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It’s ok car-drivers, you can all come back now

Sleuth writes a short article in support of the City Council as big holes disappear from the city....and the traffic stays frightened

Published on November 17th 2009.


It’s ok car-drivers, you can all come back now

Sleuth was thinking he was in a scene from 28 Days Later or I am Legend. It was Monday at 3.30pm. It was Deansgate and it was getting dark. It looked like zombie time.

Then Sleuth realised what he was missing.

Critical Mass are a group who block the roads with their bikes in protest at the way we are ‘ruled’ by the car. Sometimes they do it naked to make more of an impression. In the I am Legend scene on Deansgate here, forget naked; they could have sex on bicycles in the middle of the day and no-one would notice their screams of discomfort.

It was the road works that have festered on Deansgate like toadstools on a rotten tree trunk in a dirty swamp. Roadworks that have blighted the city for relentless months.

Now they have gone. So where's the traffic to fill the vacuum, why are the streets so empty? Call Sleuth old fashioned but he likes city centres to be full of people.

In fact he likes traffic of all sorts. He likes streets to be alive with vehicles and all the other paraphernalia of activity. Buses, trucks, cyclists, pedestrians and so forth. Streets without activity are like fields in winter, with two carrion crows in them, cawing at each other over the body of a dead vole.

We need cars, we need to love them, the city centre needs to bring them all in after the road works, let them clog the streets and make the place exciting.

But before we go on, first let’s give the Council a pat on the back.

Or at least a Pat in the Council Chamber.

Councillor Pat Karney, announced to much bemusement, bewilderment and down right disbelief at a breakfast meeting last Wednesday that all the road works that have been hampering movement around the city centre would be gone by Monday.

We choked on our Danishes.

But he was exactly true to his word.

Even the cabbies agree. Sleuth took a taxi to Salford Quays down Deansgate on Tuesday and the driver said: “Marvellous this isn’t it? You have to hand it to the Council they said all the shit would be gone and it is.”

There are only two professions more cynical than writers and they are cabbies and bankers. For a cabbie to be pleasantly surprised is...well, a pleasant surprise.

So Sleuth called Cllr Karney to pass on the taxi-driver endorsement.

“It’s been murder getting into Manchester,” agreed Captain K. “Especially from the north in recent weeks. Listen, I’ve had eight Karney’s a day from North Manchester ringing me – never mind the cab drivers. But do you know what the really good news is?”

Sleuth guessed: “They’re going to wait until February 2010 at least, until they dig it all up again?”

“Nah,” said the Councillor, “the Utilities won’t be back until 2050. The youngest member of the Karney clan is nine and when they return he’ll be fifty nine. He’s promised me he’ll get in touch with the Council Leader of the time straight away and give him loads of hassle.”

So it’s well done to the Council in hurrying up the Utilities and getting them away from the city centre by 16 November. And it’s well done to the Utilities for managing it.

Now all we need are some billboards along the M60 exits telling people to come in and enjoy the delights of the city.

Sleuth knows of a group of cyclists called Critical Mass who block the roads with their bikes in protest at the way we are ‘ruled’ by the car. Sometimes they do it naked to make more of an impression. They don't look like prolific shoppers.

In the I am Legend scene on Deansgate here, forget naked; Critical Mass could have sex on bicycles in the middle of the day and no-one would notice their screams of discomfort.

Drivers come back. You’re welcome. Shop. Drink. Feed. We need you. And the Council and Cityco needs to tickle your fancy with inducements and deep, deep love. That's despite what any Green lobby says, a lobby which probably scarcely uses the city centre except to protest.

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33 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

ChickNovember 17th 2009.

I've just read the story over on the MEN site about the opening of Rosso and the duddenappearence of lots of nice shiny cars n .

DigNovember 17th 2009.

Maybe using the term criminal offence is a bit strong but cyclists who do not adhere to the Highway Code ARE liable to face fines of up to £2500. The majority of cyclists DON'T follow any highway code and are largely ignored while car drivers are fined for the smallest offence. It's time cyclists were treated the same as drivers. The laws and highway codes are for everyone to follow.

DescartesNovember 17th 2009.

Nah Jon, the council loves drivers, just not people parking.

AnonymousNovember 17th 2009.

