Pop up or pipe down? Of #Manchester #cycling and #democracy

7th June update- see this letter which we encourage you to send to your MP and  councillors.

Almost a year ago Manchester City Council’s 96 councillors unanimously declared a “climate emergency”.  We at Climate Emergency Manchester have been tracing the (lack of) progress against the promises in the declaration and other promises made before.  On the whole we’ve stayed out of debates about cycling because a) there are a whole bunch of great people working on it  and b) we have other things we are doing (the petition for a seventh scrutiny committee, the active citizenship toolkit).  But we’ve watched, with no surprise but growing alarm (and indeed fury) at the shoddy consultations, the twisted facts.  Everything was supposed to change after the declaration, but even before coronavirus came along, nothing had.

We now have a shituation where there is enormous public appetite for change in how the city’s transport works. There’s an enormous public NEED for it.  And there is even serious money to do it.  And guess what.  Right now, on Saturday 6th June 2020, once again, the real barrier to change is … for the hundredth time…  the “leaders” sat in Manchester City Council.

Rather than go full-steam-ahead on pop-up cycle ways, that could keep people out of their cars (you think anyone with a choice is going to sit on a bus or a tram?  Really?), Manchester City Council is …doing what it does. Or rather – a very small number of people, in office and also sadly in power, are refusing to be bold or even sensible, to the palpable fury of backbench councillors and also the mere voters.

Yesterday afternoon a tweet went up (it’s the subject of at least one Freedom of Information Act request).  In response to a question about whether MCC would join other councils in showing basic brains and a little bit of courage, the press/comms team at the Council tweeted this

So, the map of Greater Manchester?  Well…

Who made this decision? In consultation with whom? Well, we know how Manchester City Council (currently – it doesn’t have to stay like that) works. But what is unusual here is the amount of push back from councillors who have sometimes felt it best to do their work behind the closed doors of the Labour Party.

Eve Holt, (Labour, Chorlton), who seconded the climate emergency declaration and had tried earlier to get one up, has been robust.

Mandie-Shilton Godwin, who is – for what that is worth, seems not to be much at the moment, through no particular fault of her own – the lead Councillor on Active Travel is clearly also not happy.

Other councillors – Jon Connor Lyons (Labour, Piccadilly) and Julie Reid (Labour, Gorton) have also spoken out.

What does it mean? It means that more and more people can see that there is the need for a fundamental change in the way decisions are made, who is consulted, what the priorities are. As for cycling, so for climate change (and a host of other issues).

Over the coming weeks, Climate Emergency Manchester will be releasing some basic guides (one about the budget is already up). These will include lobbying councillors, submitting Freedom of Information Act requests.

Right now, today, we’d recommend
a) thanking those councillors who have already spoken out. It can be a lonely and career-dangerous business saying that you disagree with decisions if you’re an elected councillor.
b) contacting your councillors and saying that you want them to be similarly gutsy.  You can find them here. And you could adapt this letter for MPs.

c) get together with other people: this fight is going to need us all to maintain our morale. That is best done in functioning groups and friendship networks.


Further reading

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