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Work starts on Ashton Canal cycle route linking Manchester city centre with Sportcity

Transport for Greater Manchester also planning 45km of cycle routes in second phase of Cycle City programme

The Manchester Evening News reports that work has begun on resurfacing the Ashton Canal towpath to create an 8km continuous cycle route linking Piccadilly Basin in Manchester city centre with Portland Basin in Ashton-under-Lyne. The path, which will take 21 weeks to complete, also runs past Sportcity.

The work forms part of Greater Manchester’s £20m Cycle City scheme and will be carried out by the Canal and River Trust in partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). The towpath will be widened and improved with an all-weather surface suitable for both pedestrians and cyclists, while there are also plans to improve a number of access points.

Julie Sharman, head of enterprise with the Canal & River Trust, said that while areas around Piccadilly Village and the Etihad City of Manchester Stadium already had decent surfaces, much of the rest of the route was in need of improvement.  She said that once the work was complete, it would become possible to walk or cycle the entire length of the Ashton Canal on a hard surface.

“As well as providing a safe off-road route we hope many more people will use this improved towpath for leisure, giving local people a great opportunity to use our network to increase activity and to enjoy the canal side environment.”

TfGM is aiming to achieve at least a 300 per cent increase in the levels of cycling across the region by 2025 and the Ashton Canal path is one of several routes comprising the first phase of its Cycle City programme.

However, several of the other proposed routes have already come in for criticism. Cheetham Hill plans were described as ‘diabolical’ by local campaign group, Love Your Bike, while dangers were also highlighted on the Prestwich route. The city’s largest cycling club, Manchester Wheelers, has even gone so far as to suggest that if past history is anything to go by, further investment could actually make the city less safe for cyclists.

Manchester is also set to benefit from the next wave of Cycle City funding. Its bid document reveals that it is looking for £22.1m of investment with plans for 45km of new cycle routes along seven key corridors, including through Chorlton, Stretford, Rochdale and Bolton.

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