To start with, it didn’t bode well as my daughter slept on her bike seat as we rode into town to start the Sky Ride. Each time we stopped at lights, I could hear a pedestrian exclaim in disbelief that a baby could fall asleep in that position, but when she’s tired there’s no stopping her. However, once we arrived in Albert Square to register, she was woken up by the steel band and carnival atmosphere as 15,000 cyclists gathered to enjoy the traffic free five mile route.
From 10am-4pm several main roads in Manchester, going out to the East of the city up to the Etihad Stadium and the National Cycling Centre, were closed to all other traffic and for one day the cyclists ruled the thoroughfares. Sky Ride is a family event. And it’s quite a sight to see tiny ones on the back of parent bikes and four year olds whizzing along what are usually busy roads alongside those that have decades of cycling under their belt, all spread out across the tarmac.
We spotted a man with knee length hair riding the route on a unicycle; we then pulled up along a cycling DJ pulling huge speakers behind him and enjoyed his tunes for a few minutes; we watched a display by one of the world’s best BMX stunt riders; my daughter squealed ‘allez’ in delight as we went through a tunnel of bubbles and then the highlight for me was getting the chance to cycle round the bottom of the velodrome track. Seeing close up the steepness of the slope is both impressive and terrifying. I’ve now set myself a goal to give it a go. And I guess that’s the whole point of Sky Ride – to encourage you to get out on your bike more, try something else on two wheels, see what is possible.
The only disappointing part of the day is once we left the Sky Ride and got back on Manchester’s roads to cycle back home. Having enjoyed the experience of a route designed especially for the cyclist, the journey back was a stark contrast. We attempted to follow the city’s cycle structure and I say attempt because it stops, starts, go through areas that took me the long way home, even disappears for long periods. Sky Ride is a brilliant day out and I hope it showed Manchester’s councillors what could be achieved if there was even better provision for cycling in this great city.