10 Years in Manchester this week

Hulme Bridge

What on earth am I still doing here?

10 years ago I made my way up to Manchester. I hadn’t really spent much time there. First time was staying in the Copthorne hotel in Salford Quays for a BBC Innovation lab and i wasn’t impressed. But I gave the city another chance deciding its going to be a new challenge, new place to discover and a better lifestyle than staying in London and moved. I was more or less right…

Why I moved to Manchester…

Time has gone by quickly and if I didn’t have blogs and calendar events going back that far I might have forgotten. To be fair a lot has happened in the 10 years, here’s just a few picked randomly.

I have visited both Manchester City & Manchester United stadiums, although not a football fan. Seen the Manchester riots and the same city come together to clean up. Likewise for the Manchester Arena attack and how the city rallied together.

The weather I have to admit is sometimes pretty dire sometimes. I tend to bring my windproof umbrella everywhere with sunglasses if there is a hint of sun. From what I can tell most Mancunians, refuse to take an umbrella which seems insane to me. Manchester sits in a bit of a bowl and so although the mountains are clearly viable but the rain does gather over the high land.

The people have been generally good, I was worried about diversity but weighted up everything and decided it wasn’t any worst than a lot of places in the UK. Ultimately I didn’t feel like I would be in danger due to my race, especially in the city centre. I was right.

When I was first introduced to Manchester and looking for somewhere to live Hayley from the BBC showed me around a place called Cholton and I remember asking her about the city centre, to which she laughed and said no one lives there. She was likely right at the time but I made the right decision at the right time. The city centre is so walkable, skateboard-able and crammed with so many bars and cafes. Weirdly I hardly drunk booze in London or Bristol but in Manchester I started to indulge my cocktail tastes. You could say Manchester drove me to drink, but in a comfortable relaxed way.

Public transport in Manchester still baffles me. The tram is great and living near Piccadilly station is a great location. But the lack of a viable Oyster card type system is frustrating to say the least. I still remember taking a bus down Oxford road for 80p then being charged £3.20 on the way back. Something about a magic bus although operated by the same company and the exact same route. The city centre free buses are good too but generally you can walk from one end to the other in 30mins. The scooter had been great for longer distances not easily covered by the tram or train. I also find it crazy you can get back from Leeds at 2am but the last train from Liverpool is 11pm!

Equally baffling is the amount of gravy put on anything from meat to chips and the Mancunians & Liverpudlian accents which even now still has me scratching my head, even now!

Like a friend, who told me to go back down south, soon after I moved up; I should stop moaning frankly life is good. There are always frustrations, but the city and people of Manchester have been good to me.

It was a good idea to move up really early instead of later; I know many who didn’t come and for many reasons but I was just at that moment in my life when it wasn’t difficult to up and leave London. Life has massively improved and I generally think some of that is down to new friends, the costs of living and being able to make choices which fit. I also seem to have a knack for picking places which get gentrified.

Will I be here another 10 years? Its hard to tell. Considering Cardiff, as the BBC is moving its base to the centre of the city. Its also closer to my parents which is a plus. But I certainly feel the effect of Brexit and unsure how long I can put up with the change of attitude. If an opportunity came up I’d certainly give it some consideration but it would have to be in another city for sure.

Imagine one public transport card

Public transport NFC cards

I just came back from Madrid and while looking at my Madrid Metro card on the plane, thought imagine if you could use the same card in different locations? Its one of the reasons why I still use Uber, the ability to use it in different countries.

It was surprising to me that my Amsterdam OV-chipkaart which I bought back in 2006 was still active when I went back in 2016 actually; so I’ll be keeping my Metro card complete with its balance of about 4 rides. My Oyster card still worked when I moved away but as its 1st generation, isn’t manageable from the TFL website (I need to swap it out next time I’m in London).

Realistically it would be very difficult to get all these government entities to come to a common standard but its worth trying right? Although this might be all null, as its interesting to see the London Oyster slowly? being replaced by contactless debit/credit cards instead? That does seem to make much more sense and you can manage it from a web service and a app;  yep another bloody proprietary app (I’ve already had enough of each service having its own app!)

TFL contactless payment

It could be a great boom for public transport generally. Take the best of ride sharing services like Uber but for the public benefit. Think of it like the Japanese PASMO and SUCIA cards but based around standard NFC/contactless bank cards? Of course theres always the option of cash, phone and other NFC devices if you prefer.

