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“Volunteer” cyclists to be invited for trial allowing bikes on Manchester trams, as councillors express “serious concerns” about safety

“Safety is the top of everyone’s concern on this… We have to do this safely if we are ever going to do it at all”

A trial allowing bikes on Greater Manchester's Metrolink tram line is set to invite "volunteer" cyclists to assess the "risks and issues" of the policy change — one of Mayor Andy Burnham's key election pledges — and is set to take place after months of deliberation and delay. However, opinions among councillors seem torn on the issue, with some welcoming the trial but others expressing their concerns their concerns about the safety of other passengers.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is planning to introduce the trial next month for a period of six weeks, inviting "volunteers" to take different types of bikes on pre-determined tram journeys travelling to different locations at different times of the day. They would also be accompanied by staff to ensure passenger safety.

The Metrolink tram currently allows only folding bikes which are fully folded and covered to be taken on board. The pilot scheme, supposed to take place during off-peak times, is going to be used to derive "insight into the identified risks and issues" of any future policy change.

The pilot scheme aims to observe the experiences of the travelling public and the volunteers with various bikes, by recreating the exact conditions cyclists and non-cyclists would face on a tram and at tram platforms and stops. TfGM also plans to invite those with a range of lived experience, including people with disabilities and those travelling with pushchairs, to make the trials as inclusive as possible.

> Active travel campaigners “disappointed” at apparent bikes on trams trial delay in Greater Manchester

However, several councillors have raised "serious concerns" about the safety of passengers due to the trial, Manchester Evening News reports.

Bike on Metrolink (licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED on Flickr by Juan Monroy)

Bike on Metrolink (licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED on Flickr by Juan Monroy)

At a meeting of the Bee Network Committee which makes decisions on transport policies in the region, councillor Phil Burke said: "Only two weeks ago I was involved in a crash where a car went straight into the side of a tram. I head-butted my colleague twice, first of all because of the car slamming into tram, then the tram putting on the emergency brakes.

"Four of us suffered injuries. This was on a quiet night - on a Wednesday night when not many people were on the tram. Should something serious happen on a tram where we have got bikes, I would hate to see what sort of injuries people would suffer."

He said that in many cases, bikes would not be onboard trams for long, as some people only travel one or two stops. "I do have serious concerns about safety," he added.

Stockport councillor Grave Baynham added that she was concerned about the financial impact this trial and the subsequent change would have on the longer-term future of Metrolink. "It would be nice to think that we've got Metrolink into every borough in Greater Manchester before we spend huge sums of money on this," she said.

> Cyclists injured on Edinburgh tram line paid £1.2m in compensation

As of now, Edinburgh is the only city in the UK to allow cyclists to carry their bikes on the tram for most hours of the day. TfGM mentioned that it spoke to Edinburgh Tram to assess how well it works in the city.

Councillor O'Brien, chair of the Bee Network Committee tried to alleviate the concerns of the councillors, saying: "Safety is the top of everyone's concern on this and if we can't make it work safely we can't make it work, I think is the fundamental of it. The best thing to do is pilot it and see if we can make it work. The red line for all of us would be, we have to do this safely if we are ever going to do it at all."

A few councillors, however, said that they were optimistic for the trial. Oldham councillor Howard Sykes welcomed the trial and said: "We need to come up with a solution that allows people to do this accepting all the technical difficulties there might be. I don't think it's beyond the good people employed to come up with a solution that will work for cyclists and other passengers."

Trafford councillor Aidan Williams said that he felt "cautiously optimistic that this can work". "I think most members of the public are pretty sensible and will know when is appropriate to take a bike onto a tram and when it is not," he said. "We've seen that with the introduction of dogs on trams as well. People aren't going to take the mick with this I don't think."

> Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham defends plans for a new segregated cycle path, saying drivers currently dominate the roads

Manchester tram at night (image: Adwitiya Pal)

Allowing bikes on Greater Manchester's trams was a key policy in Mayor Andy Burnham's re-election campaign in 2021, along with allowing dogs. While the latter is now allowed after a trial, the trial of bikes had been delayed until now, despite Burnham promising that it would be in place by the end of last year, much to the disappointment of many cycling and walking campaigners from the area.

"We are disappointed to hear that the bikes on trams trial promised by the end of this year has been delayed," Walk Ride Greater Manchester’s Cazz Ward told the Oldham Times last month.

