With thanks to Jem's son for the great posters.
Sunday, 22 June 2014
A warm and friendly welcome to all my new readers from Russia looking for big, sturdy pants. There's only one week to go until the second Death Fork Rally. Which means it's probably time I put the wheels back on my silver and blue speed machine...
Monday, 16 June 2014
It's all change in the Langsett household. I've landed myself a new job; although Mrs L quickly out-newjobbed me by also getting not just a new job, but one in an entirely different bit of the country. In the meantime, there's a new commute to get to grips with. The old commute is pretty good, too. It starts in one Manchester suburb and ends in another one, but in between there's quite a lot of this:
So the new ride to work has quite a lot to live up to.
Let's get down to the nuts and bolts. My destination is a place where this man is rightly revered as a god:
A place where, if the massive piece of machinery behind Fred is anything to go by, the entire town centre is powered by steam. A place where there are whole mirror glass fronted shops entirely devoted to the sale of Quality Meats:
I tried the route out on my Claud Butler first thing on Sunday morning, which is where the photos came from. But I first rode it at night, a few of weeks ago. And it gave me the creeping horrors.
For the most part, I notice the dodgy bits of riding on the road for only as long as it takes for them to happen. Someone overtakes you with a couple of inches to spare. But a couple of seconds later, they're gone, and you're still getting lungfuls of fresh air and the sun on your face. If I do stop to think about making roads safer for lads and ladies on bikes, my big plan starts and ends with fitting uncannily accurate rocket launchers, like on Chuck Norris's bike in Delta Force to all bikes.
This ride was different though. It was cool and late when I set out. There was barely anything on the road, apart from me. And the absence of cars, buses and trucks made it easier to appreciate what a pig of a route this is. It is structurally unsafe.
The first big obstacle is a monster, out of town shopping centre. It should be easy to get past on a bike, because there are bike paths all around it. But they're the kind of bike paths that consist of red paint on the pavement. I might be doing the designers an injustice by saying that the paint has been splashed down at random without any thought about where each path is trying to get people to, but that is exactly the impression that's been created. A couple of years ago, a young woman from my part of Manchester, Georgia Flynn, was knocked down and killed trying to figure out her way to work at the shopping centre on her bike.
I carried on, over the Ship Canal and up the hill towards Worsley. The next obstacle was a motorway junction. There's a steep uphill gradient in the mix here, so there is absolutely no chance that you'll be travelling anywhere near the speed of the cars that come belting down the slip road from the motorway. There are no crossings or traffic signals to make it easier for you. If you're on a bike- or on foot for that matter - the motorway might as well be a wall.
In Walkden, there was a particularly evil one way system - one of those which maroons a whole town centre in the middle of a constant, revolving wall of traffic. It was late on a Tuesday evening, so the roads were really quiet. But you could imagine the roaring, swirling maelstrom of vehicular death that it would be at 8:07 on a Tuesday morning, where the weekend might as well be located in another plane of existence. And in case you can't imagine it, I found this short film of it on the t'internet.
Finally, there was this terrifying invitation from Bolton Council to maroon yourself between two merging streams of high speed traffic waiting for - hell to freeze over? I dunno. Clearly there's no realistic way of getting across the slip road without a lot of sweaty palmed stumbling over your own bike.
But then there was this very direct bit of advertising, which lifted the mood a bit:
Greater Manchester has just won £20 million to improve cycling provision in the city - the website setting out the plan for spending that cash is here. Let's get involved in a bit of internet activism: if you're reading this, and you live in Greater Manchester, and you've ever found yourself thinking - as I did at that junction in Bolton - that the road designer must want you personally and thoroughly dead, then get in touch with the people holding the purse strings and tell them where the money needs to be spent
This new commute of mine is not all bad. As you're coming over the top of the hill to Bolton, you get this lovely teaser view of the town hall clock tower with Winter Hill rising behind. I would love to ride up here when there's snow on the top - I bet it looks beautiful.
Coming back down the hill towards home, there's Worsley Delph - two hundred yards and a world away from the motorway, with the half timbered Packet House hidden amongst the trees.
And that's why some thought and money needs spending on cycling provision in this bit of town. This could be a great way to get to and from work. But at the moment it feels a bit too much like an audition for a part in Casualty.