As someone who regularly passes through Didsbury and Parrs Wood, on my way to Cheadle as part of my commute. I’ve been watching the progress of the Mersey Valley and Stockport Cycleway, and have previously posted my impressions of the Stockport Cycleway.
Up until now though, I haven’t used the section of the route between Didsbury Village and Wilmslow Road, usually opting for the more direct, but unpleasant route on road, through the truly awful and quite dangerous Parrs Wood junction with Kingsway.
The route starts just off School Lane and heads towards Didsbury Village Metrolink stop, on largely quiet roads.
You pass the Metrolink stop on your left and continue until you reach a gap in the fence, where you pass over the tracks. At this point, there’s barriers either side, that can probably be negotiated on most bikes without stopping, but are a bit too tight for my Gazelle.
Once over the other side, the tarmac ends and you continue on a gravel surface. This is currently in pretty good condition, with few puddles. But I wonder how well it’ll last once the path has some usage, tarmac would have been much better.
The path now continues mainly straight until you reach an exit for Parrs Wood Tesco and the East Didsbury Metrolink stop. At both points, you can exit the path, but you’re faced with Cyclists Dismount signs.
After the East Didsbury Metrolink stop, the route forks off. At this point, I headed right towards Green Pastures.
At Green Pastures, I hit the first of four barriers. As you can see, you’re faced with the choice of an A frame barrier or a stile, with the gate securely locked.
At this point, it was obvious I was’t going to get through either easily, with my handlebars too wide to fit through the A frame, and my bike heavier than I’d like it to be to carry it over the stile.
So my only option was to lift the front wheel, to get through the A frame, while a bin man watched on. On my commute, this isn’t too much of an issue. But if I was out with the family, this would mean taking my youngest off the back of the bike to get through. With one barrier this is annoying, but with four, it is seriously VERY annoying.
Over the other side of Green Pastures, you hit another A frame and stile combo. Though at this point the quality of the path has taken a turn for the worse. The poor quality surface gives way to mud and puddles as you head towards the Mersey.
At the Mersey, you do a right turn, only to be faced with another barrier. Now at this point, I’m seriously trying to understand why this barrier is here. I’ve just had to pass through one barrier, and there’s another barrier beyond it. Why is it here, other than to annoy people?
This time it’s just an A frame. Though as you pass beyond it, at least the quality of the path improves.
Carrying on down along the Mersey, you reach the fourth and final barrier. This time it’s a combination of a set of steps, an accessible slope and a K barrier. Whilst approaching the barrier, I saw one person choosing the easier option and taking his bike down the steps.
The K barrier was the same story as the A frame. Too narrow to fit my handlebars through, so it was necessary to lift the front wheel.
Once through the final barrier, you’re then on the Stockport Cycleway, with the shared use path that’s often ignored by those heading north, due to the hassle of having to cross, once you pass over the Mersey. With the level and speed of traffic, and lack of any crossing, this is still a frustrating and dangerous experience.
Reaching the M60, you can see that the temporary barrier is still in place as the work to complete this section is yet to be done, 1.5 years after the rest of it was completed. The path at this point is pretty poor as you’d imagine, and with the different levels and bollards blocking the path, it is often a conflict point.
As I said previously about the Stockport Cycleway, there’s so much potential to deliver a convenient, safe and pleasant route between Didsbury and Cheadle, avoiding some really unpleasant roads. But as before, compromises in the implementation has led to flawed infrastructure that doesn’t work for anyone.
The biggest issue on the Didsbury to Wilmslow Road section is the number of barriers, four in half a mile. This is a ridiculous situation and seriously impacts who can use the route. We’re not just talking about those on non-standard bikes. Anyone riding a normal bike, carrying kids would find this route frustrating and wouldn’t bother.
I don’t know who’s to blame for this, Manchester City Council, Stockport Council or Sustrans. Someone at Sustrans should be getting back to me about this, so we’ll wait and see.