Walking & Cycling in GM State of Play survey: THE RESULTS
At the end of 2020 we published a survey asking people to tell us how they felt the plan was going to transform walking and cycling in our Greater Manchester region. More than 150 people replied.
We’ve set out the headlines below (for the full survey analysis including graphs and verbatim comments, go here).
The survey points to an engaged group who are on board with the strategy and believe in the vision – but are concerned and frustrated that we are falling behind in the delivery, and feeling increasingly alienated by the internal politics seen to be holding things back.
The biggest concerns are over the effect this behind-the-scenes wrangling is having on the pace of rollout and continuation of daily dangers faced on the roads through lack of protection & enforcement; a gap between the accepted standards of best practice and poor quality of what is often delivered; and the absence of appetite or ability to enact bigger bolder measures to reduce instances of driving, which are seen to be needed to deliver the vision.
Some even called for responsibility for roads to be reallocated to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as with other forms of transport in order to break the deadlock with intransient, sluggish or car-centric local authorities, who currently control the highways.
- ‘We need you and local councils to work together to deliver coordinated action – not the farce of pop up cycle lanes that end at a council border’.
- ‘Take the reins from local highways departments to make delivery quicker and better designed’.
- ‘Take protection of vulnerable road users away from local authorities and create a GM approach’
- ‘Stop drowning this important work in your internal politics’
- ‘Please be more ambitious and apply pressure to local councils to do more where possible.’
- ‘Everyone knows and says we need to tackle traffic dominance, but almost every practical decision has the opposite effect. Now is the time to actually deliver what you say you want. It is essential that districts are given more help and direction – not cash, but capacity building and training’.
Two in five people said they felt the Bee Network plan was definitely not on track, with that rising to three in five in their own borough, and the most common answer to the question ‘what would you like to say to those in charge’ was a variation on ‘Please get on with it’.
We also noted a disturbing tone of feeling increasingly exposed on the roads from those who do walk or cycle, and a plea for more protection::
- ‘I feel threatened by the behaviour of drivers every day’.
- ‘We need more protection when cycling. I don’t feel comfortable cycling and as a major European city we are falling behind’
- ‘I intend to buy a car, after not having one for 15 years, because it’s not possible to get around the city reliably and safely’.
- ‘I am close to giving up cycling. I just get home feeling angry… every time’
The survey also points to a gap in communication from the accountable bodies about their progress and perceived lack of any clear milestones; and to people who do still feel engaged with the topic but that their input is being overlooked or has to be endlessly fought for, as promises over engagement fall short.
In some cases, opportunities for people to engage appear to have gone backwards – with reports of forums closing down, suggestions and ideas being ignored by councils and evidence of ‘consultation fatigue’.
- ‘We made lots of effort to respond to the beeline consultations, but haven’t had any response from the council in their plans or their communications. It’s really off-putting. I thought the consultation seemed like a really positive thing but now I think it was box-checking’.
Our survey paints a picture of people who feel largely excluded from the ability to help with this challenge locally: almost third thirds (64.7%) felt completely or partially disconnected from exerting any ‘influence’, and while the picture was less negative for the ability to provide more practical help – even then only 25% felt able to ‘get involved’.
Bearing in mind our assumption is that the majority respondents are Walk Ride supporters and some of the most engaged people with this agenda in GM, the fact only one in four feel able to get involved near to where they live, and most feel barely any ability to influence, points to a clear opportunity for more to be done at grassroots engagement level in GM.
When asked how to solve this problem, opportunities for genuine engagement with local councils was the number one suggestion, allied to clearer information & more regular communication, and thirdly – for more explicit political leadership at borough level.
- ‘Proper route planning meetings please – the Cycling and Walking Forum is a sham’
- ‘We should push the Council to engage in proper planning meetings. The collective meeting about the Northern Quarter cycle route was brilliant. More of this’.
- ‘Somewhere we could see which of the original proposals have been taken up and where they are up to’
- ‘Just one website to signpost people too, they are all scattered and people aren’t coming together’
- ‘A central source of information; plans and progress’.
- ‘The council needs to lead on this & believe the required transformation is indeed possible. I don’t currently believe it does’.
- ‘I want to see a clear statement from councillors who actually support the aims of the Bee Network and evidence that the member for highways understands that this will mean reallocation of road space’.
For interviews about this survey contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Methodology: The survey was live for the months of November & December 2020, published via Walk Ride website, newsletter and social media. As such, we assume most respondents are among the most engaged with this agenda in Greater Manchester. Answers were anonymous.
Walk Ride GM, 24/01/2021
For queries about this survey contact email@example.com