Traffic and special clothing – an Italian view of Manchester

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by GMCC about my experience of cycling in Manchester, with a wee comparison to the cycling scene in Vicenza.

Here’s a short extract, to tease you to go and read the full article, written by Alex Bailey.

In the second of GMCC’s series of interviews offering an outside eye on Manchester’s cycling culture, we hear from adopted Mancunian Lorenza Casini, an Architect and campaigner who mixes with Manchester’s motors on a daily basis.

Ask where in Italy she is from and Lorenza will tell you she has lived in so many towns, from Rome to the coast, she’s now thoroughly ‘Italian’. But Vicenza is now where her mother lives and cycling there is great, thanks to the slower pace of life and fact that the car drivers are cyclists too. “There’s no dedicated infrastructure but there’s respect,” she adds.

Looking at her photos of Vicenza, what strikes you is not only the absence of cars but also the conviviality of the cycling, with people on their bikes chatting in the narrow streets and the market squares; bicycles integrate with the fabric of the town – and there’s not a shred of hi-viz. Has Vicenza put the car in its place? “The Italians still love their cars,” Lorenza wryly assures us.

On moving to Manchester as a student in 1998, the difference in road behaviour came as a shock. “Cycling looked incredibly scary with cyclists wearing special clothing sandwiched in between all that traffic.” With the absence of changing rooms at work to remove any ‘special clothing’ as another barrier to cycling, Lorenza remained bikeless for ten years.

I also enjoyed seeing photos of myself on my bike while riding. In nearly three years of daily cycling I never managed to catch myself fully and I must admit I was impressed by how Pashley (or other sit-up bikes too) certainly makes the best bike for city transport, I always feel that on the Pashley I have the best view over traffic, I feel much more safe and confident when I have to ride amongst city traffic, which can be quite harrowing especially when sandwiched between double decker buses. The photos confirmed all that.

I also strongly feel that Pashley truly enables me to dress in ‘good’ clothes, I take pride in what I wear much more when I am out on Pashley (even compared to when I jump on a bus or take the train). I also noticed that when I ride my Dawes I have a different attitude, it’s a more ‘aggressive’ ride and so you’ll find me looking a lot more tomboyish and acting like one when I ride it over Pash.

Unfortunately lately I have experienced rude and aggressive behaviour from other drivers even when on Pashley and wearing civvi clothes. So I am not sure that the (not tested) theory that this kind of cycling style should encourage better driving behaviour is actually true. Plus the feminist in me squirms at the idea that I need to let my hair flow in the wind so that drivers would give more berth… WTF comes to mind! Shouldn’t we (all cyclists) be treated equally, with respect on roads no matter what we wear or what we look like? But that is for another post.

In the meantime I do seriously appreciate more and more how a different type of bike does influence your riding attitude and how, most importantly, it can interact with daily motor traffic.

What’s your view? Do you have different bikes and do they affect your style of riding? I’d like to hear.

Yours truly ; )

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5 responses to “Traffic and special clothing – an Italian view of Manchester

  1. I think you are right. Different bikes inspire different attitudes. And as a multi-faceted person, you need different bikes to match all the aspects of your personality. 🙂

  2. I experience far more unnecessary overtaking manoeuvres when I’m using my small-wheeled folding bike, compared with my mountain bike or road bike, even though my riding style doesn’t vary. The classic is being overtaken when I’m just yards from a queue of cars stopped at a junction.

    • or worse the overtaking you to quickly turn left… let’s not go down this route or I will kick into my ‘winging mode’ 😉

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