For the second year of the HSBC sponsored Let’s Ride event, we were treated to a completely new route. For the past few years, the route has gone from the city centre to Salford Quays. This year, the new route took us down Oxford Road to Whitworth Park, to the south of the city.
I’m not completely sure if the new route was due to the ongoing Metrolink works on the Trafford side of the quays, or whether it was an opportunity to show off the cycle infrastructure along Oxford Road. While it meant a longer ride for us to reach the route, it was a nice to have a change.
This year’s ride comes days after the announcement of Chris Boardman’s Beelines plan for walking and cycling, so giving people the opportunity to see the work that’s been done on Oxford Road is probably a good idea. While Oxford Road probably the best cycle infrastructure in Manchester right now, I’m hoping we can achieve better with Beelines, particularly at junctions, where the protection tends to disappear.
We joined the route at All Saints Park on Oxford Road, not far from the Whitworth Park end and headed towards the city centre. The route took us along Oxford Road, then Oxford Street, past Central Library and down Peter Street.
We turned onto Deansgate and headed for the Cathedral end via the sprint zone. Arriving at Cathedral Gardens at the Festival Zone, we stopped for lunch and watched some of the Extreme Mountain Bike Show.
We left Cathedral Gardens and headed back along Deansgate, stopping off at Albert Square for a wander. I’m not sure if we were a bit late, but Albert Square seemed a bit subdued. We didn’t hang around for long.
We were soon back on Oxford Street and Oxford Road, heading for Whitworth Park. Riding along here did make a nice change to the usual route along the A56, and in general it’s a nicer environment to be in. The stretch of the A56 from Deansgate to White City is pretty bleak, and on normal days, pretty unpleasant and dangerous on a bike.
We quickly arrived at Whitworth Park, which is a bit of a green oasis among the noise and bustle of Oxford Road. This made a perfect setting for the Festival Zone and the tree cover and shade was very welcome on a hot, sunny day.
I found the setting of Whitworth Park much better than the usual location at MediaCityUK. The green setting made it somewhere you wanted to hang around. It also felt a bit less corporate and more local.
We spent a while in Whitworth Park, enjoying some churros and drinks, while the kids took part in some of the activities. We then left just as the ride was ending, so we headed back to All Saints and back home.
While we enjoyed the change of route, it felt like it was a little short. Maybe next year it could continue beyond Whitworth Park or maybe include a loop of the city centre? I’d still like to see the Mancunian Way incorporated into the route sometime.
I keep banging on about this, but I still really want to see Manchester have regular open streets / car-free days, beyond just the yearly Let’s Ride events. It would be great for the city centre to be regularly opened up to people walking and cycling, free of cars and pollution. Come on Andy Burnham and Chris Boardman, let’s make this happen!