Monday, 28 November 2011

Bike Beats Car (lots of them!)

My work commute does not involve a lot of heavy traffic on the whole. Most of this is due to the fact my shifts start at 07.30hrs and finish at 20.45hrs (I only do 3 per week though!). Sometimes I work night shifts and these mirror the days, starting at 20.30hrs and finishing at 07.45hrs. It also helps I work in a location away from the city centre.

Some colleagues start at 09.00hrs and travel via the city centre. They moan about the traffic and lack of parking spaces. I've suggested (in a light hearted kind of way) they consider cycling instead. Some look aghast at the suggestion, others make clear they would if it was not for the roads as they are "...far too busy" and some point out they live too many miles away - sometimes up to ten and so they are " a hurry"! Now I can appreciate the concern re abysmal cycle infrastructure but I think the argument re which is quicker is more open to debate.

Anyway, today was the last of a few night shifts. I had a bit of time to kill until meeting the Golden Child on the way to school, so I decided to take a cycle trip into Manchester city centre during rush hour and film the results. I chose the A56 from the M60 orbital motorway at junction 17 (Prestwich) to just short of Victoria station, the Manchester Evening News Arena and Manchester Cathedral - the start of the city centre from the north. It's a distance of 4 miles or so along a busy arterial route with a hodge podge of cycle provision and a far from brilliant road surface. Just your typical UK cycle commuter environment then!

View A56 commute in a larger map

I hope to demonstrate how the cycle commuter will travel faster than a car commuter during rush hour and that it's not too unpleasant. In the event I covered the distance in a quarter of an hour or so which is faster than the vehicles I passed (but I've sped the video up by x 4 so as not to bore you).

Some may say the result is not fair as the majority of the route is downhill and any return journey during the evening rush hour would therefore be slower than by car. Piffle I say to that. I'll have to see if the evening cycle journey beats the motorised one (but being familiar with the road though I think I know the answer already), however this video looks at the commute into Manchester and, as you can see, it is just a tad faster than using a car at this time of day. And the parking is easier/cheaper too!

Cycle commuting: the way forward.


  1. I can imagine a few non-cyclists being pretty horrified by the first couple of minutes, especially the close pass by that white van before some lights!

    The bus lane sections look positively relaxing by comparison, but why so few buses I wonder?

    It stikes me as interesting that drivers are almost completely respecting the bus lane, despite there being so few buses. Can a simple solid white line really have so much effect? It sort of gives the lie to the claim that you could not have a wide mandatory cycle lane along the entire length of roads such as this.

  2. Don

    I do think it looks more scary at high speed. As I'm sure you appreciate, filtering past stationery or crawling traffic isn't hard if you have good bike control and reasonable visual-spatial awareness.

    The white van was close. It was a good job I was in primary and had room to manouver if he'd been much closer. I have had some pass me at pinch points when I used to cycle in secondary most of the time. He (for I'm pretty sure it was a male) knew he had to get past before the lights or wait a few seconds behind me. At least I wasn't up against the railings when he passed!

  3. Hi
    I sometimes commute into Manc from Radcliffe and I find Bury Old Road easier than your route on the New Road, especially on the return journey. The stretch up from the MEN junction and past the Casino is single lane, loads of side roads, buses and just a pain. On the New Road up past the Fort it is 2 lanes all the way to Cheetham Hill. It is a bit further though.
    Say Hi if you see me - middle aged (older than you!) bloke on a silver Trek hybrid, blue rucksack, the inevitable yellow jacket.

  4. Tim

    I agree the route you describe is better for cycling. I had actually commuted from Cheetham Hill to the M60 that morning. I decided to use Bury New Road for the journey into M'cr because I know I'm guaranteed some nice slow traffic for my vid!

    I don't normally commute into M'cr at these times. I'll keep an eye out for you though.

  5. Titan

    Not sure whether to look forward to your comment on not!