Walk Ride GM’S End-of-Year ‘Bee Network Report Card’
Words by Claire Stocks
It’s a year since the Bee Network bank opened for business, so here at Walk Ride GM we thought it was time we looked at which boroughs are leading the way, and which must try harder.
While money isn’t everything, it’s one indicator of which boroughs are taking walking and cycling seriously by aiming to enhance local infrastructure to make it easier and safer to use.
In all, 57 schemes have been greenlit, and more than £330m allocated (although most of it not yet spent)*.
We’ve applied our own ‘Red Amber Green’ system to show which borough needs the most attention. This is based on weighting boroughs for: number of schemes, spend per square mile, spend per head, funds won, and bids in the last six months (in that order).
Salford is the star performer and leads the way – as it has done since the fund launched – with 12 schemes worth £77m, which is more than £300 per head. Some infrastructure is already ‘on the ground’.
We’ll award Stockport with the prize for most improved performer, winning a total of seven bids since Christmas and leaping into second place with a spend per head of £263, so not far behind Salford.
Manchester moves into third spot by virtue of a creditable five more bids since Christmas (versus Wigan’s two). At £1.2m, Manchester’s spend per square mile is twice that of Wigan (and 5th placed Trafford), although it undoubtedly has the heaviest traffic and its schemes’ share of the funding currently tallies significantly less per head.
The most interesting aspect of the table is in highlighting the boroughs that are seemingly not engaging with the Bee Network process and so are failing to prioritise walking and cycling.
While residents of Salford are benefiting to the tune of more than £300 per person, those in Oldham are only seeing a bit of loose change (£3.60) and a paltry £15,000 per square mile, compared with Salford’s £2m.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Oldham and Bolton have had only two schemes approved – and in Oldham’s case nothing since Christmas 2018.
Bolton does have two schemes in the pipeline waiting for approval – Westhoughton and Astley Bridge / Crompton Active Travel Neighbourhoods – thanks to the work of local campaigners.
But, still, something seems amiss in the ways the councils at the bottom of this table are engaging with the Active Travel agenda, for there to be such a disparity in schemes across the boroughs.
As Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said on Twitter this week:
Nope, we cover councils design cost including the hiring of experts (plus an expert team at TfGM at their disposal).
Only reason for not designing driving alternatives into an area is a lack of courage/desire to change the status quo. https://t.co/IjQFvnubdV
— Chris Boardman (@Chris_Boardman) August 13, 2019
So there seems to be no excuse.
We hope that this lack of action is addressed by Bolton’s new leader David Greenhaulgh and Oldham’s Sean Fielding.
And perhaps it can be tabled for discussion by Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, at the new Greater Manchester Transport Committee, on which Fielding sits.
Meanwhile, we await with interest the news about allocations of money in the next tranche.
It is worth noting that allocation of funds is no indication of what is happening on the ground. For instance, a scheme in Wigan that was approved in July 2018 is only just entering consultation:
I believe this is a Tranche1 #BeeNetwork scheme, and Wigan’ve already completed “muddy mile” (tranche3?). @SalfordCouncil Trafford Rd also gone to consultation?
Wish we could, easily, get information about all schemes’ progress, or lack of.@Chris_Boardman @martinkeyBC @MayorofGM https://t.co/TOpCxBlQqJ
— steve h (@matchfacts) August 14, 2019
A word on weighting
We weighted volume of bids more heavily than total value, because there is so much to be done to bring Greater Manchester up to scratch that multiple low-value schemes were considered better than a few massive ones.
We decided to calculate per head spend and per mile spend because we felt that was a better reflection of how much overall value is being delivered to people in the borough, rather than just using a raw total of money won. These figures deserve the closest attention, in our opinion. For instance, Wigan has won £20m more than Trafford, which equates to significantly more per person, but the spend per square mile is the same.
– *Beelines funding figures collated from news reports on the Bee Network website. Figures are accurate to August 2019 (five tranches released since July 2018).
– Borough populations and square mileage were sourced from Wikipedia.