I HAVE a daily alert set on my phone that tells me what my commuting journey time would be if I was to drive into work.

For the sake of clarity, that would be driving from west Warrington into Manchester city centre by the M62 - although regular readers of this column will be well aware that I actually commute by train.

Using real-time data, the alert considers traffic conditions in Warrington, the motorway and Manchester.

Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, my phone frequently warned me that to travel from Warrington to Piccadilly by car could take up to 90 minutes.

Now, as someone who once worked in an office near Old Trafford, I considered that 90-minute travel time as somewhat optimistic.

I can recall occasions when it took more than an hour to just get from the Gemini junction to Birchwood.

Fast forward to the Covid-19 outbreak and the start of lockdown, and my phone started telling me that there would be ‘light traffic’ on my commute and it would take me only 35 minutes to do the Warrington to Manchester trip.

As the weeks have gone by and the lockdown restrictions have been eased a little, that journey time has started to creep up and it’s now around 40 minutes.

I fully expect that once the virus has gone, or is at least under control, and everywhere is open again commuting into Manchester will be the nightmare drive it always was.

But it’s also patently obvious that, during lockdown, our habits have changed.

Millions of people are furloughed, millions more are working from home and sadly lots of people have lost their jobs.

Add to this schools being closed so there’s no need for the ‘school run’.

As a result, there are far fewer vehicles on our roads.

And, it would appear, there are a lot of people who have discovered, or maybe rediscovered, the ‘joys’ of cycling.

The question is, then, once things get back to a semblance of normality, will our new-found love of cycling mean we will ditch the car and start commuting to work on our bikes?

Personally, I think not.

Let me give you an example.

For a number of years, I worked in an office on the other side of Bridge Foot.

There were some days when traffic was particularly bad, I could have walked to work quicker than driving.

I know this is true because I actually walked to work a couple of times.

In fact, there is no doubt that the best way for me to get to work would have been by bike.

But I still elected to go by car.


Quite simply because of the weather.

Yes, riding round the streets of Warrington during the driest, sunniest and warmest May since records began has been a pleasant experience for many - but I somehow suspect that enthusiasm for pedal power may wain a little once we get to October and November.

But Warrington Borough Council believes the pandemic has ‘dramatically altered’ the transport and exercise habits of residents.

The number of people cycling across Warrington has surged by more than 100 per cent, and traffic levels on roads in some areas have been as low as 40 per cent of normal volumes.

That’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that - it’s the next bit that bothers me.

Apparently, due to these changes in travel, the council anticipates that people will drive far less and there will be a continued increase in walking, cycling and running when the pandemic is over.

So the council has started messing round with roads in the town centre and introducing ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes in anticipation of the cycling surge.

To be honest, this all feels more than a little premature to me.

The traffic in Warrington town centre is bad enough as it is and I fear these changes won’t make it any better.

But hey, the council is getting money from the Emergency Active Travel Grant provided by the Department for Transport and the European Regional Development Fund, so I suppose it has to be seen to be doing something with the cash.

My hope is that once the weather turns cold, wet and windy and all the fair-weather cyclists jump back into their warm and dry family hatchbacks, these ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes pop back to being proper roads again.

It’s an interesting experiment in social engineering on the part of the council, but one I think that is ultimately doomed to fail.