18th October 2016

The route to university has improved, and so must we

The updated cycle lanes are to be welcomed, but more caution must be taken by all travellers

As part of Manchester City Council’s billion-pound ‘Grow Project’, the majority of students’ route to the University has got a whole lot safer. But now we all need to know our place on the road or pavement, and stick to it. As many will have noticed (see, the never-ending roadworks) the project has had a focus on the cycle and bus lanes of Wilmslow and Oxford Road, one of the busiest public transport routes in Europe.

Due to this business, amongst other factors, the route can often be very dangerous to cyclists—as my mum will never let me forget. These changes are much needed, and so far we are seeing a great improvement, but there is still more to be done from all that use the roads either behind the wheel, in the saddle, or on foot.

The conflict between cyclists and drivers has really blossomed over the past ten years, as made clear by the hours of YouTube footage dedicated to disgruntled drivers and righteous riders; the new Mods vs Rockers, some might say.

Due to a combination of arrogance and ignorance, the two groups don not seem to be able to share the road harmoniously. With the introduction of these new cycle lanes, you may think the problem would now cease to exist.

Given such clear separation provided by bollards, kerbs, and bright green paint, the two groups are hardly sharing the road. However, the problem still remains, and pedestrians are adding to it, using the green strip as if it is their own VIP fast lane.

The council are doing their bit, but now it is our responsibility to recognise this and change our own habits. The easiest, and most common group to take issue with are the drivers. Though they are less likely to be reading this, it is still worth pointing out the issues.

Incidents have certainly reduced since the cycle lanes have been introduced, most likely due to the separation of bikes and cars. But at junctions, where the separation ends and the two are forced to cross paths, is where arrogance and ignorance collide.

Often the ignorance comes from the driver—though not always, of course. Now that the cycle lanes are more obvious than ever, the issue of being pushed up against the kerb is almost non-existent. However, it seems these clear boundaries have done nothing but encourage the mindset of the unaware driver.

The clear separation seems to encourage a vacuum of awareness to the left of the car just before making a lurching turn, and in doing so, cutting off the oncoming cyclist and forcing a dramatic escape. Occasionally, the cyclist is not so lucky and is sent flying from the bike into the severe pain of tarmac. This is far from the case with all drivers. In fact, I would like to praise the bus drivers, who always seem to have one eye on every inch of the road. But it still happens often enough to make an interruption-free journey through the Curry Mile a rarity.

As a cyclist myself, I know that we are far from innocent. Often, we act like the rules of the road don not apply to us. Clearly this does not do much for the harmony of road users. If a driver were to see a cyclist speeding through a set of lights when they have been waiting patiently for it to turn green, it will of course cause feelings of resentment.

Though it is often safer to set off before the cars do, drivers equate these actions to arrogance. It is effectively spitting on the sacred British past-time of queuing.

If we cyclists are looking to be treated with respect and with the same rights as all other road users, then we need to act that way. There are also a great number of occasions where cyclists are ignorant too, by failing to indicate or cycling at night without lights. It is small things like this that encourage a divide between the two parties.

The pavement walkers have never been an issue for us road-using cyclists. They have kept themselves to themselves and all was well. But since the advent of the protected cycle lanes, some have decided to venture off the safe haven of the pavement, stepping out into the bright lights of the green strips.

These paths seem to allow pedestrians to stroll past others as if they were on an airport conveyor belt. It seems like a wonderful solution to the problems of the pedestrian, but what a commotion it causes for cyclists.

Just as the driver might makes a rogue turning, cyclists are constantly aware of the pedestrians with their backs turned, teetering on the kerb, in case they make a break for it in their new ‘fast lane’. Once again, we are often forced to slam on the brakes, and squeeze past with a cautionary “Woah, watch out”, hoping that will stop them from doing it again.

The recent changes are such a positive step, but we must check ourselves before we wreck ourselves—or those around us.

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