|Strava - #CommutesCount Initiative|
It's been a while since I've cycled to work. Normally once per year as it's 50 miles round trip and takes some planning in between a very busy work and travel schedule.
Strava recently announced a 'Global Cycle to Work' marketing campaign with the 10th of May identified as 'the day' to encourage us all to get on our bikes, then upload our rides to their platform. Reviewing my diary a few weeks ago, there was a diary sweet spot to join in. Hurrah.
Global Cycle to Work Day
OK, it's smacks of marketing but beneath it all there is a subset of data which can be taken as a cut to look at the movement and routes then cyclists take on their commute, which Iin theory and if used) could lead to better town planning, cycleways etc.
Thinking about the route I would normally take into work, decision was for me to ride the direct route almost in a straight line from West to East as that would be the ideal route to have a dedicated cycleway for anyone West of Manchester.
The Riding Reality
Heading out at 6.45am this morning, the 15mph block Easterly headwind was a real treat to ride straight into for 22 of the 25 miles. It was hard going. As I rode along parallel to the East Lancs road, the poor condition of the cyclepath struck me.
Only recently, millions has been spent re-configuring this piece of road to allow bus lanes, which were welcome going Easterly as it made riding safer for sure. The miss for me was why on earth they didn't re-tarmac the cyclepath which runs parallel for about 10 miles en route?
As you get about two miles out of Manchester the fun starts. Pretty much all pathway runs out and you're left on a busy dual carriageway (A580) heading into the City. I have to say it was pretty precarious, everyone is focused on their journey to work, people are on phones whilst driving, traffic is backed up. You really have to keep your wits about you.
Crossing the City wasn't too bad, I knew the best way through which would carry me to Ashton Old Road, another important road which travels out to the East of the City towards Ashton-Under-Lyne.
There is no provision for commuting cyclists on this road other than the usual green tarmac at the lights giving you a space to roll up to. Cars are whizzing by, many far too closely, leaving no room for error if a cyclist were to hit a pothole. I was glad to roll into work.
The Wet Carpet Ride Home
Keeping an eye on the weather during the morning, it was evident that after three days of sunshine, things could only go one way, the opposite way. Yes, the rain was coming and plenty of it. Moving my meetings around I decided to get off at lunchtime and zoom to work from home, missing the evening commute. This meant I could get set up in my home office and was a better use of time.
One thing to look forward to was the tailwind. As soon as I got going, it was there - boom. The heavens opened, which was to be expected, but who cares when you're zooming along at 23mph! It was one of those lovely carpet rides, being blown along - perfect!
The Commutes Stacked Up Like this: -
Going - Rush Hour Traffic, 15mph headwind, 25 miles - 1:39 Mins/Avg 15.2mph
Coming Back - Normal Traffic, 15mph tailwind, 25 miles - 1:24 Mins/Avg 18.0mph
What Stops People Riding to Work?
Pushing a quick Twitter poll out, it was interesting to me to think about what some of the blockers might be to people riding into work more regularly. For me, it's distance and schedule. For others it might be something as simple as the weather.
Giving four options, here were the responses to the questions - 'What stops you commuting to work more regularly?': -
Distance (too far) - 15%
Road Conditions (safety fears) - 25%
No Cycle Facilities at Work (storage/showers) - 28%
Other (could be schedule, weather, work from home etc). - 32%
So, there you have it, albeit a very small sample. Road safety and conditions plus provision of cycling facilities in the workplace are key influences in decision making.
Whilst the safety one was no great surprise, the work cycle facilities was. We put in secure bike storage, lockers and showers some years ago as a way to encourage people to ride in. Clearly it can make a big difference.
Where's the Action?
Whilst we've all uploaded our rides (146,000 people participated) and Strava now have a nice big data set they can use for more PR and to potentially sell to the town planners, what's the real message in the day?
Road conditions (which we know are very poor), road safety (more cycleways) and facilities at work (more provision by employers) remain key issues for people to up their frequency of participation outside of annual 'mass mobilisation' days.
As someone who rides around 4000 miles a year on the road, I can't remember the road conditions (state of repair) ever being worse than now. The sheer amount of potholes can make riding really precarious, they can also damage your bike (my £200 Mavic rim replacement being a great example).
In the past few weeks, I have more 'near misses' than ever before. Each being down to other road users approaching junctions too fast or being on phones. The road is a place where you really have to have your wits about you.
With such positive health benefits, reducing long term costs for the NHS, there has to be a return on investment somewhere to make our roads more secure, to encourage more people to get on their bike.
Before the flurry of comments telling me what a complicated issue is, I know. The reality is for the rubber to hit the road and for more people to cycle to work they just need to feel safer, that bit is for the local and central government to solve and for everyone behind the wheel of a vehicle to continue to provide safe passing room when seeing a human on a bike.