Report of the second Walk Ride GM meeting on 12 February 2019
On the evening of Tuesday 12 February Walk Ride Greater Manchester (WRGM) hosted its second public meeting following the successful launch last December. The 120-capacity room soon filled up, and as the meeting got underway there was standing room only at the back of the event space.
Nadia Kerr kicked off the meeting by commenting on progress made since the December event: WRGM has attended various meetings and forums such as the GM Walking Networking Event and the 2019 Traffic and Parking Conference. We have attended Cycle Forums in those boroughs that have them, and suggested they become Walking and Cycling forums, and want to set up new forums where there are currently none (Tameside, Bury, Oldham and Rochdale). We have launched our website, Twitter account, Facebook page, have made our first couple of appearances in the media and have been invited to give evidence before the House of Commons Transport Committee.
We’ve also been growing the movement, identifying people who can assist in key areas of the campaign – and are particularly keen to find more people interested in fundraising, so please let us know if this is something you’re interested in.
Nadia then handed over to Nick Hubble who spoke about what’s been happening in the boroughs. Nick highlighted that what is becoming increasingly clear is that if we are to build truly mass support for walking and cycling, then we will need to work on a hyper-local level: most people care mainly about the streets in their neighbourhood, or on their commute. Thus, we need to build Walk Ride GM not just in every borough but in every ward, suburb and neighbourhood. This is already happening in e.g. Levenshulme, Prestwich and Sale – but we need many more people to be inspired to set up their own neighbourhood groups.
Helen Pidd then spoke about where we are with two of the four objectives for 2019:
- On Deansgate as a traffic-free boulevard: despite some criticism of this being a Manchester-centric goal, we believe that if we can achieve it here, we can do the same anywhere. Helen has met with the councillors in the Deansgate ward, comprising currently 7,000 electors, and none objects outright, but all raised legitimate areas of concern on behalf of residents. We have also learned that TfGM are doing modelling around changes to vehicle access to Deansgate, and we hope to be able to run a trial closure in the summer.
- On bikes on trams: Helen has spoken to Metrolink supremo Danny Vaughan, who is open to discussions, but has concerns over capacity issues – this is a shift from the old policy of ruling out bikes entirely. The task now is to make a list of who to lobby and start contacting them.
Nadia then continued with the remaining two goals:
- On pavement parking: lots of people expressed interest in this topic. Unlike in London, there is a grey area around enforcement responsibilities between councils and police when it comes to parking and that we’d appreciate the advice and assistance of the Greater Manchester Police Operation Considerate team on this matter. We will also be uploading resources to our website on this topic, as well as working with organisations such as Living Streets, Ramblers and the National Federation of the Blind on issues relating to vehicles on pavements.
- On schools, Nadia explained that our aims overlap with Sustrans‘s work on School Streets, about which we’ll be hearing more from Alice Swift shortly.
Tristan Watson then introduced himself as a new member of the Steering Committee and professed having a profound interest in data issues, which he hoped to bring to the movement’s advantage.
Guest speaker 1: Pauline Johnston
The first speaker was Pauline Johnston, who has been making waves in Levenshulme both through being part of the team behind the Station South cycle café restoration project and more latterly the driving force behind the Levenshulme Bee Network movement, which has led the way in mobilising communities and has submitted the first bid for a filtered neighbourhood anywhere in Greater Manchester. Pauline explained that she doesn’t see herself as a campaigner, she just wants her area to be as nice as it can be and for her neighbours and local residents not to miss out on what others have. She told us she has never been daunted by big ideas and has almost a child-like approach to things. Social equality is a big driver for her, and she dislikes the inequality created when cars are made masters of our public spaces. She then showed us an inspiring video about how to start a movement:
Guest speaker 2: Alice Swift
Alice Swift of Sustrans was up next to tell us about School Streets: a series of initiatives aimed at enabling more people to walk, cycle, scoot etc. to school. The first high-profile scheme was in Edinburgh and involved setting up a pedestrian and cycle zone around schools. She explained that different approaches to enforcement have been used depending on the local circumstances and, despite some scepticism, the feedback on such schemes has been overwhelmingly positive. She invited us to consider where may be in interesting location for a School Streets project in Greater Manchester, and showed a video of a successful road closure in London. She also told about the Big Pedal, a national initiative to get as many children, parents and teachers to travel on foot or by bike over a ten-day period. The notes of Alice’s talk are available here.
Guest speaker 3: Chris Boardman
Next at the lectern was Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner. He rounded up the progress since our last meeting:
- Over 4,000 comments were received on the Bee Network map during the consultation last summer. These have now all been processed and a third of them are changes to the original network plan.
- This plan will be presented to the districts in March for final sign-off.
- One challenge currently is that certain districts simply don’t have staff trained in designing Bee Network-standard infrastructure, so Brian Deegan has been hosting Bee A Champion training courses to assist officers in drawing up eligible bids. The course content is also available as a PDF for download here.
- On bike hire, Chris told us that he was looking into a GM-wide solution and was hoping to announce a partner in the next few months, although the launch would likely not be until spring of 2020.
- On the consultation on the Chorlton Cycleway, he told us that because this was still a live consultation, he had to be careful about any comments he makes. However, he could tell us that 1,700 people responded to the consultation, the plans have been viewed 14,000 times online and the response to the consultation is due in the spring
- Other consultations due soon include Chapel Street in Salford and the Bridgewater towpath in Wigan.
Chris then took questions from the floor, including the following:
- Q: Is he also looking into e-scooters as well as bike hire? A: CB likes them but fears a Daily Mail-type backlash should there be a collision with a pedestrian.
- Q: What powers does he have to stop pavement parking? A: An area he’d like to concentrate on more is road-danger reduction, but we can’t talk about banning pavement parking, but instead leaving enough space for a pram etc. Chris is also looking at getting similar powers to his counterpart in London to be able to deal with related issues such as idling in order to help tackle air-quality issues etc.
- Q: What is he doing to rectify issues of footpath quality? A: Footpaths are generally an issue of public realm and not necessarily part of his remit as such, but any new footways/walking infrastructure that is to be part of the Bee Network must meet the requisite criteria.
- Q: Can (walking and) cycling forums tap into Bee Network money for their own activities? A: Not currently – funds are awarded to councils for infrastructure projects.
- Q: What is he doing to win over hearts and minds? A: The whole purpose of the Bee Network is to design out conflict, and one upshot of this is to refuse applications for shared-space situations.
The meeting then broke up into workshops on pavement parking, Deansgate, school run or general networking.