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Manchester’s infrastructure development black hole and our cycling infrastructure survey

My personal experiences and those of my clients, highlight some of the difficulties cyclists in Greater Manchester face when it comes to dealing with the current state of cycling infrastructure in our area. The team and I were keen to investigate further, so we conducted a survey to gauge attitudes on cycling infrastructure. The results are pretty interesting and are set out an infographic we've made live on the Twisted Spokes pages, which you can view by clicking on the link below. 

http://www.jmw.co.uk/services-for-you/personal-injury/bicycle-accidents/useful-cycling-links/cycling-infrastructure-survey/ 

We had 1,301 respondents from across the country and to ensure that the results were representative we sought opinions from all road users.  Indeed, you’ll note that 65% of all respondents drive – either defining themselves solely as motorists, or as both a cyclist and a motorist.  Sadly, it came as no surprise to me that 80% of respondents felt that the current infrastructure isn’t fit for cyclists, which matches my own view.  21% of respondents identified themselves as coming from the North West and so it is likely that their responses to the survey are shaped by their experiences of travelling around Manchester.

I found it interesting that 55% of the motorists who responded claim never to have driven into an advanced stop line (ASL) at a red traffic light.  This sits at odds with my experience; pretty much every time I go out riding I will see motorists stop in the ASL. For me, this statistic is a fascinating insight into perception versus experience. It has prompted to me to consider why this might be and I often ask drivers why they end up in the ASL.  Sometimes drivers have been entirely unaware of its existence or are aware but don’t realise they are not allowed in it. Others claim that they couldn’t stop in time before it. 

Looking at a slightly less provocative statistic (but no less controversial a topic) arising from the survey, 81% of respondents believe it’s not acceptable for cyclists to jump red lights, a sentiment with which I agree, particularly given that current legislation makes this illegal!  Whilst I sympathise with some of the justifications for going through a red light; personally, I don’t want to run the risk of being hit by a car that is correctly proceeding through their green light. Physically, I am always going to come off worse than the driver. I also do not wish to be responsible for causing a law abiding motorist to hit me. Any right thinking person would find that to be a shocking experience and I don’t wish to be the cause of that.  We also asked respondents whether or not they’d support a change in law allowing cyclists to turn left at a red light, when it is safe to do so.  The US state of Idaho introduced this idea in 1982; cyclists in the state are allowed to treat “stop” signs as a give way, and red lights as “stop” signs.  The Australian state of Victoria has also permitted cyclists turning at red lights, and Paris recently relaxed its laws to allow cyclists to go straight ahead at T junctions and turn right on a red light.  As long as all road users are clear on the law, I think this would benefit cyclists, and 47% of respondents agree with me. 

Our survey also highlighted that cycling provision within cities is an issue.  We asked respondents to identify which city they felt has the best infrastructure for cyclists, out of a list of the 10 key cycling cities in England and Wales.  London topped the list, with Manchester coming second, but worryingly, almost a third (32%) of respondents felt that no city was adequately providing for its cyclists.  That 43% of respondents would support banning HGVs in city centres arguably underlines this issue. 

In terms of Manchester, we have a particular issue with infrastructure relating to the new additions to the Metrolink tram service and whether it adequately accommodates cyclists. Despite aspirations to ensure that the extension to the tram service  caters for cyclists, in my view it simply isn’t up to standard.  Not only do I have clients who’ve suffered injuries thanks to issues with the tram tracks, the cycling advocacy campaigners Love Your Bike, have published a survey of people’s experiences cycling alongside or across these tram tracks, with 44% of their respondents having fallen from their bicycles as a result and 94% saying they felt unsafe when cycling alongside, close to, or across the tracks. 

Although these figures may not always make for the happiest reading when it comes to considering the state of cycling infrastructure on our roads, I’d like to end this blog on a positive – 81% of everyone who filled in the survey, believe that more people would be encouraged to cycle if we had better cycling infrastructure. If the local authorities are serious about encouraging more people to cycle in Manchester, they should listen to the people using their roads and improve the cycling infrastructure. Incidentally, a recent large scale research project in Canada concluded that to improve hospitalisation rates of cyclists, the number of people cycling should be increased (there being greater safety in numbers) and providing infrastructure that safely accommodates cyclists was found to increase the numbers cycling. Please see my recent blog on this study for more information https://www.jmw.co.uk/blog/the-great-bicycle-helmet-debate/  

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