.
“I think the idea of better parking facilities will also get more people cycling,” he concluded.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.