Manchester Bikeshare Coming in 2021

BikeBiz reports that a dock-based bikeshare, including an ebike component, is planned for the Greater Manchester area in spring 2021, including Machester, Salford and Trafford. There will be 1500 bikes in the first phase. The tender for a provider/operator has just been published.

The city had a brief, ill-fated commercially funded Mobike dockless system, the operator soon giving up due to high levels of vandalism (the bikes themselves were also very poor). The Mobike system was also marred by frequent operating zone changes. and a lack of transparency and openness as to where the bikes were available, how they were being used and their impact (positive or negative) on the public realm.

The first phase of the system is being funded to the tune of approximately £10 million, coming from Greater Manchester Combined Authority funds. That works out at ~£6,600 per bike – similar to the ~£8,000 figures sometimes quoted for the Santander Cycles in London.

Hopefully the capital investment in a “proper” dock-based system will result in a successful operation, without the problems seen previously.


A Closer at Edinburgh’s Hub Types

As a followup to the recent story that Edinburgh is consolidating its docking stations and hubs, closing some and replacing the remaining virtual ones with physical anchors, I took a look at the various types that are currently deployed in the city by Serco, the operator.

  1. Virtual hub [see above]. Nothing on the ground – the hub appears in the app and on the data feed, but only the bikes (if any) indicate the presence of the docking station. In this particular case, the app/data showed no bikes available, but there was one bike there – presumably it was marked as disabled or there was a GPS issue, although at a glance it appeared to not have anything wrong with it. Certainly, not having anything on the ground does make it feel that it is just an abandoned bike.
  2. Marked hub (mat) [see below]. Edinburgh is not using painted/signposted hubs which we are starting to see in some London boroughs. Instead, they have a plastic mat on the ground advertising the system and providing a physical “box” to park the bike in – complete with indications of where the front and back wheels should go. Sadly, the mats are not doing well in the Edinburgh climate – in this example, the nearby mat has been partially folded over on one side. The further mat has left the ground entirely and is wrapped around the tree in the background. The mats are also not nearly big enough for the numbers of bikes currently parked there. Being beside a construction site is undoubtably not helping either!
  3. Marked hub (chain). Although I didn’t see this on my most recent trip, Edinburgh also used, at least at the start of the system, hubs which were marked out by two of the bikes (not rideable) at either end of the hub, with a chain passed through their front wheels. Users were instructed to park between the “marker” bikes. This is also a temporary hub as it is very easy for someone to move the bikes or chain. However it does act as something on the ground – and above ground level – increasing visibility of the hub.
  4. Dumb dock mats [bottom]. This is Edinburgh’s version of docking stations. They are once again not fixed to the ground so are presumably temporary, although more permanent than the solutions above due to their size/weight. I am not 100% clear on whether the bike is locked to the dock when it is parked in it, but the size and postioning of the dock gives a good indication of how users should position their bikes at the end of a ride, as well as acting as a clear indication of why the bikes are there and potentially making the bikes less susceptible to vandalism due to not appearing to be “abandoned”. Users are allowed to park adjacent to the docking station if it is full, I believe.

There are various other docking mechanisms that Edinburgh hasn’t used yet – secured dumb docks, smart docking stations (with power and possibly data), painted and/or signposted hubs, and fences/cable locks. They key with most of these alternatives is they require physically attaching something to the ground, and a key aspect of how Edinburgh operates is with the flexibility of being able to move the hubs – regardless of type – based on demand and vandalism. The last one (fences/cable locks) makes use of existing ground-secured infrastructure but would require a slight redesign of the particular bike that Edinburgh uses.


Social Network Visualisation

I think this sort of thing is amazing:


It’s a visualisation of my contacts on the Facebook social networking website, generated by the Nexus Friend Grapher. The black dots are people I know, and the lines connect mutual friends together. Using a Hooke’s Law type of mechanics, where the black dots are masses and the lines are springs, produces this sort of graph, where clumps form.

I think this sort of “personal social footprint” is as powerful a way to show your identity and uniqueness as conventional demographics. Every person’s graph will have a unique shape and pattern.

It’s also an interesting conceptual idea to find the “shortest line” from one side of the graph to the other. This in effect discovers the “best way” that two completely unrelated friends could get to know each other, just by meeting other friends of mine along the way, without me needing to be around to do the introductions.

By the way, forming the biggest clump, on the right, are the orienteers. The top part roughly corresponds to SLOW – not as tightly connected as it’s not a student club. The middle part is JOK and the bottom-right OUOC.