"We again reaffirm our position that bikes on trams must be trialled in order to facilitate the Bee Network's multimodal transport ambitions. The trial needs to be on an existing line with members of the public."

The trial, confirmed last week, has also been backed by Dame Sarah Storey,  the Paralympic cyclist-turned-active travel commissioner for Greater Manchester.

She said: "My recommendation to trial the carriage of non-folding bikes on trams is borne from the ambition to deliver a universally accessible Bee Network in Greater Manchester, where everyone has the choice to switch between different modes in one journey should they need to, as well as ensuring that people who use their cycle as a mobility aid aren't excluded from using the service.

"Like many others - I’ve experienced for myself the disappointment of being forced to travel by car with my bike when I’d rather not, because the choice to travel by tram isn't currently available."

> Dame Sarah Storey calls out "entitlement" of speeding drivers — "too many 'my driving offences won't cause harm' attitudes"

TfGM said that they plan to appoint independent researchers to observe the tests. They will interview the volunteers, other passengers and staff and produce a report to guide risk assessments. The results are expected to be analysed during April and May, with a further report presented to the Bee Network Committee in the summer.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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16 comments

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Wheelywheelygood | 2 months ago
1 like

Common sense dictates that putting your bike on a tram defeats the whole purpose of riding a bike . It's not like putting it on a train and taking it on holiday or 30 miles to work and riding the last miles this is a local journey ,you may just as well scrap the bike altogether 

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brooksby replied to Wheelywheelygood | 2 months ago
0 likes

I agree with you on this - trams are covering exactly the sort of short urban journeys that bicycles are usually used for...

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Rendel Harris replied to Wheelywheelygood | 2 months ago
1 like

Wheelywheelygood wrote:

Common sense dictates that putting your bike on a tram defeats the whole purpose of riding a bike . It's not like putting it on a train and taking it on holiday or 30 miles to work and riding the last miles this is a local journey ,you may just as well scrap the bike altogether 

The tram network in Manchester stretches from Rochdale town centre in the north to Manchester airport in the south, a distance of some 35 km by road. It would be perfectly reasonable for a person living in the north of Rochdale, say 5km from the town centre, and working at the airport to cycle to the tram station, ride to the centre of town on the tram then cycle the 15km to the airport from there. That would give them an overall commute of 40km a day, hardly "may as well just scrap the bike altogether".

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chrisonabike replied to Wheelywheelygood | 2 months ago
1 like

What's this "common sense" you're invoking all of a sudden?

I'd side with brooksby here mostly.  If we're using trams as ... trams.  So where they're running on the main routes, at street-level, passing close to major desitinations.  In that case - agree - keep the trams maximally efficient and don't encourage cycle carriage.

OTOH trams can of course connect more distant population centres.  In that case they're more "light rail -lite" *.

Where "longer-distance tram" applies the case for allowing cycles aboard becomes greater.  We also tend to have very sparse tram networks - leaving you a longer distance to cover from the nearest tram stop to destination.  If only there were some efficient method of transport which needed minimal space but was more efficient than walking...

In UK cities we also do not have an integrated "last few miles" cycle rental system like the OV Fiets ** and our station cycle parking is laughable.

* In the UK we sometimes see towns / cities trying to "fix" the consequences of scrapping or neglecting other transport modes in favour of road traffic.  But we end up using sub-optimal tools (or "doing it on the cheap" / ticking boxes) to try to patch round this (because we can't bring ourselves to challenge the motor traffic dominance or just can't imagine not having this).  So we use trams to replace missing (sometimes scrapped) rail lines to outlying suburbs and to try to speed up transport into the centre (because traffic).  This works down the chain - we sometimes promote trams over buses (trams of course can be more efficient) because we let the buses get stuck in traffic.  Which also continues to encourage driving... And for that matter we also sometimes try to replace missing trams / buses with city centre bike hire systems...

The Edinburgh proposed extension seems to be that kind - it would mostly be re-using a rail line which goes through "empty spaces" in cuttings / on bridges.

** ScotRail had this for a while when Abelio provided services.  Unfortunately that disappeared when Abelio lost the franchise.  I suspect the bike system was also "a failure" - people in the UK (myself included) just didn't get it - too advanced for us!  Fundamentally this would always be difficult because of lack of safe or convenient spaces to cycle in and places to park...