There's a lot of men in critical mass aren't there. Surely you'd only organise a naked bike ride if lots of chicks were going to turn up?

DigNovember 17th 2009.

This is the 1st time I have heard of Critical Mass and with that brief bit of info I hate them already. Did somebody forget to tell them that roads were made for cars? Look at them in that picture, not a care in the world and not one helmet in sight.

tomegranateNovember 17th 2009.

Oh, and for the record the Naked Bike Ride was NOT a Critical Mass, they're distinct events/groups. Nice one Sleuth.

scoteeeNovember 17th 2009.

I'm not sure he would announce anything from there M30,he is more likely to get lynched.How long do you think one should have to wait until you can "fit on" much less board a Tram to Altrincham at 5pm?

scoteeeNovember 17th 2009.

Totally agree with you "lost the plot". I have recently won a case of indiscriminate ticketing.Here's a little web site the council don't point you toward, becuase they being the money makers wish to decide the outcome themselves.I used these people when I knew they had no evidence of me parking on a single yellow line. www.trafficpenaltytribunal.gov.uk/site/index.php…

tomegranateNovember 17th 2009.

Jesus, what's that all about? I'm sure what I said was fairly balanced. No you didn't attack me, and I didn't attack you. But you did totally miss my point - so sorry if pointing it out counts as 'attacking.'This IS an attack: Your Neanderthal attitude shows you've got zero respect for road users other than yourself, whether or not they obey the rules. In case you haven't noticed, far from being a thing of the past, bicycle use is steadily increasing (this is going to continue as petrol gets more and more expensive and eventually - pop! - runs out)So if the mere presence of bikes beside you on the road makes you so incensed, then my advice to you is either get used to it or get off the road, because eventually the number of cyclists is gonna cause you a coronary.

walkerNovember 17th 2009.

i walk around manchester city centre almost every day and i've had far more close (and scarey) encounters with cars driving illegally than bikes; thats before even thinking about the environmental damage cars cause.

KArenNovember 17th 2009.

Dear Tomegranite I bet they have the same opinions though about say motor cars.

AlexNovember 17th 2009.

Cyclists are indeed awful... ...they make such a mess of your car when you hit them

tomegranateNovember 17th 2009.

Hang on, is the road "for everyone" or "made for cars"? Seems you want it both ways to suit your self-righteousness.Can you show the part of the highway code that says it's illegal for cyclists to ride side by side?

tomegranateNovember 17th 2009.

scoteee, you've missed the point of my comment. Read it again and see if you can find where I was defending cyclists riding abreast. You won't find it because that wasn't the point of my post, pretty obviously I think.To redress the balance: there are as many bad drivers as there are bad cyclists. The hugely important difference is that by breaking the rules of the road, a cyclist usually only endangers themselves (pavement cycling aside). When a driver breaks the rules the possible consequences are much direr. This is what motivates many cyclists to interpret the rules to their whim - to get ahead of a traffic queue by jumping a red light, to avoid a busy junction by hopping onto an empty pavement for a few metres, and so on. If the cyclist's judgement is sound and there is no risk to anyone else, I don't see the problem and I think the police probably see it the same way. I'm not saying this justifies all of the bad cycling that happens, but try and put yourself in the place of otherwise law-abiding cyclists who feel mortally threatened by inconsiderate and ignorant drivers. Don't let the actions of a few (or even the majority, if that's what it is) make you think you've got a moral excuse to treat all cyclists with disdain and dangerous driving. Big case of 'let he who is without sin' if you ask me.

Lancaster BomberNovember 17th 2009.

yes Cas, you are. The usefull big fat wallets want to park near to where they shop, they are lazy. They can be as lazy as they want as long as they come and spend their money with me. Me me me. Yes, lots of suburban MONEY with meeee..

MCC have lost the plot!November 17th 2009.

