Walk Ride GM says ‘no’ to Fallowfield loop plans – calls for investment in new east-west on-road route
Walk Ride GM response to the Fallowfield loop & Yellow Brick Road consultation
The Fallowfield Loop / Yellow Brick Road is a peaceful, linear, traffic-free seven-mile green oasis that connects Chorlton, Fallowfield, Levenshulme, Reddish, Gorton and Openshaw, one of Manchester’s most useful active travel assets.
The Bee Network, initiated by Andy Burnham and Chris Boardman in 2018, is proposed as a world-class integrated transport network with walking and cycling embedded.
The aim – to ‘double and double again cycling rates and make walking the natural choice for short journeys’ – is central to creating livable communities and will only get more urgent as our air and environmental crisis worsens.
Walk Ride GM in Manchester supports upgrades to the ‘Floop’ – as it is affectionately known – but does not fully support Manchester City Council’s current plans to make this a Bee Network route, because the proposals do not meet the standards required for a Bee Network scheme.
This response has been created with input from a number of groups and individuals
These are our reasons for not supporting this scheme as it stands:-
- 1. It seems this sort of greenway (including bridleway) that isn’t fully lit at night – though a wonderful haven – can only remain a leisure route. While we believe that enhancements (see point 5b) will increase leisure use by both walkers and cyclists – it will not be able to facilitate the increase in people choosing to walk or cycle instead of using their car or van to get from A to B – the purpose for which the Mayor’s Challenge Fund & Active Travel Fund are intended.
- 2. We understand that an environmental impact assessment shows that wildlife may be negatively impacted both by the addition of night-time lighting, and by the path widening required for this much-loved former railway to become a full-time ‘transport’ route, shared comfortably and safely by walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and wildlife.
- 3. It can be argued that the Floop won’t ever meet Bee Network standards without taking away some of what makes the Floop special to so many users, and while it should definitely be invested in, those funds should come from somewhere other than the oversubscribed Bee Network pot – which is needed for schemes to enable people to choose not to drive.
- 4. The Bee Network design guide states that lighting ‘must’ be provided. If the Floop remains unlit at key travel times, during hours of darkness (eg 6am-10pm), it cannot be a Bee Network standard scheme.
- 5. We therefore call on Manchester City Council to:
- a. bring forward a proposal for an east-west, comfortable, protected cycle route linking the same communities, which uses the most direct roads possible – as per the Bee Network Active Travel Design Guide (published 2021). There seem many roads along the route, such as Wilbraham Road at the western end, which seem eminently wide enough for addition of safe, protected lanes
- b. amend the current Fallowfield loop proposals to focus on
- significantly enhanced access to link the Floop to key points in adjacent communities, with comfortable, safe, enhanced connections on to key destinations such as schools, leisure centres, shops & cafes, train & tram
- Security measures such as considering a regular visible police presence, pruning back overgrowth (where in line with horticultural advice), and replace ugly fences with 1.5m spaced bollards so natural observation from surrounding streets, homes, businesses is increased – example streetview link
- All barriers must conform to new guidelines LTN 1/20 and must be fully accessible.
- Specific localised widening of the path where this can be done without impacting on the bridleway and where there is potential for significant demand for a safe walking and cycling route to and from local schools and the impact on wildlife can be mitigated.
- Wayfinding along the route so you know where you are along the length and what amenities and connections are nearby, how long it takes to get there
- b. amend the current Fallowfield loop proposals to focus on
- The Fallowfield loop remains highly segregated from people who could use it more and the main barrier to this is absence of usable signage, branding or place-making / wayfinding and easily accessible and attractive entry points to join communities or amenities. (as also recommended by the Ramblers in their response).
- Examples include Hough End Leisure centre – found across a busy road with no safe crossing, and not even signed; or the connection with National Cycle Network Route 6, which with suitable enhancement could provide a much more viable route from the Loop to the city centre than currently. Investment should be focused on creating these well-connected spurs to key points.
- Contrast for instance how easy it is for drivers to find their way onto the M60, than for nearby residents to find and join the Floop that is on their doorstep!
- c. Publish an anonymised breakdown of all responses and their analysis from the initial consultation – especially on how many people (or proportion of respondents) said they did not feel safe cycling or walking after dark – we believe this is an important issue for the mission to transform how we get around. This data should be shared as a matter of public interest.
- 6. We argue that unless this scheme is reworked to focus more fully on the points in item 5b. above, that it does not merit Bee Network funding to the tune of £5m, given that scheme and its funding is meant to be supporting a wholesale shift in travel behaviours. If the City Council is serious about achieving a significant modal shift to active travel then key active travel routes need to be easy-to-find and visible to those currently using other modes (e.g. cars and buses), to encourage them to try the change. We therefore believe it imperative that improvements to the Fallowfield Loop are in addition to – and not instead of – high-quality infrastructure on roads on direct routes.
- 7. So although we believe the Fallowfield Loop should be invested in, while the provision for safe cycling and walking instead of driving in Manchester is still so lacking, we cannot support the limited funds from this Bee Network budget being used to make incremental changes to a leisure space while so much remains to be done on dangerous roads – ie the place people need to use to get from A to B – and while Manchester continues to see so many missed opportunities, as we outline below.
We are releasing this response because the issues outlined above also hold true for a number of other schemes recently submitted in Manchester and we believe a change in strategic approach is needed. Namely:-
- the Ancoats Northern Gateway route – initially proposed to run through a marina and bring bikes into conflict with pedestrians the route then altered to follow a wiggly back road. It potentially fails Bee Network LTN1/20 standards on directness, maximum traffic volumes permissible for carriageway cycling, pedestrian conflict, width on marina bridges etc.
- the Rochdale canal route – unlikely to ever be able to provide the width requirements, accessibility on ramps/bridges, and lighting that is required to meet Bee Network standards
- the Wythenshawe greenway – once again we welcome this route as a way to enhance leisure walking and cycling, but if we are to start to provide real alternatives to driving – which is the stated aim of the Active Travel Fund – then a direct, protected cycle route running from Wythenshawe into the city centre, for instance via Princess Parkway, is essential
- Sections of Chorlton Cycleway that do not meet minimum width and segregation requirements
We politely request that MCC reevaluate these schemes – and more importantly any future proposals – in light of its own city centre transport strategy, Bee Network design guidance, Gear Change, LTN1/20 guidelines and Department for Transport decarbonisation plan which has as the number one priority is ‘Accelerating modal shift to public and active transport’ and bringing about Co2 reductions from traffic (which is the biggest source of Co2 in the UK), and other clear best practice – eg in this recent BBC report.
And we ask Manchester City Council and any other agencies involved, to heed the need to provide direct, safe, comfortable and protected routes for people to travel longer distances by bike instead of car, as well as more Active Neighbourhoods, place-making and better road traffic enforcement to help enable people to walk around their communities more safely.
We call on Manchester City Council and Manchester Labour Party leaders to make clear and bold commitments to decarbonising transport in Manchester – to making change that will help our residents move away from car dependency and support more greatly those without one, and to create a cleaner, greener city. Our leaders need look no further than Birmingham for inspiration, and it’s transformational plan for innovative low-traffic zones in the city centre.
We thank all those officers and councillors working hard on these schemes, especially in difficult recent circumstances.
There is so much to do.