1. What is the group, when did it form, what is it trying to achieve? What, specifically, would you like to see Manchester City Council DO?
The group was formed just a few weeks ago by some local Levenshulme residents who heard about the potential funding for ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes. We then heard that some other GM councils were developing these, but that MCC was not considering them.
We are all being advised to avoid public transport, and yet people without cars will have little choice if we can’t walk or cycle safely. And if people with cars drive through A6 communities to work in the city centre, this will pollute the air we breathe and potentially bring traffic to a standstill. These are all issues of social justice: we need to enable safe, active travel and keep the cleaner air that we’ve been experiencing during lock-down, instead of taking pollution back up to illegal levels.
A climate emergency was declared a year ago and yet we still see road schemes developed with space only for cars. Car parking space along the A6 could be used as emergency space for cycling.
Our road network is at capacity as it is, it cannot possibly take much more vehicles so MCC expecting that people will just shift from public transport onto cars and drive into the city to work and spend money simply won’t work. Pop up cycle lanes can play an important part in that transport capacity building, people on bikes take far less space than people in cars!
What we want council leadership to do is acknowledge these issues, stop making excuses for lack of action, and use this golden opportunity to try out something temporary in this emergency situation that could potentially make a huge difference longer-term.
2. You’ve had two demos, you’ve got another one this Saturday 25th July, and you’re going to have them every two weeks. From this, two questions
a) what will people get from coming down
b) what will you do to keep the format “fresh” and for it to keep making an impact, since the media – and everyone – has a low threshold for repetition...
We felt that a one-off protest was not enough and that we have to keep going as the issues are not going away. We had around 150 people attend the first one, which was huge! In many ways we’re learning together what’s needed as we go, but in response to your questions:
We’re going to be keeping the format the same for this next protest – very simple, on the pavement so people feel safe. We want to make the point that there is space on the roads for cyclists and drivers already so we don’t want to block the road. Lots of families came last time and we want people to feel safe and a sense of solidarity and friendliness. Last time people came along who were curious to find out more and being on the pavement means we can talk to people (at a distance of course) – the conversations with people are really important. There’s an assumption that business owners are always opposed to things like this, but our conversations along the A6 so far show that’s not always the case.
This is a good question and one we need to consider as a group. We’ll try out the protest again this Saturday and see how we might need to evolve from there. There’s some value in repetition, like the Youth Strikes for Climate – the message that ‘we’re not going away’. But we also need to work together in other ways, like talking to our local politicians, residents and business owners. We’re also looking at joining forces with other communities along the A6 so the focus isn’t always on Levenshulme.
3. What would you say to people in Levenshulme who say that they’ve not been properly consulted about the proposed Bee Network changes?
This campaign is different to the Bee Network because LBN is a localised project (important in its own right) for a filtered neighbourhood, while the A6 is a major commuting corridor linking Manchester City Centre with outer areas and suburbs all the way into Cheshire. What we are calling for action is for MCC to play its part alongside the other 9 Greater Mcr Local Authorities in responding to the Government (Dep for Transport) call and instructions to make our towns and cities safer to walk and cycle for a post Covid recovery.
The A6 needs the pop up lanes not only for that cycle and walking safety but also to encourage as many people from further away to commute by bike so we can keep traffic down and this air pollution down. LBN deals with localised traffic instead. We need both these things together to really make a difference.
4. How can folks get involved, especially folks who are currently or permanently disabled/unable to take part, because they are no longer cyclists, they are self-isolating etc?
We’d welcome any non-cyclists to come along and get involved. But for people who can’t, we need to develop public awareness and conversation in different ways, perhaps some online public meetings and growing awareness through local networks and community organisations. One of the myths that the council leadership perpetuates is that cyclists are a kind of special interest group, separate from people who walk or drive. Many people walk, cycle and drive! Improving safety for cyclists improves the air quality for people walking and prevents people cycling on pavements. This is another reason we’re protesting on the pavement – so that people can come and join in whether they have a bike with them or not.
Even anecdotal evidence tells us that more people would commute by bike if they felt safe to do so. Just one example: a contact of one of the group is a wheelchair user who has been travelling to work by taxi. Now, because of Covid-19, they don’t want to use taxis and are considering travel by recumbent bike, but are understandably concerned about safety on the road.
5. Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks to all the associated groups like British Lung Foundation, XR, Clean Air Levenshulme and to Climate Emergency Manchester for helping get the word out. These networks are very useful.