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Cycling: four wheels good, two wheels better?


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Mark Birbeck, Gabriele Schliwa (Manchester Cycling Lab), Andy Groves (Northern Soul) and Nick Vaughan (Transport for Greater Manchester) will introduce a discussion on improving the road experience for all, chaired by Keith McCabe (Manchester IET).

Date and Time

22 September 2014 - 18:00-20:30


Manchester, United Kingdom - icon_popup  (See map)


Joint Event.

About this event

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Mark BirbeckHaving a bicycle for a child was often a precursor to travelling beyond the physical confines of your neighbourhood, and the first steps to adolescent freedom. Getting on your bike and visiting friends without needing a lift from mum and dad, or being able to cycle to the countryside away from the watchful eyes of adults has long been a rite of passage for teenagers. Though older generations may have known bicycles as their only mode of transport for going to work, most people now have access to a car yet many commuters are frustrated by congestion, and a plethora of impediments on the road. A return to the bicycle as a realistic form of transport is being publicly promoted, so what are we to make of such campaigns to get us on our bike again?


Gabriele SchliwaMuch is made of the health benefits of getting the nation out of cars and back on two wheels; indeed the government has designed tax schemes to incentivise us to buy a bike. Are we to believe they want us to experience that freedom we did as kids to whizz down a hill with our feet off the peddles, for no other reason than to feel the wind in your hair? That's clearly stretching things, but there's definitely a social trend to emphasise cycling as a modern and desired form of transport, well exemplified by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, taking every opportunity to promote it. Manchester may not yet have the cycle hire infrastructure of London, but the introduction of many more cycle lanes on main arterial routes, and the Tour de France visiting the region is a step in that direction.


Andy GrovesPerhaps the trend toward an increase in cycling comes from it being one of the few unregulated activities in British life - as you don’t need a license, to pass a test, and provided you have a brake and some lights you’re good to go. Its promotion through government and non-governmental campaigns would indicate that there's an attempt though to address a wider scope of social problems beyond just transport issues. Will this attention begin to impact on it being seen as simply an enjoyable pursuit we could take or leave? Do campaigns that declare we’d be healthier and slimmer if we cycled more just load too much onto an otherwise rather mundane activity? Will introducing new priority lanes or junctions for cyclists result in creating an illusion of order and safety that may actually make things more problematic for cyclists and pedestrians alike?


Nick VaughanAdvocates of increasing cycling say it must be made safer, with new cycle paths and perhaps even compulsory helmet wearing; but would we then risk over-complicating this most straightforward of activities? Do cycle paths do more harm than good by shunting cyclists to one side and causing friction with car drivers? And how best to manage existing tensions between cyclists jumping red lights, cycling on pavements and other road and pavement users? With a new generation of children often discouraged from walking or cycling to school by parents who take them in their car, should Local Authorities be advising parents and kids to get on their bikes instead or is that too patronising?


Please arrive from 6:00pm for a drinks and nibbles reception in the cafe area, ready for a prompt 6:45pm start - expected to finish before 8:30pm.

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