Anybody who happens to mention that they cycle around campus will be familiar with the common responses. Ranging from “oh yeah, I keep meaning to get my mum to bring my bike,” to the hyperbolic “aren’t you scared you’ll die on the Curry Mile?!”, these responses make it very clear that, despite the rash of cyclists across Manchester, many students are simply not willing to take the risk.
Across the student population in general, you tend to find that people are firmly divided into two camps. There are those who merely observe the many cyclists and might be peeved at the recent amount of roadworks for the new cycle lanes. Then there are the actual cyclists, who often get weirdly invested in their cycling habit. Exchanges of the quickest route; horror stories from the Curry Mile; and discussions about whether their bike is a hybrid or a road bike… these palavers can ring out for hours.
When first beginning to cycle around Manchester, it can often feel like everyone else knows what they are doing in comparison to you. The very best thing to do when you first start cycling around a city is make sure that you are hyper-aware of your road safety. You’re at an advantage if you already know how to drive, or have had at least a few driving lessons. If you haven’t, it’s probably worth brushing up on your road safety—it’s easy to do online—if only to make yourself feel more secure when you first go out.
There is also a very useful function on Google Maps that allows you to find the quickest or quietest route, or even the route with the least sheer incline if you’re feeling lazy. If you’re worried about getting lost on top of making sure that you haven’t pulled out in front of the 142, you can put one headphone in and set your phone up to robotically deliver directions as you cycle along. For safety’s sake, once you get used to the route, it’s probably best to cycle completely sans-headphones.
While you’ll see many casual cyclists around Manchester without helmets, it’s not always the best idea as a novice on the roads. Likewise, it’s actually illegal to not have lights on your bike after dark; it’s worth purchasing some before you get caught out after a late lecture.
In terms of actual cycling, the best thing to keep in mind is to always be looking around you to check for any potential hazards. Make use of the cycle boxes at traffic lights in order to pull away quickly from left-turning vehicles, and always be aware of the speed at which you are actually capable of pulling away from junctions in line with oncoming traffic. The general rule for buses or other large vehicles is that, if you can’t see their mirrors, then they can’t see you.
Keeping your bicycle safe should also be a priority, try to lock it within well-lit areas if it’s after dark, and invest in a sturdy bike lock that you can put around both the frame and the front wheel (to avoid this being removed from the bike).
Many people make cycling around Manchester sound terrifying, but if you take care and respect other road users, it can be a great way of getting some exercise whilst also saving money.