It’s survival of the fittest: Rush hour commute is a daily battle as cyclists and motorists fight for right of the road

By Georgina Stubbs

Cyclist, noun: a person who rides a bicycle. Rush hour, noun: a time at the start and end of the working day when the traffic is at its heaviest.

There is a daily ensuing war between the engine and the man powered machine, the rush hour commute is survival of the fittest for those who accept the challenge.

In the post-Olympic glow there has been an explosion in the number of people taking to two wheels, either as weekend Wiggins and commuter Cavendishs.

But questions are beginning to arise about just how safe the roads of Greater Manchester are for cyclists.

There have been 1,767 collisions involving cyclists within the region over the last three years, 251 of these were serious and nine were fatal. 

‘Inspire a generation’ said London Olympics 2012 organisers.

Well it seems that not even Grand Tour winning, Olympic gold medallists are immune from the perils of cycling on the regions roads. .

Earlier this month, while on his way to meet up with amateur cyclists from a local club, Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins was knocked off his bike by a van pulling out of a petrol station near his Chorley home.

Although it was not a career-ending accident, he suffered broken ribs, a hand and wrist injury and bruising and cuts.

Cruelly Shane Sutton, head coach of the Great Britain cycling team was also knocked off his bike in a separate accident in Manchester. He suffered bleeding on the brain even though he was wearing a helmet.

During the Olympics Wiggins found himself at the centre of controversy after making a statement that cyclists have a responsibility to wear helmets, believing that they would be offered better protection if it was illegal to ride without one.

So, what do you call a cyclist that does not wear a helmet during rush hour?

An organ donor.

Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that nationally in 2011 there were 107 cyclists killed, 3,085 seriously injured and 16,023 collisions where cyclists were ‘slightly’ injured.

This amounts to 19,215 reported incidents across the UK in 2011 alone and since 2006 that figure has been steadily increasing.

Interestingly, DfT figures show that since 2009 male cyclists have been involved in 10,000 more collisions than their female counterparts.

Numbers that will surely throw a spanner in the works of the age old gender ‘who are the safest/better road users’ debate.

COLLISION RATE: Accidents increase year on year as males outweigh females

British Cycling, based at the Velodrome in Manchester, called for the government to take leadership and put cycling at the heart of transport policy to make cycling safer, in the long run they want to see ministers taking real leadership on the issue.

James Carr, British Cycling’s Legal and Policy advisor said that the statistics released by the DfT once again highlight how crucial it is that the government act quickly on cycle safety and that cycling should not be seen as an afterthought.

He added: “A specific proportion of the roads budget should be allocated each year for making existing roads and infrastructure better, with cycling at the very heart of transport policy.

“Only then can we be satisfied that everything is being done to address the damaging statistics.”

This begs the question: What exactly is being done to address cycling safety?

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) claim they firmly believe in making cycling a main mode of transport and they currently offer a number of services for those taking to this form of commuting.

Dave Newton, TfGM’s transport strategy director, said: “Transport for Greater Manchester has ambitious plans to promote cycling amongst our communities in the coming years.

“One of our major schemes is the Commuter Cycle project which will improve cycling infrastructure and knowledge for people wanting to use bikes to get to and from work.

“Essential to this project is access to training and information so that commuters can make their cycle journeys with greater confidence.”

They have certainly kept to their word, and today sees the introduction of a TfGM cycling hub in central Manchester, City Tower and Piccadilly Gardens.

The innovative hub allows two wheeled commuters to leave their bikes in a safe and secure environment – the hub even has showers, lockers and bike mechanics available for less than £10 per month.

TfGM are also flying the flag for cycle safety in the region, offering free cycling courses to adults wanting to get back on their bike.

Manchester City Council said they are currently working towards a bigger package of works to encourage cycling across Greater Manchester, investing in projects that compliment the initiatives being delivered by TfGM.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said that through recently received funding from the DfT’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund they will be improving access to the city centre, providing more cycle lanes and safer crossing points across the inner city ring road.

He added: “We are also committed to extending 20mph zones across much of the city.”

So with the introduction of more cycling lanes and a greater awareness for the two wheeled commuter, stories of incidents will surely be few and far between?


“The sound of a car door opening in front of you is similar to the sound of a gun being cocked.” – Amy Webster

Many cyclists will tell you that there appears in the majority of cases to be a blatant disregard by drivers of vehicles for the safety of those that travel on something that is simply a constructed piece of metal.

Jack Wigley, an avid cyclist and commuter from Stretford, said: “We have cycle lanes that serve no purpose because cars are parked on them, cycle lanes should be red lined.”

He added: “The roads are generally terrible, no one shows any regard for cyclists especially around rush hour.”

On the other hand it could be said that many drivers will also make the same complaint about cyclists.

Warwick Sanderson, President of the University of Salford Cycling Club, said: “I have a pretty good record and experience of riding around Manchester generally but the other day changed my opinion.

“There were five or six cars that took risks trying to cross the road ahead of us, they had no regard for how fast we were going or how far away we were. It was not hard for them to miss us as we had lights on.

“I think it was probably the stress of needing to get home quickly as riding through the day is almost perfect. I doubt that much can be solved during rush hour because we are after all the inferior objects on the road.”

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