Space for Cycling ride report May 2014

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GMCC’s Secretary and freelance photographer reports back from Manchester’s 2nd Space for Cycling ride…


Campaigning is often about writing and meetings and responses to consultations and blogging and phoning up people and emailing and back to meeting… but its essence is to have a vision of what the world could be like and finding ways of sharing and selling that vision to others. Space for Cycling is an attempt to help simplify this and the ride was in some ways a means of demonstrating this, with a little glimpse of what could be.


We could hardly have dreamt of better weather for Saturday’s Space for Cycling ride. A beautiful scorcher at Platt Fields Park. The location was chosen for a reason other than it’s sunbathing potential. The route into the centre of Manchester follows one of the worst roads for cyclists in South Manchester and along what we hope, and are campaigning, to become a flagship section of best practice cycling infrastructure.


The build up started with a few people turning up early to picnic in the sun but, as seems usual in these events, the last ten minutes saw people appearing from all angles on, and in, all manner of bikes. The mood was relaxed and jovial with loads of chatting in the sun. Once the feeder ride arrived and we’d figured out how to bungee a PA onto the back of an Gentleman’s Pashley we kicked off with a quick speech from each of Councillor Kate Chappell (Executive Member for Environment, Manchester City Council) and Councillor Chris Paul (Cycling Champion, Transport for Greater Manchester Committee). This really brought home how useful things like this ride are to furthering the cause of cycling. Any case they make for infrastructure is hugely boosted by the proof of demand that a ride like this provides.


The decision was to allow families and kids to take the front, thus setting the pace and making it easier to help them through junctions. They were joined by Anna from PowWow Pedal Power with her spectacular bike, flying a giant Space For Cycling flag, bedecked with flowers and towing a sound system on a bamboo trailer. The middle and rear was taken by the fabulous  Ad bikes sporting big posters explaining what the Space for Cycling message is all about and Mike’s sound system mingling with the mass of people on bikes.

In a ride ‘first’ we had one very young chap on a balance bike mixing it with skill amongst a cargo bike-full of kids, tandems, parents with child seats and older kids pedalling themselves along.  All made the most of roads where the threat had been removed by shear numbers of cyclists behind them and the excellent marshalling alongside. Potholes, parked cars, faded and broken ‘cycle lanes’ and close passes by cars, vans and buses were all forgotten as everyone cycled along, chatting and waving in a mini rolling bubble of perfect cycling.


The route travelled straight through the curry mile (accompanied on the sound system by some Swedish Reggae), past the Universities on Oxford Road, then right into Albert Square. Timing was tight as there was a big sports event on in Albert Square, but we got it just right and the space had cleared so what remained was some surprised spectators and riggers as we pulled off the road. Time for some pictures of the Space for Cycling petition being handed over at the town hall, some more chatting, tinkering with bikes and comparing of ride notes before those heading back to Platt Fields set off again.

Rather than sensing annoyance from people we passed, the most common feature was a wide smile and a camera filming the procession of people as it passed. At one point two local boys joined in, weaving along the empty road ahead two-up with giant smiles, hardly believing what a road could be like. One parent’s comment almost says it all:
“My daughters and their friend loved the chance to cycle comfortably into their city centre.”

A vision that we are working to one day make routine and normal.

Jonathan Keenan

(Thanks to everyone who made the ride possible. You know who you are)

Update: There’s a GMCC Space for Cycling photo album on Flickr.

And here’s a short video from GMCC member @lastwheel:

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There will be another Space for Cycling ride in September, when the Labour Conference will be in Manchester.

If you haven’t already, please use this system to ask your local Councillors to provide safe Space for Cycling:

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