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A V Lowe | 2 months ago
0 likes

Well over 10 years ago I worked with Manchester Cyclists to deliver a report, based on my work with bikes and public transport world-wide for around 40 years, I'd already worked with London Cycling Campaign to deliver a phased introduction of cycle carriage on DLR, hilariously showing the manager we were meeting that a cyclist had actually just got off a tram/light rail unit at the station outside her office!

Bikes were being carried on Tyne & Wear Metro well before we eventually got a pilot scheme running, and now the new trains are being supplied with bike space properly set up.

Edinburgh was also a case for some gentle testing, but we also had cycle-exclusive trams with 40+ bikes per tram getting riders back from the Pedal for Scotland ride that finished at Edinburgh Airport. all recorded

Metrolink trams are carrying bikes (yes I have the pictures! - of CUK's Policy Director on a tram to the Velodrome), and staggeringly the figures used by GMPTA to counter our evidence at this time were seriously misrepresented. I must dig out that report again. Its worth noting that exactly the same type of tram is used on many mainland Europe systems, where they carry bikes, Same with Croydon, where they got some Bergen trams when deliveries were rescheduled. In Bergen the trams carry bikes, in Croydon they don't.

From data on transit (trams/light rail/buses) I'm getting a general picture that 2-4% of passengers are travelling with bikes, with over 50% of the US local bus fleet fitted with bike racks. In Scotland we are slowly restoring cycle carriage on rural bus routes (it was a standard detail with SMT before privatisation), and now almost all express coaches have reservable cycle spaces (only took me 20 years to get this!). Now we start on National Express, Megabus, & Flixbus....

I've worked with and developed some very simple stowage systems which use the weight of a bike to hold it vertical and secure on buses and trains, but also take up the minimum space. As I'm no longer paid for the work by Cycling UK, or Sustrans I do have to ask for support to get this stuff delivered, or an invitation to join a team working on this

You'll find me on X (@BCCletts) or Facebook

H

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Dbloke | 2 months ago
0 likes

Can't wait for Uber eats types to start filling them up, seen them on them in the past, but if they where allowed on it madness will ensue

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don simon fbpe | 2 months ago
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If only Manchester had decent cycling infra!

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brooksby | 2 months ago
5 likes

Quote:

He said that in many cases, bikes would not be onboard trams for long, as some people only travel one or two stops. "I do have serious concerns about safety," he added.

Erm - what sort of distance is it between stops?  I doubt someone would go the hassle of getting on a tram with their bike to travel a quarter-mile, surely?

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Secret_squirrel | 2 months ago
4 likes

Utter wrong brained barriers to active travel.  

Some of these Councillors have Tram Brain.

Folding bikes needing covers? 

Risk adverse bonkers.

I'll guarantee that the trams dont lurch around half as much as a crappy Bakerloo line train and yet...

https://lcc.org.uk/advice/taking-your-bike-on-the-train/

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Krislord | 2 months ago
15 likes

So a car crashes into a tram and that's a reason we can't have bikes on the tram? Talk about blaming the wrong person!

if he was genuinely concerned about tram safety he'd have mandatory seats for all and seatbelts too. 

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Browsie replied to Krislord | 2 months ago
7 likes

Surely you must know that if a car crashes into a tram any bike on board would immediately go into a frenzy and kill or maim every single passenger who happend to also be onboard at the time🤔, you really couldn't make it up!

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eburtthebike replied to Krislord | 2 months ago
3 likes

Krislord wrote:

So a car crashes into a tram and that's a reason we can't have bikes on the tram? Talk about blaming the wrong person!

Drivers would only target trams which have bikes on board.

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Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
2 likes

Bicycles are allowed on all trams on Saturday and Sunday and all above ground trams the rest of the time where I live. 0 problems. Really can't understand the reticence though perhaps they envisage vast numbers of bikes.

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stonojnr replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
1 like

Depending on the time of day, and route, some of the trams are so full of people, it makes the London Underground in rush hour look quite quiet,plus Mancunians are more shouty about such things, and dont suffer in silence like Londoners.

I don't understand why they think it would only be hop on for a stop or two, the trams are slower than cycling the same distance, and surely it belies the Bee network isn't fit for purpose if people don't want to use it.

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Geoff Ingram replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
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Must admit I didn't know that. I can imagine someone stubbornly shoving a bike into a standing crowd could cause conflict.

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A V Lowe replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
0 likes

When did that officially happen?
There was a big campaign when more of the local rail services were taken over by Metrolink, and several people forced to abandon cycling with train as their commute

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