Is Manchester Set to Become the Next Big Cycling City?

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Serious money is being put into plans to make the area more bike-friendly. It could only be a matter of time before cycling in Manchester really gets going.

Back in 2015, Helen Pidd, North of England editor for The Guardian, wrote an article claiming ‘Manchester is a terrible cycling city’. To be fair to her, at the time, she was probably right.

A city rife with roadworks, collisions and one-way systems, Manchester was hardly the commuter’s dream four years ago.

But now, this is all becoming a thing of the past.

Cycling in Manchester is getting a makeover

It was last July when the ‘Bee Network’ project, the brainchild of former Olympic cyclist and current Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Chris Boardman, was unveiled to the public, showing the first 15 routes of his plan to transform the region into a cycling haven.

And now, with plans having been revealed in March to spend almost £140 million on cycling and walking facilities in Greater Manchester, the movement is only gathering momentum, with Mayor Andy Burnham believing the region could soon ‘compete with some of the world’s best and most liveable cities,’ and Boardman saying: “I can almost guarantee that within two years we will be surpassing everybody.”

Having long been left to fester while more affluent regions such as London have prospered, much work is needed to transform Greater Manchester in the way Burnham and Boardman hope to; with the Bee Network project expected to cost an eye-watering figure of roughly £1.5 billion in total.

But the ambition in these plans is patently obvious, such as the £57 million bridge which would enable cyclists to ride between transport hubs in Stockport, or the £11.6 million pathway which would connect stations Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria.

Indeed, the first proposed projects last July included 60 new and improved crossings for cyclists and walkers, in addition to the 15 miles of new routes to explore.

Not only that, but in March, schemes were announced to see Greater Manchester take on the biggest cycle-hire project – similar to that used in London with ‘Boris Bikes’ – in the country, which will not only benefit cyclists, but ease congestion on the roads.

“We asked Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities to hit the ground running and they’ve been able to turn these first proposed projects around very quickly. This is a real achievement in itself and will help us to keep up momentum on transforming the city-region into a better place to be,” Boardman said in an interview with Manchester Evening News last July.

“One thing we won’t compromise on is quality; we’re working closely with all 10 local authorities to ensure that every single project on this list meets a tough set of design standards. Only by doing this will we enable thousands more people to consider making more trips on foot or by bike.”

With Boardman even admitting himself he has been ‘overwhelmed’ to what will be the largest cycling and walking network in the UK, his project is sure to make cycling in Manchester a far cry from the hazardous nightmare it used to be.

Where are the first 15 cycling routes in the ‘Bee Network’ project?

  1. B6226 Bolton – A cycle route leading to the town centre, which will offer a welcome alternative to the often-congested Chorley Old Road nearby. Predicted to cost £1.5 million.
  2. 16 new and improved junctions and crossings at Bury’s main locations. Predicted to cost £2.6 million.
  3. Cycle parking facilities on Bury’s Metrolink line – covered stands with lighting and CCTV are to be installed in visible, accessible locations at nine stops. Predicted to cost £1.2 million.
  4. A segregated, high-quality cycle path from Chorlton to Manchester city centre, which will also majorly improve facilities for those travelling on foot. Predicted to cost £13.4 million.
  5. Complete refurbishment of a pedestrian and cycle bridge in Oldham, providing a main link into the town centre from numerous residential areas to the south. Predicted to cost £650,000.
  6. The completed refurbishment of the already partially refurbished Union Street West bridge in Oldham, providing a replacement bridge deck surface to give users the best service available. Predicted to cost £200,000.
  7. Castleton to Rochdale town centre – a major boost to the high street in the centre of Castleton including dedicated cycling and walking facilities of high quality, and improved access to Castleton station. Predicted to cost £1.2 million.
  8. Junctions in Swinton and Walkden, Salford – an extra £1.1 million from the Mayor’s Challenge Fund will go towards existing proposed improvements as part of the Local Growth Deal Salford Bolton Improvement Programme at these two main junctions.
  9. Junction enhancement at Broad Street / Frederick Road, Salford – an extra £600,000 for those cycling or walking at a major junction along the A6 that was already due to be improved as part of the Local Growth Deal Salford Bolton Network Improvement Programme.
  10. The first part of a total transformation of Chapel Street East, Salford. It will provide protected 2 metre-wide cycle tracks in both directions and give priority to pedestrians and cyclists at side roads. Predicted to cost £4.3 million.
  11. A better crossing for people travelling by bike and on foot in Cheadle Hulme. It will also connect residential areas easier, including access to Thorn Grove Primary School. Predicted to cost £110,000.
  12. Brinnington to Stockport town centre walking and cycling route – linked with improvements across Stockport through the Town Centre Access Plan (TCAP), this will upgrade a footpath to bridleway status, and refurbish an M60 underpass with new lighting and resurfacing. Predicted to cost £450,000.
  13. New routes and filtered neighbourhoods in Tameside, including tiltered neighbourhoods where people are prioritised over cars. Improvements will also be made to traffic free routes and segregated facilities will be provided for bikes on busier roads. Predicted to cost £500,000.
  14. Upgrading a stretch of Talbot Road, Trafford. for those travelling by foot or on their bike. This coincides work currently ongoing to improve the cycling route along Talbot Road. Predicted to cost £250,000.
  15. Victoria Street / Warrington road junction, Wigan – extends the Saddle Junction cycle facility, which is under construction, to the southwest, adding more cycling and walking facilities connecting with Alexandra Park, Warrington. Predicted to cost: £700,000.

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