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Is Manchester’s bike park enough to encourage cycling?

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Jenni Hill

A brand new ‘bike-park’ has recently been built in the centre of Manchester. Situated beneath City Tower in Piccadilly, it has been created as a move from the government to make Manchester the cycling capital of Britain. Standard membership for cycling enthusiasts at the new £500,000 facility bank rolled by the government is £100 a year. Premium membership – which includes access to showers and full length lockers, costs a whopping £200 a year. For £200 a year I’d expect more than just a wash upon my arrival at the ‘state of the art’ facility, I’d expect a full cooked breakfast before work each morning and unlimited repairs and.

The chairman of the TfGM committee, Andrew Fletcher, said “This new facility will make it easier for them to come into town on their bikes. We want to make it easier for more people to make it the norm, rather than the exception.”

Despite the fact that the park is supposedly designed to encourage cycling in Manchester, many cyclists themselves are sceptical about the new facility which is rumoured to be the first of many underground bike parks to be built across the city. Days after Bradley Wiggins and his coach Shane Sutton were knocked off their bikes in two separate incidents which occurred within mere hours of one another, it is unsurprising that the last thing on cyclists’ minds is finding somewhere to lock their bikes. When it comes to encouraging people to cycle, what we need is reassurance that the roads are safe and that drivers are looking out for us.

Following the popularity of the Olympics and the success of the likes of Wiggins, Hoy and Pendleton, sales of bikes have gone through the roof this summer. Cycling is considered an easy, accessible sport that anyone can take part in – yet I wonder how many of the budding cyclists who invested in a set of wheels over the summer have actually racked up a decent set of miles since then. I wonder how many cyclists worry about getting to where they want to go due to the lack of cycle lanes and the evidence that drivers repeatedly show a complete disregard for the safety of riders on the road.

The new bike park has a number of serious downfalls which I suspect will greatly hinder the popularity of the facility. The first issue it is for membership. One of the perks of cycling is the fact that bike and gear aside, it’s free to do and relatively cheap to maintain in comparison to driving a car. To add a £200 fee on top of it in exchange for a locker and a shower seems ridiculous and considering the initial cost to tax payers, it just adds insult to injury. One might argue that the £200 bike park fee is miniscule compared to the increasing cost of public transport throughout the city centre and surrounding areas. However, the offer of a safe place to park your cycle doesn’t come across as enough of an incentive to use the hub. It would be far cheaper to purchase a couple of good quality bike locks to increase the safety of your ride. Besides, hidden away in the FAQ section of  the City Tower website it states that bike locks are not included with your membership and therefore members must supply their own anyway. With regards to the tempting shower facilities, every cyclist knows how frustrating it is to get off your bike and begin your day drenched in sweat, but all it takes is some wipes, a can of deodorant and a change of clothes to make sure you survive the day at work without offending anyone

For those that can afford the membership fees and are happy to pay the money for the promise that at the end of the day their bike will still be where they left it that morning, the location could pose an issue. The bike park is only really beneficial to those who work right near it. I highly doubt that there are many cyclists out there who have ditched spending an hour in their car on the route to work in the morning for a brisk 20 minute bike ride, who would be happy with more than a five minute walk from their bike to the office.

Open from 6am-8pm in the week and from 8am-5pm on weekends, the somewhat limited opening hours could also dissuade those who could otherwise benefit from the facility from signing up, particularly if there is a chance that they may not make it on time to pick their bike up at the end of each day.

It seems completely futile to create a safe place for cyclists to lock their bikes if they have fought their way through a battleground in order to get there. As any bike rider will tell you – the only way to encourage more cycling in the city is to make the roads safer. Until we do that, cycling in Manchester will be an uphill struggle.

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