Greater Manchester Police has expressed concern at a perception the Fallowfield Loop is a crime hotspot. Announcing the arrest of four members of a robbery gang believed to have been targeting cyclists on the adjacent Yellow Brick Road pathway, Superintendent Dave Pester said there was no need for anyone to stop using the route, arguing that “compared to other areas in the city it’s not an area of major concern."
Part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Network, the eight-mile Fallowfield Loop is an off-road shared-use path from Chorlton through Fallowfield and Levenshulme to Gorton and Fairfield.
Last month Guardian journalist Helen Pidd organised a protest against a perceived lack of police action following a spate of violent attacks on cyclists riding the route.
She said that several victims – three of whom were from her cycling club – "felt the complaints weren't taken seriously". Greater Manchester Police promised to investigate.
Pester told the Manchester Evening News: “What was reported in October was a robbery series on the Yellow Brick Road, which is off the Loop. We did have a robbery issue on there.
“I did some analysis of all crimes on the Loop from April 1 to October 15 – we had a small number of robberies but compared to other areas in the city it’s not an area of major concern."
GMP figures indicate there were 16 offences committed on the Fallowfield Loop in this period – but this number does not include the spate of thefts on the Yellow Brick Road, which links the Loop to the Ashton Canal. Both routes are part of National Cycle Route 60.
Speaking about the ‘four key arrests’, which were made by plain clothes officers from Operation Valiant, which works to tackle robbery across the city, Pester said: "It's possible that that team is responsible for in excess of 20 separate offences in and around the Yellow Brick Road.”
He did however express concern at perceptions of the area. He said the force had spoken to people, “who think there are hundreds of offences there. Clearly one crime is too many but it’s not at that level."
He added: "A colleague walked down the Loop last week for nearly two hours and came across 20 cyclists, four pedestrians and two runners.
"But he also came across members of the public who have got this real concern that the Fallowfield Loop is extraordinarily dangerous and there are hundreds of robberies a months and that is not the case.”
Plain clothes officers will continue to work along the Fallowfield Loop and surrounding areas , as will uniformed officers. A drone will also be flown over the eight-mile stretch to monitor and gather intelligence and to offer reassurance to the public.
"I would encourage people to use the Fallowfield Loop but clearly take personal safety seriously because it's dark and you can go for long periods of time without seeing people,” said Pester.
“Cycle in pairs if possible, don’t walk alone with your mobile phone visible or with headphones in. It’s the same personal safety advice I would give to anyone in the city centre.”
He also encouraged people to report incidents to the police. “People tell me about things that have gone on Facebook that I couldn’t see on the crime reports.”