May 4, 2013 · Uncategorized

In September last year I bought a scooter. I had some spare cash and I’d decided I’d had enough of relying on public transport so it was time to get my own wheels. Only two, but the minimum training requirements are a lot lower than that needed for a car. I like exploring and there’s a limit to what you can do on a mountain bike, especially as hilly as somewhere as Leeds. A couple of weeks ago I rode over to Manchester, out over New Hey Road and back along the A62.By the route I took (and the inadvertent detour via Victoria Rd and the university) it was about 100 miles. Today I rode out to Sheffield and Meadowhall along the A61. I’m on a provisional licence so I’m not allowed on motorways, otherwise it would be a lot faster, both because they have a higher average speed and also because of a lack of traffic lights, speed humps and such like. Part of me is interested in the historical network of roads that were there before the motorways were built. The A62 is the old route from Leeds to Manchester before the M62 was built, and the A61 from Leeds to Sheffield never gets very far from the M1.

One thing about using the non-trunk roads is that you get to see how good (or not) various local authorities are at maintaining them. Greater Manchester, West and South Yorkshire ceased to have county councils in 1986 so they are maintained by smaller metropolitan borough councils. Different places have different approaches to traffic calming and road safety. Wakefield seems to be on another planet when it comes to road markings, with some areas having faded “new” markings next to burnt off “old” ones so it’s difficult to see which is current, and another section having a fairly recently resurfaced road with no markings at all. The road signs are still there (including “get in lane”) so it’s confusing trying to work out what you’re supposed be doing. South Yorkshire also has a lot of “Biker Beware” signs that don’t explain whether bikers should beware of something, or other people should beware of bikers. Helpful. And don’t get me started on utility companies digging trenches along the road, putting pipes in, and then filling them not quite level with the rest of the road so there’s a groove you need to avoid, or face wobbling at up to 50 mph. Being unenclosed and on two wheels really makes you appreciate how the quality of the road surface matters.

Apart from the ride out, I found Meadowhall seems to be mostly women’s clothing shops these days. I went there for a school trip in the early 90s when it had just opened and I don’t remember a lot of how it was back then, but these days it feels pretty tired. Most shopping centres and large town centres are generally just the same shops in a slightly different order. It would make things more interesting if commercial districts were a bit more mixed. Independent shops are OK up to a point, but it would be good to have something else as well. How about shops on the lower floors and offices on the upper floors? Not just the kind of “servicing office worker” type places like sandwich shops, but big high street stores. Maybe have the odd art gallery or live music venue in the middle of the main shopping street as well. If you want to put a real spanner in the works, how about Amazon opening a range of high street shops where you can order and collect, and where they have the most popular items in stock to buy there and then?

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