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Is #justride a #justfail ?

After the less than overwhelming success of last year’s “Life on 2 wheels” campaign TfGM ran, encouraging the normalisation of cycling within the Greater Manchester community (we could have talked a long time about this campaign…and we did, in a previous blog! You can find the link for it at the end of this blog), this year’s TfGM-mandated cycling campaign is called #justride .  It was launched in June and runs ‘til September.  Haven’t heard of it?  You’re not alone…

The #justride campaign (part of the Cycle City programme, funded by the DfT) is once again intended to encourage more people onto their bikes by outlining some of the benefits of cycling – health, environmental and financial – it brings individuals who choose to get on a bike.  They’re some of the reasons I choose to cycle and I’m sure I’m not alone.  As you may also have gathered from the hashtag, the key campaign hook is that anyone can #justride - all you need is a bike! 

So for me, this campaign is, in theory, better positioned than last year’s one.  Much like Sport England’s highly successful “This Girl Can” campaign, the messaging is simple and much of it is right on the money – anyone can cycle and benefit from a lot of positives, as well as having a great deal of fun into the bargain! 

But I also think the campaign is rather flawed.  Last year, when discussing “Life on 2 wheels”, I made the point that provision for cyclists felt as though it had become worse, not better, in the preceding 12 months.  As much as I would like to say that’s changed now, I sadly can’t.  That isn’t to say that things won’t improve once the majority of the roadworks are finished but a campaign encouraging more people to cycle still feels like it’s putting the cart before the horse, as things stand now.  With the ongoing tram works relating to the second city crossing project, cycling across the city is a bit of a logistical nightmare.  There is limited to no provision for cyclists around the areas affected by the road works so new cyclists are likely to really struggle if experienced ones, such as myself, do not feel safe on the roads. There far too many potholes and even fewer cycle lanes than before.  Some existing cycle lanes on key arterial routes in the city have even been scrubbed off the road, continuing to make travel dangerous and intimidating. 

Add to this a series of miss-steps from TfGM when it comes to creating new infrastructure – for example, the latest re-design of the Oxford Road cycleway to make the scheme cheaper but much probably more dangerous for cyclists and the “after the event” removal of dangerous cycle lanes on Portland Street, which amply demonstrate that TfGM have still got their priorities wrong. Their priority must be to provide quality infrastructure to make cycling safer before they start telling potential cyclists how easy it is. 

It is frustrating to see money being spent on this sort of campaign when, at the same time, TfGM are redesigning infrastructure because of apparent budget constraints, which has resulted in infrastructure (such as the new proposals for Oxford Road) being less safe than originally intended.

It’s good to see TfGM trying, but ultimately, the thing that’s most likely to encourage a greater take up of cycling is to provide facilities that make those on bikes feel safe and protected.  As with any blog, these are just my thoughts on the matter, but I’d love to hear yours too.  You can get in touch on jane.bedfordmclaren@jmw.co.uk or on 0800 054 6570. 

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