The final phase of the bus priority scheme on Manchester’s Oxford Road is now underway. Work began near Whitworth Park last week as Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) seeks to create “a pedestrian-friendly boulevard giving priority to buses and bikes” by the end of the year.
The scheme, which will include over 4km of segregated cycle lanes, will ultimately see traffic restrictions imposed along what is Europe’s busiest bus route. Between 6am and 9pm, general traffic will turn off Oxford Road at Hathersage Road with only buses, taxis, cyclists and emergency vehicles permitted beyond.
The route will also feature a series of Dutch-style cycle lanes which will take cyclists behind bus stops rather than forcing them to overtake when buses pull over.
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:
“The start of this project marks a major milestone in the transformation of the city centre’s transport network.
“Oxford Road is the last element of the cross-city bus scheme to get underway and it will be delivered as quickly as possible so everyone – residents and visitors alike – can experience the benefits as soon as possible. As such, the vast majority of works will be finished by the end of the year.”
Leese has however expressed concerns about the Wilmslow Road Cycleway project which will extend Oxford Road facilities through to Didsbury Village. Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, he said:
"Certainly there have been as many complaints about some of the things that are happening at the moment from cyclists as there have been from car drivers and other road users. I certainly think there are some big question marks about it. On my journey, the biggest issue is the road surface – not whether I've got my own lane or not."
In the city centre, additional bus priority work is currently underway on Portland Street, while further roadworks have been caused by the sinkhole that opened up in the Mancunian Way in August. The ongoing traffic disruption has led Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, to suggest that bus lanes are making travel times slower for ‘everybody’.
Stringer believes motorists should be permitted to use bus lanes in the short term and wants to see a full review of whether they should be used at all. Councillor Kate Chappell, executive member for the environment, was however quick to point out that nearly two thirds of commuters travel into the city centre on public transport and suspending bus lanes would therefore have a significant detrimental effect on a large number of people.