No matter how many times it happens (and it happens a lot), the arrogant and frankly stupid and tin-eared behaviour of Manchester City Council when it comes to active travel and climate change still comes as a shock. You keep thinking “surely after THAT, they’ll do better in future.” And they never do. Right now Manchester City Council is refusing to countenance pop-up cycle lanes (see yesterday’s blog post “Pop Up or Pipe Down”).
The Council’s insistence that it cannot walk and chew gum at the same time has inspired this blunt comment from a Stockport councillor (Labour Party too), saying other councils were “met with resistance.”
I’ve got to agree. In Stockport, we had a grand plan to have one long pop-up route that would take you from the heart of Stockport right into the heart of Manchester. We engaged with MCC but were just met with resistance. Their approach has stymied everyone’s ambition. https://t.co/ddtI6vGlMy
— Cllr David Meller (@cllrdavidm) June 6, 2020
Andrew Gwynne, @GwynneMP, the Labour MP for Denton & Reddish (inc Audenshaw, Dukinfield, Heaton Chapel and Heaton Norris), has already gone public with his opinion.
Even the All Party Group for Cycling and Walking has gone public.
Really disappointing that @ManCityCouncil are not willing to be part of a huge network of pop-up ambitious cycle lanes in the @OfficialTfGM area. All the other 9 councils are on-board. https://t.co/23AgeFIM9d
— APPGCW (@allpartycycling) June 6, 2020
Well, Ed Howe (@edhowetweets), a Manchester resident has written what we at CEM think is a really good letter to his Member of Parliament, who happens to be Afzal Khan. He’s shared it with us, and we post it below. We think you, dear reader, if you live in Greater Manchester, could send your own version of it to your MP, so that there is more pressure on Manchester City Council’s leaders to, um, lead.
You can find out who your MP is here, and their email. Let us know what reply (if any) you get…
Dear [insert name of MP!],
Cities up and down the country are reallocating road space to enable pedestrians and cyclists to social distance more easily when they are outside. With public transport usage expected to fall in the coming months over concerns about the spread of Coronavirus, there will be a significant rise in people seeking other methods of transportation as lockdown eases and we see a return to normal life.
In Manchester, 85% of people commute into the city centre by public transport, and although the figures for Greater Manchester as a whole are less, public transport still plays a significant role in getting people around the conurbation.
With fewer people using public transport as normality returns, we can expect potentially catastrophic levels of additional cars on the road in what is already a very congested city. This is without mentioning the terrible effects such a modal shift will have on our air quality, which is already well in excess of legal levels in some parts of the city, and which kills 923 people a year in Greater Manchester, and has been linked to one in 23 deaths in the city.
Therefore, what we need to promote is a mode of transport which is clean and efficient, to take pressure off the road network and mitigate the impacts of modal shift away from public transport.
It is because of this that I have been very disappointed this week that Manchester City Council have neglected to plan out safe, effective and segregated ‘COVID pop-up cycle lanes’ along the main arteries linking the city centre with the wider suburbs. They announced yesterday that they will not be rolling out the ‘pop up’ cycle lanes which are already proving highly successful in other UK cities, and in the neighbouring borough of Trafford (A56).
I believe a key opportunity is being missed here to mitigate the potentially devastating levels of post-Lockdown traffic congestion and air pollution which will undoubtedly occur in Manchester in the coming weeks.
I am fully aware that the council has already built two segregated cycle lanes in the city over the last five years – one along Oxford Road and one under construction along the Upper Chorlton Road, but for a City Council which loudly claims it is “committed” towards delivering a “zero carbon city” in Manchester, this simply is not enough. This council have missed valuable opportunities at rolling out cheap cycling infrastructure coinciding with their road resurfacing programme, and have ignored and neglected campaigners who have questioned this approach – particularly in reference to schemes such as Great Ancoats Street, which is being reconfigured without cycle lanes.
Schemes such as the pedestrianisation of Deansgate have been a welcome step, but they appear tokenistic when considered in a wider context of ignored consultations, undelivered promises, and millions of pounds worth of infrastructure spending to reduce “pinch points” and increase capacity for motorists using the Inner Ring Road in a city which supposedly declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ last summer.
As you know, 45% of residents in Manchester do not own a car. How are these people supposed to get around the city – to work, to socialise, to volunteer or to care for others – if they do not want to use public transport for fear of contracting Coronavirus?
I believe our city council has wilfully ignored and disregarded nearly half of their population by not providing adequate cycling infrastructure for them to use. Even if these 45% of people do not want to cycle, improving infrastructure and making cycling safer will entice some of the other 55% of the population onto their bikes where they otherwise might have driven. This relieves congestion on the road network and makes traffic flow more easily for those who have no choice but to drive – not to mention, it de-clogs the roads for ambulances and emergency vehicles to get through.
People who cycle regularly have a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46% lower risk of heart disease. Cycling is a clean and efficient mode of transport, and for every car taken off the roads, congestion is reduced, and an average of 4.6 metric tonnes of CO2 is saved from polluting our environment.
I am calling on you to please address these concerns with Manchester City Council and work towards introducing a network of safe, segregated ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes in Manchester to enable more people to feel safe and confident to cycle around the city, reducing congestion and pollution, and vastly improving the health of potentially tens of thousands of Mancunians.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to voice my concerns, and for taking the time to read this message.