The council seem to have lost the plot when it comes to policy on cars. My case in point... I recently picked up a couple of tickets within a week of one another for parking in loading bays whilst delivering. We have a small low emmission car for this purpose rather than a van as our deliveries tend to be small and the car can then be used for other purposes i.e. transporting more than two people at a time = GREENER!!!. This to me is the kind of thing that the council should be welcoming rather than huge vans which seem to block half the street to drop off a ream of paper.Anyhow I contested both of these tickets and was advised that tickets would be issued if they could not see loading taking place, particularly if it were a non commerical vehicle. On both occassions I had left a note on the windscreen telling them exactly where I was delivering to and roughly how long I'd be, yet on both occassions they didn't come inside the building to check or wait until the time that I said I would return (always within 15 - 20mins). The advice I got was that they would continue to issue tickets on this basis and would consider my appeal on each occassion. Neither of my appeals were accepted in this case, so now on my business plan I have to factor in that when delivering to MCR city centre I may or may not have a £30 fine each time I drop off goods worth £40-£50, plus I have to also factor in a good half hour or so of my time to appeal each ticket.Hmmm, reallly makes me positive about growing my business in this fine city and I'm sure will enthuse many an aspiring and enterprising young soul to do similarly. I asked them about perhaps having a delivery badge for people who regularly deliver goods into the city centre - but this was laughed off as being too sensical for the paperchasing pen pushers to consider.

DigNovember 17th 2009.

OK. In my initial rant I was being specific about cars and was designed towards my joke about the naked cyclists and there not being any 'helmets' in sight. As you decided to be patronising my next rant was what I actually think about cyclists. Is that ok with you? My mistake about side by side. It's actually never more than 2 abreast. Again, look at that picture. A criminal offence.

scoteeeNovember 17th 2009.

@tomegranite, I'm not sure I attacked you in anyway but to be honest I fancy a dig now. I was attacking cyclists that break those three fundamental rules and all your tone demonstrates to me is that you feel that a car driver is capable of direr results. Well yes that's agreed; a car driver hitting a cyclist is going to hurt more. I do still consider cyclists that go through red lights and jump on to pavements ir-responsible there is no excuse for it. The facts are tomegranite that the world moves on and since the car in the 1880's it has become more popular that the bicycle so why not accept it and move on. If you want to stay fit, run or peddle off to some wooded area. If you want to save the planet get on a tram or a bus, but don’t fkin moan when I side swipe you for wobbling all over the road when you jump a red light in the pitch black and pi$$ing rain with your stupid flashy headlamp. Don’t worry you may shit a brick because you are concerned about an artic lorry approaching. tomegranite, we don’t drag heavy stones by horse and cart anymore, we use big, fat, fuk off lorries! Now peddle on your way old chap!

M30November 17th 2009.

Yet again Cllr Pat Karney takes the credit for an event he's had nothing to do with. I await him standing on the Metrolink platform at St Peter's Square announcing how he's managed to sort out a free day on the trams.

KeithNovember 17th 2009.

Give the pavements back to the pedestrians, the following is from the Highway Code64You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.[Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129]65Bus Lanes. Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs. Watch out for people getting on or off a bus. Be very careful when overtaking a bus or leaving a bus lane as you will be entering a busier traffic flow. Do not pass between the kerb and a bus when it is at a stop.66You should• keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear • keep both feet on the pedals • never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends • not ride close behind another vehicle • not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain • be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example, by ringing your bell if you have one. It is recommended that a bell be fitted

AnotherKeithNovember 17th 2009.

I live and work in the city centre and I cycle almost everywhere I need to go. My Smart car hardly gets used at all. That's good isn't it? I use the pavements when I consider it safer because I am in control. I have yet to touch a pedestrian let alone injure one. On Great ancoats Street for example, artics plough along at frightening speeds and wouldn't even notice the bump if they hit me. Someone once said that the greatest aid to road safety would be a large spike sticking out of the steering wheel in every car. Sounds good to me.

DigNovember 17th 2009.

I think with all the road markings, speed limits and traffic lights modern roads are predominantly designed for cars. People spend a small fortune learning how to drive and use the roads safely and legally yet any idiot can pick up a bike and ride on the road without a clue. The majority of cyclists wear no safety gear and pay no attention to the laws of the road. They are a danger to themselves and every other road user. I have the upmost respect for fully kitted, high vis cyclists. They are the ones who know how to use the roads safely for all concerned. That Critical Mass bunch are a bunch of **** ***** with no safety gear. They don't even know that cycling side by side on the road is illegal, as that picture demonstrates. The road is for everybody. As long as everybody uses it safely. The normal rules of the road appear not to apply to cyclists. Which is my bugbear.