 

Mobiking in Manchester my first experience of bike sharing

Mobike in Manchester

Mobike came to Manchester on Thursday and I decided to try it out after seeing them next to the MediaCityUK stop.

My scooter was having a service and I was at various MIF 2017 events, so I gave it a try on Saturday afternoon between events (long MIF2017 blog coming soon).

Generally it pretty painless, install the Mobike app (make sure you get the right one!), pay a one time deposit of £29 (which is refundable at anytime) then point your phone at a bike’s QR code; moments later it will unlock and you can ride it. It costs 50p for 30mins of ride time.

It’s not bad but the app feels badly skinned with english, there’s still chinese language bits and paying the deposit could be a lot simpler. Theres also more evidence of its chinese  legacy with the share options only being wechat, qq, qzone and sina weibo. No sharing with fb, twitter, g+, etc…

The apps refreshes and shows the bikes near you, which is useful. I did have a serious problem with the app’s permissions which only really needs your location and camera for the QR code reading. thankfully Android 6+ can change the permissions and my app works fine with just those 2 turned on.

The bikes themselves are ok if you are going a short distance but for example I rode 1km which also included a few small hills. The hills were killer as the bikes have no gears and are not very comfortable but practical. The little basket is useful for small things but I kept my laptop bag on my back and put my summer coat in the basket. I didn’t fancy waiting at the lights and someone grabbing my laptop bag.

Honestly I didn’t enjoy riding the bike on the road, on the pavement it handled a lot better. There is no suspicion and the wheels pass every bump straight into your arms and legs. So I stuck to riding on the pavement and canal towpath’s.

When you are finished, you simply lock the bike with the built-in lock and walk away. Simple…

However I didn’t know this at the start but there is a whole system/scheme/behaviour mobikes users have to sign up to.

What are Mobike Credits?

Mobike’s mission is to provide an economical, environmental friendly mode of transportation using innovation and technology. To achieve our mission, we encourage proper usage and do not tolerate misuse and inappropriate behavior. Below are the Credit Points Guidelines:

Each new user will be entitled 100 Credit Points and is able to hold a maximum of 10,000 points and a minimum of 0 points. Higher credit points indicate proper usage and good conduct whereas low credit points indicate misuse and inappropriate usage.

Having low credit points will affect the fare for your trips. When your Credit Points are 80 or lower, the fares for usage will be $100 per 30 mins. (You will be awarded 100 Mobike credits upon registration. For more information on Mobike Credit Point Deduction, refer to “My Mobike Credits”)

All credit point deduction can be found under “My Account” -> “My Mobike Credits” -> ”Deductions”. If there was an error in your credit points deduction, please report the error at the lower right corner of the App.

Gain Credit
Each ride +1
Report broken bike +1
Report incorrect parking +1
Using another user’s invitation code when registering +1
Successfully invite a friend to use Mobike +1
Lose Credit
Park in a compound -20
Abandoning the bike when intercepted by police -50
Forget to lock, but eventually retrieve the bike Reduce to 0
Use a private lock Reduce to 0
Forget to lock and bike is lost Reduce to 0
Illegally transporting the bike Reduce to 0

The interesting part is you can earn credits by reporting other uses who have broken a rules, like parking the bike where it blocks the public walk way.

Help others find where you last park

On the trip summary page, you can upload a picture of where you parked the bike and a comment, to make it easier for the next user to find the bike. If you indeed help the next user to find it, they’ll have the chance to validate your information and you’ll get an extra 2 Mobike Credits!

Report bad parking practices
If you see any illegal or poorly parked Mobike, please send us feedback and you will be rewarded with Mobike Credits. To report, you can click the “!” icon in the bottom right corner, click on the “wrong park” button and send your feedback! Please do remember to include the bike number in your feedback.

Of course, I can just imagine how this is going to turn slightly nasty and influence the way people use the service. It’s also not clear how far you can take the bike, not that you would want to ride it to the Airport, and carrying it on the tram would break the rules and leave you with no credits.

I didn’t upload my picture to share with the next person, so I guess some sad person could realistically report it as badly parked? (Although its been moved since!) Be good to retrospectively add a photo too.

The weird thing is, since the mobike is still outside the flats and I keep seeing people messing with it, I keep thinking maybe I should ride it back to somewhere else? Almost feels like my bike and I’m still responsible for it as such… Theres another one by New Islington tram stop, and I did consider parking my bike next to that one. Of course if I did, that would start the money timer again!