Orienteering Events this Autumn

Here’s the events I’m thinking of going to this autumn:

11 Sept – Plinth-O, Trafalgar Square at 1pm (It’s not an event, it’s art!)
12 Sept – SLOW City of London Race. I’m the mapper. Now over 500 entries!
13 Sept – SLOW Richmond Park Trail Challenge Half-Marathon
20 Sept – HAVOC Score, Bedfords Park (maybe)
27 Sept – LOK Hampstead Heath
3 Oct – WCH Maize Maze-O (would love to do it if I can work out how to get there/back)
or 3 Oct GO SE Relays, Puttenham Commons, Aldershot
4 Oct – SO Stoughton Wood Regional, Chichester
11 Oct – DEE Chester City Race
13 Oct – SLOW Street-O, Battersea
17 Oct – CUOC Cambridge City Race
18 Oct – LEI CompassSport Cup Final at Fineshade, Peterborough
25 Oct – DFOK Lesnes Abbey Woods
31 Oct – Carcassonne Middle/Short Races, Toulouse, France
1 Nov – Carcassonne Long Race, Toulouse, France
8 Nov – SN Trophy, Mytchett, Basingstoke
10 Nov – SLOW Street-O, Hinchley Wood
14 Nov – DFOK Foot’s Cray (maybe)
21 Nov – SHUOC Sheffield Sprint Races
22 Nov – CHIG Epping Forest East
29 Nov – SLOW OK Nuts Trophy, Bramshott Common, Haslemere
6 Dec – HAVOC Langdon Hills (maybe)
8 Dec – SLOW Street-O, Putney
13 Dec – WCH National Event, Cannock Chase


Orienteering Fixtures Map Updates

I’ve discovered a bug in the UK orienteering fixtures map which was preventing event name and location updates from appearing correctly – this has now been fixed. In addition, I’m now showing fixtures up to two years away on the list (previously it was a year) as some fixtures, including the urban races, are starting to appear in the list a long way off. Finally, the course indicators are back – at least, until BOF change things again…


One Angel Lane (aka Watermark Place)

Just noticed that the protective fencing has just come down on the newest City building, on the Thames waterfront beside Cannon Street Station. The building is called Watermark Place, although a prominent wooden beam at the building’s main entrance has the inscription “One Angel Place” on it. Although the building is mainly glass and steel, it has some nice wooden and metal slatting on the riverside, to protect it from the sun. The massive wood beams are rather attractive. Some small wooden planks, possibly some offcuts of the wooden beams, have been turned into some benches. The combination of the rich wood colour, the trees and some well placed spotlights, make the front of the building look very attractive from the neighbouring London Bridge.

OpenStreetMap has been duly updated with the now-open Angel Lane walkway.


New Bridge across the Regent’s Canal

[Updated] I somehow missed this last week (although it received very little publicity) – a new bridge across the Regent’s Canal has just been lifted into place. It’s a foot/cycle bridge, linking the middle of Mile End Park, by the climbing wall and the Palm Tree pub, to the new access road for the Suttons Wharf housing development in Meath Gardens. Once the landscaping works are finished and the bridge opens at the end of next month, this means there’s now an attractive and direct non-road route between Bethnal Green and Bow.

[Update – I’m not so sure now that it links to the access road (i.e. Meath Crescent) to the west, as this road is accessed by electronic gates. The path may swing northwards to go into Meath Gardens themselves, which makes it a less useful route. The ramp on the east side also swings north, again making it less useful for going east-west – oh well!]

Tower Hamlets Council have a webcam looking over the bridge, facing west to Suttons Wharf and the London-Stratford railway line. It seems to update about every minute until around 4pm. I’ve shamelessly pinched one of the photos from it below.


The new bridge is particularly exciting for me for a couple of reasons – firstly I’m hosting a street orienteering event in Bow in early September, and this bridge is slap-bang in the middle of the map. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will be ready for the event, which is a shame as the bridge will enhance route choice in the area. Secondly, it will also allow an extension of my Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Mile End Park orienteering map – a test event was run on this map in 2008, and we are likely to have another race on this map next summer or in 2011. In an ideal world, the link path from the new bridge, under the railway bridge to the north end of the university campus would also be opened up – however I suspect this will remain closed for security reasons.

I’ve marked on my QMUL orienteering map the rough location of the bridge, in purple, and the access road to it.


The bridge is one of the 79 Sustrans Connect2 projects that were set in motion by the charity winning £50 million in the Big Lottery TV competition in 2007.


Day 5 Redux – The Borders

I made it to London from John O’ Groats – “Joglon” – a couple of weeks ago, but there was a missing link in the journey. I took an unplanned recovery day on the Edinburgh-Morpeth leg.

Having been back up in Scotland for the last week for the Scottish 6 Days orienteering races, I had a chance yesterday to complete the link. After a largely dry week for the orienteering, the rain was back, but this was nothing new – it had rained on 10 of the 11 Joglon days.

I set off at 0830 with unmoveable target – a 1730 train from Morpeth back to Edinburgh. The back roads to Temple and along down to Galashiels were pleasant enough, a very green landscape through the pouring rain. At one point a deer leapt across the road just in front – if it had hit me or the bike it would have been game over.

At Galashiels it finally stopped raining. I passed through Melrose, around the Eildon Hills, through Newtown St Boswells and on to the dreaded A68, before stopping for lunch at the half-way point at Jedburgh. It was pleasantly warm but I got some funny looks from the locals in my cycling attire.