ChickNovember 17th 2009.

What I was trying to say is, I've just read the story over on the MEN site about the opening of Rosso and the sudden appearence of lots of shiny supercars on King Street and Spring Gardens bagging 30 parking bays for four days. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

tomegranateNovember 17th 2009.

Thanks Keith, you've made my point, intentionally or not:The Highway Code in itself is not law. Requirements of the Code are only legally binding if they cite an actual law ("A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of the Highway Code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind" Road Traffic Act 1988) - riding more than two abreast does not cite a law and so is NOT illegal, as Dig said. Pedantic yes, but the point is before you start slinging mud at people for supposedly not obeying the law, make sure you know what you're talking about!KAren - More than likely. So what?

DigNovember 17th 2009.

Don't break your brolly Scoteee. Just poke them in the eye with it if they get too close. Damage done, brolly intact. It's all good!

JayNovember 17th 2009.

The praise for this is completely been directed in the wrong direction. It is United Utilities and National Grid who timed their work to finish in time for the Christmas Markets, this was in the pipeline for the past couple of years and was agreed with Manchester highways.It's a best case scenario to say that utility companies wont need to come back in for another 40 years. I would guess that the wastewater and telecoms networks will need a refurb before 2050.

AnonymousNovember 17th 2009.

well maybe it has all gone but I don't think the Gasmen (never seen a Gas women) have finished, and there is the cross city bus scheme to come (see GMPTE consulations,) as well as the weekend night time pedestrianisation of the Gay part of the Village Quarter. I am still trying to get information weekly of city centre road closures. Grid lock threatens.

CasNovember 17th 2009.

Being what you probably consider a useful big fat wallet, I agree. Therefore if I drive that end instead of walking I park in the Marks & Spencer car park with the squeaky floors. I don't understand your point?! The wallets park there and Kendals usually dont they? That's why where the free parking is (Castlfield, Strangeways etc) you don't see the Mercs et al, as they're all in the two car parks mentioned.

tomegranateNovember 17th 2009.

Dig, cars have only been around since about the 1880s. Bikes - a bit longer. Roads - er, much longer. Even under modern law cars have no priority. So how can you justify the idea that roads are made for cars?

CasNovember 17th 2009.

Having cycled to Paris this year (I drop that into all conversations when possible), I can say the attitude of the Brits to cyclists is pathetic. They are treated with contempt and the constant abuse and life threatening incidents on the way to Dover deomstrated this. What a difference in France though! Horns beeping, encouragement and even schoolkids giving us all high fives at the side of the road. I'm not some cycle freak and haven't touched the bike since, I just think these motorheads can be a bit neanderthal at times.

KeithNovember 17th 2009.

My point was that riding on the pavement is against the law the part on riding 2 abreast, follows on in the Highway Code and was added for info. I drive a car in the city almost every day and always give space to bicycle riders. The ones who annoy me are the ones who either ride their bikes on the pavement; usually giving dirty looks at pedestrians who are in ‘their’ way or the ones who ride the wrong way down one way streets (Oxford Street from Portland St to Whitworth St is bad for this).

CasNovember 17th 2009.

Am I among the tiny minority who would rather pay for car parking somewhere slightly more secure than park free by a roadside? Something that irritates me a tad about this parking campaign is the constant assumption that those who are likely to spend the most money in city shops, will be mortified at paying a few quid for parking. If you're going to spend a few hundred Christmas shopping then what's a fiver for parking?

scoteeeNovember 17th 2009.

@tomegranate. Cyclists riding side by side when there are as many cars on the roads particularly at rush hour is stupid and selfish, regardless of a cyclist’s right to the roads. I can stand in the street and block someone getting passed me too, that's not illegal either but just as selfish. As for those who ride past me on the pavement and those believe that red lights don't apply to them those who falter from left to right in the middle of the same lane at which I am driving and generally cause a nuisance, I have no sympathy. In fact I have my golf brolly with me this evening so let’s play “Brolly Lottery”, all you must do is cycle past me on a pavement and I’ll shove my brolly through your spokes and between the forks to see how much faster you get to your destination...accidentally, of course!

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