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Work starts tomorrow to upgrade cycling infrastructure. However, campaigners say "watered down" plans could put cyclists and pedestrians at risk...

New cycle lane being built, but concerns raised about quality…

Work starts tomorrow on the next phase of a major cycle route on Manchester city centre’s Oxford Road.

The first section of the Oxford Road bike lane, part of a £1bn bus priority scheme to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, started in February, and sections of the partially kerb-protected route are now complete. The latest phase will see Oxford Road between Hathersage Road and Booth Street closed to two-way traffic while cycle lanes, including “Dutch-style” bus stop bypasses, pictured above, are built.

However, campaigners have raised concerns plans are being “watered down” with new designs showing a section of cycle lane placed on the outside of parked cars, another disappearing beside a loading bay and a third forcing cyclists to re-join the carriageway potentially obscured by buses.

Work begins to improve Manchester’s Oxford Road for buses and cyclists

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester) Committee, said: “We’ll start to see a real difference to Oxford Road by the autumn, making the whole area a much more pleasant space for everyone who uses it.

“As well as the environmental improvements, the result will be better transport connections for people offering more, direct travel choices for work, education, leisure and healthcare.

“This is a significant investment in Greater Manchester’s economic future, the long-lasting benefits of which will easily outweigh the short-term disruption caused by its implementation, and I’m grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding while we get there.”

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, added: “Oxford Road is one of the busiest routes into the city centre, used by thousands of people each day. These improvements are about making the Oxford Road corridor as safe as possible for all road users and pedestrians, while also making sure cyclists of any ability are confident in using the new cycle infrastructure.”

Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign (GMCC) has voiced concerns about scheme “redesigns”, which were presented to the city’s Cycle Forum in June. GMCC says the changes to designs, which were consulted on last year, are a backwards step, and it urges supporters to sign a petition calling for original designs to be reinstated.

“Instead of providing protected cycleways throughout, TfGM and [Manchester City Council] are now considering designs that would make the cycling route less safe and attractive,” wrote GMCC.

“Designs from September 2015, as published on TfGM’s website following extensive consultations, show that safe cycleways can be accommodated throughout the route. The Oxford Road corridor is Manchester’s busiest cycling route so it deserves a flagship scheme, with continuous dedicated cycleways to minimise the potential for conflict with pedestrians and motorised traffic.

It adds: “We welcome the scheme as a whole but its value risks being compromised by its weakest link(s), which must be addressed so that people who don’t currently cycle are able to consider cycling as a viable transport option in the future.

“These re-designs are backwards steps that are not appropriate for a cycling scheme that intends to be of a high quality and suitable for people of all ages and abilities.”

Under the newly-proposed plans three sections of bike lane, near the Palace Theatre, opposite Nelson and Grafton streets, and opposite Sidney Street, will be altered from original designs.  

By the Palace Theatre new designs show the bike lane on the outside of parked cars and loading bays, rather than the inside, which GMCC says could put cycles and motor vehicles in conflict; at Grafton and Nelson Street a traffic light bypass will be removed, while a redesigned plan of the route has introduced two "give ways" for the cycle lane. At Sidney Street, part of the cycleway has been removed in front of a bus stop, which GMCC says means people on bikes emerge from the bike route with poor visibility of traffic.

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council told road.cc: “We are using feedback from cyclists, residents, businesses and other stakeholders – as well as our own learning from installing similar measures elsewhere – to finesse our plans as we progress. We will continue to adapt and modify our plans as appropriate. 
 
“The purpose of our investment is to make cycle trips more attractive and we will continue to review and modify our plans as appropriate to meet that objective, balancing the needs of everyone who needs to use our roads.”