Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham and its cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman, have urged Boris Johnson to back their plans to build a cycling and walking network across the city-region, and use it as a “national blueprint” that can be rolled out to other towns and cities across England. Reminding the Prime Minister of his championing of segregated cycling infrastructure in London, Boardman said "the timing is perfect to wean a nation off its automobile addiction."
Today, Burnham and Boardman published a report entitled Change a Region to Change a Nation which shows how the Bee Network they are developing in Greater Manchester can act as a model for others to follow to help tackle the climate emergency as well as reduce congestion and benefit public health through encouraging more cycling and walking.
In a foreword to the report, Boardman, who is also policy advisor at British Cycling, reminds Johnson of the transformation of cycling infrastructure in the capital under his tenure as Mayor of London, much of it driven by his appointment as the city’s first cycling commissioner of Andrew Gilligan, who is now transport advisor at Number Ten.
“We have a Prime Minister who understands the huge harm caused by our car-centric culture and more importantly, has first-hand experience, whilst Mayor of London, in creating a successful, large-scale alternative to driving,” Boardman wrote.
“The Cycle Superhighway network he spent eight years setting up in the capital demonstrated the huge benefits that can be derived by giving people a viable way to cycle their journeys. He provided proof It can be done and evidence that people prefer it.
“His experience in London and role of Prime Minister, combined with a public demanding action on climate change, mean the timing is perfect to wean a nation off its automobile addiction.
“To do this, we must create more large-scale examples outside the capital, showing what less car-focused conurbations can be,” he added.
“We must demonstrate how this not only makes nicer places to grow up, get on and grow old, it also makes economic sense.”
Today’s report was jointly commissioned by Burnham, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and will be delivered to the government next month as they call on Westminster to provide the support to translate their vision into reality.
Initially, £160 million is being spent on their proposals from money allocated to Greater Manchester from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund, but to fully realise their ambitions some £1.5 billion will need to be spent over at least a decade.
The report highlights the projected impact of Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking network over the next decade, including a 350 per cent increase in daily cycling trips, from 100,000 to 450,000, and daily walking trips rising by a third from 1,480,000 to 2,050,000.
Other expected benefits include improved air quality through fewer daily trips being undertaken by taxi or private car, a 10 per cent reduction in traffic, helping improve journey times by up to 50 per cent, and saving the NHS almost £7 billion in the city region.
Within Greater Manchester, some 1,800 miles of protected space are planned for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as 17 filtered neighbourhoods, inspired by initiatives in the Netherlands that prioritise people over motor vehicles.
The report also calls for changes to the law at national level to require all investment in cycling and walking to provide value for money, rather than wasting money on schemes that do not result in people feeling safer and which thereby discourage active travel.
“Greater Manchester is creating the blueprint for a real culture change in the way people travel,” Burnham said.
“Our city-region’s 10 districts have been working on these plans since 2017 and crucially, residents have helped to develop them, based on what they want their neighbourhoods to look like.
“Now we have a world-class plan and we know how to deliver it, but we cannot do it alone. We need the government to back us with sustained funding over the next ten years to enable us to complete the Bee Network.
“If they do so they will be helping create a model that can be replicated across the rest of the country.
“Put simply, if they help us change our city-region, we can help change the country too,” he added.
The launch of the report follows a packed public meeting last week at which almost 500 people heard detailed plans for cycling and walking in Greater Manchester.
Boardman said: “With one in three car journeys in Greater Manchester being less than 1 kilometre, it’s clear we have to change. It’s impacting our air, our health, and the place we’re expecting our children to grow up, get on and grow old.
“All 10 Greater Manchester councils have taken on this challenge and they’ve already started transforming ambition into action.
“But without guaranteed government investment, we are hamstrung. To revolutionise travel across a whole city region we’re asking for the same financial backing over a ten-year period as it’s costing for a single junction improvement scheme in Bedford.”
He added: “I know which will return the best investment – not only for our city-region but the nation as a whole.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.