Between riding my scooter, catching ubers, walking, taking the tram and skateboarding; it’s closer to skateboarding,. The big advantage is not having to carry it around afterwards, especially if it suddenly rains (its Manchester, so this always happens)! It’s a in-between-er for trams and buses. You could walk, but walking will be slower. Uber will be costly and traffic can be a killer in Manchester. Also as its still new, the chances are, you can easily pick up the same bike when you want to head back.

Generally I think its good for short journeys. Its convent but I would hate to ride those bikes in the rain or any distance over 1km. I do wonder when they will get hacked and how Mobike will deal with that, can imagine some man in the middle attacks already.

Uber for public transport…?

OXO Bus

Chris writes

…there’s been lots of innovation around the open data of public transport, but not of public transport itself – where are the startups aiming to disrupt First and Stagecoach?)

When I first heard it I thought well that can’t work but the more and more I think about it. It certainly can with the right data access.

I want to go to MediaCity, I’m walking in the right direction from Piccadilly and the app knows where I’m going because its in my calendar. Rather than show me a load of options, it should show me the public transport which I could catch to head the right way. As I keep walking the options change as I walk near a tram stop, a new option is highlighted but its going to cost me more and I’ll have to change more. The option goes away as the tram pulls way, leaving me with the option to wait for the next one or walk around the corner for the bus. Its easy to imagine, so why has it not happened?

As Chris indicated earlier in the post. Google now, could do a lot of this. But it strikes me as something you use in passing rather than spend lots of time looking at. The bulk of such a thing might rely on Googlemaps?

What ever happens, it will be powered by people like Opendata Manchester. Lazyweb make it so…!

Phones On Planes Are Inevitable In A Connected World

WiFi on tube

Stowe Boyd makes a good point about the phones on a plane debate which has broken out.

Flying on an airplane is not some weekend escape at a spa where we place hot rocks on our chakras and seek enlightenment. It’s just another mode of transit.

Yes, air travel has gone downhill, like most things in the postnormal. And yes, airlines will exploit this opportunity to gouge another pound of flesh from the meat that waddles on and off their planes. That’s the way things work.

But to hold to some quaint, antiquated notion of peace and quiet in the air is laughable. Airplanes are loud in the first place — 60-90 decibels — so anyone with any sense will bring earplugs, hearing protection earmuffs, or noise cancelling headphones. This is especially true of road warriors, who otherwise can get cumulative hearing loss.

So get over your antiquated, 1970s attitudes about phones on planes. In a connected world, people will naturally use whatever technologies they can to remain connected: their livelihoods and relationships are at stake.

Just like wifi on public transport…

I don’t really like the idea of people yammering away on phones while on public transport but we got use to it and found ways around the noise. Sometimes we put headphones on, sometimes we tell people to stfu. Frankly we will deal with it because being connected for many of us is not just a nicety, but a must. And unfortunately that does mean dealing with idiots who shout down a phone.

Traveling on public transport in London

Theres something about public transport which I like. Ah yes the ability to sit down and read and listen without too much interuption. I swear I'm pretty much going through my whole 240+ RSS feed subscriptions in one journey too and from work. So yeah pretty much within 2hrs I'm able to tag all the interesting entries which I wish to read or look at later.

Its not only my RSS which I'm able to go through much quicker now. I have actually added more podcasts to my subscription because I'm going through them pretty quickly now.

As a lot of you know I've now moved to Woolwich and that means I need to get a totally different train into London now a days. I was, still am (will always be) nervious of reading my aggregator via my laptop on the train. People get mugged for a lot less and I've been pretty lucky so far. I get some really weird looks and I cant work out if its either my Firefox Tshirt or the laptop? Now I know the social enginnering tshirt would certainly cause a second glance but I cant work out if its just that sly glance of I know that logo, I use that browser at home too or more what the heck is he doing on a train to dartford with a laptop? Who knows? Interesttingly on the way to work this week me and Dave were talking about taking apart BBC's unencypted Digital TV signals and the licence which this can be done under, yeah usual geeky culture politics stuff that we tend to talk about. When this women (cant remember her name right now) stopped us and asked if we had heard of Creative Commons. Honestly me and Dave gave each other a double look (like you only see in Cartoons) and said yes, absolutly! During the course of the conversation which went from Greenwich to London Bridge we touched on Boingboing, gaming, Licencing and a few more things. I did give her my business card before she ran off into the crowd of people pushing there way to work. Although Sarah wasnt that pleased about that. She has not emailed me yet, but it was great to have a geeky conversation on the train.

I did have another conversation with some stranger on the train this week but it was very very odd and maybe not worth getting into.

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