Impressions of cycling in York

This weekend we had a family visit to York, mainly for another trip to the rather good National Railway Museum, which the kids always enjoy. While I didn’t get chance to ride in York myself, I did notice a few things about cycling in the city.

All kinds of people, wearing normal clothes, riding normal bikes

Being in Manchester, I’m very used to seeing the typical bike rider you see in the city. Male, somewhere between twenty to forty, Lycra and/or hi-vis, riding something like a road or cross bike.

In York, I was surprised to see something quite different. All kinds of people, of all ages, dressed normally, riding all kinds of bikes, old and new. I don’t think I saw one person in Lycra on a carbon frame and I saw very few people wearing helmets.

Puch shopper outside a post office
Puch shopper outside a post office

Parking, parking and more parking

In all parts of Manchester, parking is scarce. Whether on street, at shops or train or Metrolink stations, it’s often impossible to find somewhere to park.

The situation couldn’t be more different in York, there’s parking everywhere. York Station has decent, undercover long stay parking, with some short stay parking at the ticket office. Compare that with the decidedly sub-par parking at Manchester Piccadilly Station.

Cycle parking at York Station
Cycle parking at York Station
Short stay cycle parking at the ticket office in York Station
Short stay cycle parking at the ticket office in York Station

On the streets it’s the same, there’s parking everywhere. It seems like you walk round every corner and there’s more parking, outside shops, bookies, everywhere. Also, from what I saw, workplaces, schools and colleges are well equipped too.

Cycle parking outside the Stone Roses Bar in York
Cycle parking outside the Stone Roses Bar in York
Slightly unusual cycle racks outside the Reel Cinema
Slightly unusual cycle racks outside the Reel Cinema
Cycle parking at a bookies
Cycle parking at a bookies

It’s not all perfect

So is York some kind of cycling utopia? No, not really.

Cycling along the River Ouse
Cycling along the River Ouse

In reality, York is probably some way behind some of the better examples here in the UK, such as Cambridge. You can see roads in York that are almost as unwelcoming to bikes as ones in Manchester, almost.

Though it’s definitely ahead of where Manchester is right now. Some of this you can put down to York being quite a compact city, easy to get about on bike. It also has a large student population for its size and access to some pleasant riverside routes, which also help.

But it’s more than just that. Manchester has a huge student population, and by rights, the Wilmslow Road/Oxford Road corridor should be a sea of bikes. But it’s not, it’s a sea of buses.

Hopefully, the Wilmslow Road Cycleway should go some way to address that. But we also need plenty of new bike parking, on the streets where people need it. Not cycle hubs for the few, that TfGM are hell-bent on.

I welcome initiatives like Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign’s Normalising Cycling. We need to see more of this in Manchester, just normal people, riding normal bikes for transport.

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