Space for Cycling

If you're aware about campaigns for better cycling infrastructure then you've probably heard about the national Space for Cycling campaign. If you're not aware of it, and if you have any interest at all in you or your family being able to safely get around by bicycle now and then rather than firing up the car for every little journey, then please take a look. The campaign is centred around a very sensible and coherent set of proposals.

I recently used the campaign site to write to my councillors. Unfortunately, I found the interface a bit surprising and accidentally sent the boilerplate email to each of them. I try to avoid doing this because, after they've seen 3 or 4 of these, I assume they just get filed in a folder for sending a boilerplate response to.

One of my councillors, Sheila Newman, sent me a response (which looked like boilerplate) but I'm still waiting for one from another councillor, Matt Strong. As he hadn't replied yet, I thought I'd take the chance to write another email and this time make it personal. I've pasted it in below.

Edit: Councillor Strong has replied now. His answer is pasted in below my email.

Hi Councillor Strong,

I've written to you about Space for Cycling before but haven't had a response yet. In case my earlier email just got lost in what (I hope) was an avalanche of support for the campaign, I'm writing again.

I'm a commuter cyclist and it's true that no matter what the current and subsequent councils do I am very likely to still use my bicycle as my primary means of transport.

That's not why I'm writing to you.

I'm writing to you because I meet Manchester residents who would like to ride a bike in our flat city, either because it would save them money, or (especially if they currently rely on public transport) it would save them time, or they just think that it would be a much nicer way to get around with their family, or they would like to instil healthy habits in their children, or they want a way to stay healthy themselves that would be easier to fit in to their lives than their dust-gathering gym membership, or they feel guilty about adding to the pollution which is making the air quality in Greater Manchester a real safety issue, or they would just like to see a lot less motor traffic in their neighbourhood.

But many of them never get as far as trying to cycle on the roads.

I would benefit a lot from better cycling infrastructure in Manchester but other people would benefit hugely more. If we make Manchester feel like a safe place for a child to cycle then we can make a positive difference to an awful lot of people. I'm sure you don't need me to list the benefits of greater physical and mental health and local shop revenues, as well as lower road maintenance costs and pollution levels and road collision fatalities.

Please support Space for Cycling in Manchester. Please focus on real outcomes rather than political tick-boxes.

Thanks for listening.

For more info see: or email:

And here's the reply meat of the reply from Matt Strong:

I have had a number of emails from local residents about this issue. As somebody who rides a bike as well I am fully aware of some of the issues facing cyclists; I would like to see more Mancunians cycling, particularly on their commute to work. That would benefit individuals in terms of health and fitness but also society as a whole in our bid to cut carbon emissions. So I fully support the aims of the Space for Cycling campaign.

Justin Hellings

I'm a geek in a world that insists on being irrational and a greenie in a society that insists on speeding towards its own destruction. There's some work to be done here. Nah, let's go snowboard. Woo!

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