Manchester makes strides with mass ride


With our Space for Cycling 2014 campaign gaining momentum, we look at how the message and #space4cycling have spread nationally since London Cycling Campaign’s three summer rides. This first-hand report from Kristina Ella Gjerding - a university student who took part in Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign’s ride on Monday 30th September 2013 – shows how similar activities are being adopted by other cities and helping to make cyclists voices across the UK heard.

Following the success of London’s Space for Cycling protest earlier in September, it was soon Manchester’s turn to get their voices (and bells!) heard by the city council. It was to remind the MPs to keep their focus on investing in long-term cycling infrastructure and permit changes in laws which, in doing so, would catalyze the long-awaited cycling revolution in Britain.

On the evening of Monday 30th September 2013, around 500 passionate Mancunian bicycle lovers gathered in St. Peter’s Square in central Manchester for a mass ride through the city’s historic streets, whilst the Conservative party conference was taking place inside. The timing was no coincidence; Manchester’s cycling citizens wanted ‘cycling talk’ to be high on the agenda.

Despite such little time to spread the word about the mass ride, an impressive turnout of participants came to join in after a long day at the office or school. Even external cycling groups from Leeds and Sheffield came along to show their support. Kat Malin, one of the shepherds at the ride, said she was “inspired” as the event brought out, and together, members of the public who were currently not active members of the cycling community or with cycling activism in Manchester. She also commented; “It showed that the people of Manchester desire such a drastic change in their daily commutes to the extent that they were willing to come out on a cold Monday night. There was a shared belief amongst all participants that mainstream cycling would guarantee Manchester to become a more ‘liveable’ city”.

Martin Nash who organised the event along with the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign was delighted with the commitment of his fellow Mancunians; “It was a fantastic unison of all the existing user groups coming together to show how important it is to improve the provisions for us cyclists and for others who want to get back on their bicycles but who are currently put off”. Martin was also complimentary and thankful for the excellent support of Greater Manchester Metropolitan Police who aided in planning before and during the event. Since the Space for Cycling ride, the GMCC has seen a significant increase in the uptake of new members.

Student cycling user groups within Manchester also took to the ride including the University of Manchester’s ‘Get On Your Bike’ campaign. A student survey back in 2012 showed that almost 70% of students found commuter cycling appealing as it would offer a healthier and cheaper mode of transport and boost the quality of student living. However, the vast majority of students are put off by the dangerous and congested state of Oxford Road, the main road connecting the student village to the university campuses. Francis Collett-White, founder of GOYB, commented on the success of the ride; “Manchester has recently made great progress in planning cycling infrastructure winning the Velocity 2025 £20 million bid, especially regarding the provision of a dedicated cycle lane in the new Oxford Corridor development. Only with the continued campaigning will this trend continue so that Manchester becomes a truly cycle-friendly city”.

Recent activities in Manchester have seen commuter cycling grow from strength to strength and another Space for Cycling event is currently planned for next Spring. Until then, Critical Mass rides will continue to take place on the last Friday of every month and warmly welcomes new riders. With attitudes changing towards urban cycling, could Manchester make a new entry in the Copenhagen Index’s top cycling cities by 2025? Let’s keep pedaling!


Cyclists in Manchester take action on #space4cycling