Review: Walk Ride GM December General Meeting
To round off 2020, we hosted our second webinar-style General Meeting to provide everyone with a summary of progress with all things Walk Ride and invite guests from the active travel world whose campaigning and shared pursuit of healthier places has caught our eye.
Mary Creagh (Chief Executive at Living Streets)
Mary joined Living Streets in September 2020 and delivered a presentation on the charity’s strategies and activities, including school streets, behaviour change and the inclusive design agenda, as well as discussing the mythologies around low traffic neighbourhoods and the popularity of pop-up schemes that enable safer walking and cycling. On the subject of getting kids and parents walking more, she highlighted the benefits of investment – “for every £1 invested in a walking scheme we run, we deliver £5 in benefits, in terms of child activity, congestion reduction […]” – and added the profound yet all too familiar takeaway that, “more cars = fewer friends“, based on research from both California and Bristol that found “the more cars there are, the less likely people are to know their neighbours”.
Mary also answered questions on the politics around active travel, and addressed concerns regarding the effect of LTNs on boundary roads by noting that behaviours change towards active travel modes for short trips when driving is inconvenienced.
Atchara Khonglim (Tameside Women’s Community Cycling Group) and Ellen Holmes (Cycling UK)
As an organiser at Tameside Women’s Community Cycling Group, Atchara has helped to establish a friendly group of women of all ages and experience that helps to empower women through cycling. She spoke to us about her motivations for, and experiences of, setting up the group.
Atchara was assisted by Ellen Holmes, the Greater Manchester Cycling Development Officer for Cycling UK, who would like to help many other communities across the region onto bicycles of all shapes and sizes – contact her at email@example.com.
Councillor Jon Burke (Hackney Council)
A vocal advocate of active travel – notably the low traffic neighbourhoods (which are “not a new concept”) that have been implemented in his borough of London – Jon spoke to us about the unabated plague of private car use experienced over the past few decades, eliminating unnecessary local car journeys, and the need to counter the status quo with demand-side policies. He explains that this has, without any public consultation, led to “Silicon Valley billionaires, through the creation of satellite navigation technology and the commodification of the knowledge of our residential streets, [turning] all of our neighbourhoods in London and in Hackney into giant bypasses“.
He acknowledges the “natural aversion to rapid social change” of some members of the public, together with the reluctance of many of his elected peers to show support due to some vitriolic responses by individuals (and fear of the ballot box), while stressing the need to make these changes to influence behaviour for the betterment of our communities.
In response to concerns about the displacement of traffic onto main roads, Jon notes that “residential roads do not displace traffic onto the main road network; main roads displace traffic onto the residential road network…” and sets out the two key options available for addressing challenges such as unabated car use, road safety and air pollution: 1) open up all elements of every neighbourhood and allow that extensive displacement that we’ve experienced (which has failed, due to the law of induced demand, and just “kicks the can down the road”), or 2) demand-side measures (of which LTNs are part, alongside targeted policies for the main road network, such as road user pricing).
Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner joined us again to deliver an update on the Bee Network infrastructure, and provide clarity on the consultation process for schemes being brought forward (“consultation’s great […] but we need to understand that it’s not a referendum“).
Chris’s roundup included Active Travel Fund (ATF) Tranche 1 schemes (including the Northern Quarter which will be made permanent after feedback from businesses showed they were really happy with it); ATF Tranche 2 schemes (for which Greater Manchester received £19m and which will be announced in the coming days by individual councils); 2021 as “the year of delivery” with 55 miles of schemes due; Chorlton Area 3 consultation; Oldham town centre bridge upgrades on site; approval of the Beswick crossing business case; consultation due for Rochdale Castleton scheme; Gillbent Road (Stockport) signalised parallel crossing nearing completion; construction ongoing for Bramhall Park to A6; construction due this month for a multi-user path on the A555 and Offerton-Stockport route; Thomas Street and Ducie Street vehicle restriction to be made permanent; assurance that the bus route permitted along Deansgate will only be temporary; consultation imminent for a segregated route from Wigan Pier to the town centre; progress on the Tameside A635 temporary lane; approval of Swinton Greenway in Salford plus various road reallocation projects; various CYCLOPS junction updates with Bolton’s nearing completion and work to start on 6 (SIX!) along Trafford Road in Salford in the new year.
He also reiterated the role of the Bee Network team to ensure high quality levels for these schemes, which are submitted to them by local highways authorities, before referencing the Levenshulme and Burnage Active Neighbourhood scheme (“we don’t fund anything that won’t work, so I have high hopes for that one”) among the several other Active Neighbourhoods at consultation or beyond. Indeed, there should be 30 Active Neighbourhoods up and running next year.
On behalf of the Bee Network teams, Chris also issued a ‘call to arms’ to follow the example set by Walk Ride Bolton’s Grahame Cooper, whose work on identifying existing filtering across the borough (below) was also highlighted. They’re looking for case studies and testimonials from people who live in existing low traffic neighbourhoods – contact Kirsty via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We (@shanwilkinson2 , @mikellioth and I) are finding hundreds of existing modal filters across Bolton Borough, including many retrofitted ones like these. Nobody seems to be campaigning to have them removed. Most are not cycling friendly, unfortunately. pic.twitter.com/091dI1byKP
— Bicycle-Riding Motorist (@MrHappyCyclist) December 8, 2020
Finally, bike hire scheme tenders are currently being reviewed, the side road zebras research is back underway after being delayed by the pandemic restrictions, and all of this type of network information will be hosted on a new Bee Network website from the end of January.
Finally, if you have a couple of hours spare to watch the webinar in full, here’s the whole meeting – including Walk Ride GM’s Claire Stocks providing an update on our activities as a group:
Thanks again to all who spoke, attended, or were otherwise involved. We’ll see you in March 2021 at the next one.