Back onto the A68, which was pretty quiet and not that bad really, up and up to Carter Bar, the Scottish-English border, at 420m altitude. Interestingly the Scottish Saltire flies on one side and the Northumberland Flag, rather than the St George’s Cross, on the other.

It started to rain again, so I quickly headed off down to Otterburn and Elsdon, before gradually descending on a very straight and quiet road to Morpeth. On the way I passed a rather bizarre hangman’s gallows, complete with wooden head, on a moor beside the road. This is known as “Winter’s Gibbit”.

Cycling time was just under 7 hours, with just an hour on breaks, for 155km.

I had an hour between trains at Alnmouth on the way back, so wandered around the tiny but extremely pretty village and bay.


Thurlon Route

Here’s how the route compared with what was planned:

StageDayPlanned Dist /kmActual Dist /kmMoving TimeMoving Speed /kphNotes on the actual routes taken
0063642h2526.5As planned.
11145136.56h2521.2Shortcut up Strathnaver.
22140139.47h0020.0Small shortcuts near Munlochy and Fort Augustus.
33141164.36h5323.9Road route to Gairlochy and extension down Loch Lomond.
44138131.66h1920.8Via Aberfoyle and Thornhill instead of Loch Katrine.
551521556h5522.4Two weeks later.
661491486h4621.9Small shortcut through Durham.
77142143.56h5820.6Small diversion near Walkington.
88164181.57h2624.4Extended to Wolferton.
99173117.55h4320.6Stopped just south of Cambridge.
9108587.54h3019.4Went SW from Clavering and down Lea Valley.

Day 6: The ruined abbey above Whitby, from the youth hostel grounds.

Here’s how the weather was, and where we went


Thurlon Places

Here’s all the cities, towns, villages and attractions I’ve cycled through in the last 12 days.

The styling of the text shows if it was raining, cloudy or sunny.

0 Thurso > Castletown > Canisbay > John O’Groats > Mey > Dunnet > Castletown > Thurso
1 Thurso > Reay > Melvich > Strathy > Bettyhill > Strathnaver > Altnaharra > Crask Inn > Lairg > Falls of Shin > Carbisdale Castle
2 Carbisdale Castle > Ardgay > Evanton > Culbokie > Munlochy > Kessock Bridge > Inverness > Dores > Inverfarigaig > Falls of Foyers > Whitebridge > Carn an t-Suidhe > Bridge of Oich > Invergarry > Laggan
3 Laggan > Commando Memorial > Gairlochy > Banavie > Neptune’s Staircase > Fort William > Onich > Ballachulish > Glencoe Village > Clachaig Inn > Pass of Glencoe > Rannoch Moor > Bridge of Orchy > Tyndrum > Crianlarich > Ardlui > Inveruglas > Tarbet > Luss > Inversnaid
4 Inversnaid > Aberfoyle > Thornhill > Doune > Bridge of Allan > Wallace Monument > Tullibody > Alloa > Dunfermline > Rosyth > Queensferry > Dalmeny > Barnton > Edinburgh > Lasswade
5 Lasswade > Temple > Fountainhill > Stow > Galashiels > Melrose > Newtown St Boswells > Jedburgh > Carter Bar > Otterburn > Elsdon > Winter’s Gibbit > Morpeth
6 Morpeth > Dinnington > Newcastle > Gateshead Millennium Bridge > Gateshead > Saltwell > Angel of the North > Ouston > Pelton > Grange Villa > Edmonsley > Sacriston > Durham > Shincliffe > Bowburn > Coxhoe > Sedgefield > Stockton > Infinity Bridge > Middlesbrough > Ormesby > Guisborough > Birk Brow > Scaling Dam > Sandsend > Whitby
7 Whitby > Hawsker > Robin Hood’s Bay > Ravenscar > Cloughton > Burniston > Scarborough > Osgodby > Cayton > Folkton > Hunmanby > Rudston > Kilham > Driffield > Walkington > Ripplingham > Welton > North Ferriby > Humber Bridge > Barton > Kirmington
8 Kirmington > Caistor > Walesby > Market Rasen > Wickenby > Stainton by Langworth > Scothern > Nettleham > Riseholme > Lincoln > Bardney > Tattershall Bridge > Holland Fen > Boston > Fosdyke Bridge > Long Sutton > Sutton Bridge > Clenchwarton > King’s Lynn > Castle Rising > Wolferton
9 Wolferton > Castle Rising > North Wootton > King’s Lynn > Watlington > Downham Market > Ten Mile Bank > Queen Adelaide > Ely > Witchford > Wilburton > Cottenham > Histon > Cambridge > Great Shelford > Sawston > Whittlesford Station
10 Whittlesford Station > Hinxton > Ickleton > Arkesden > Clavering > Stocking Pelham > Much Hadham > Widford > Hunsdon > Roydon > Lower Nazeing > Enfield Lock > Lea Valley > London