Words by Jack Hunter (Walk Ride Whalley Range) Last week, Walk Ride Whalley Range supported two local primary schools to organise a school street for Clean Air Day. With permission from Manchester City Council (MCC), streets around each school were closed to traffic for drop-off …
Author: Ian Pennington
For March’s General Meeting, we invited more special guest speakers to provide updates on local campaigns, as well as tips and strategies from further afield. Opening up was Hannah Kettle, Zooming in from Leeds, where she is working for the charity Possible on the Car …
Words are important – particularly when trying to win hearts and minds. Many people regularly tell surveys they want healthier, safer movement through our streets, but sometimes encouraging those steps in reality requires the right choice of words that both demonstrate the universal benefits that can be possible and counter the bad faith arguments from naysayers. Here are a few of the linguistic approaches we’ve picked up from kindred campaigns…
Cyclists vs people on bikes
For whatever reason (take your pick from automobile lobbying to media click bait articles), in the UK context the word ‘cyclist’ conjures the imagery of a Belleville Rendezvous caricature of a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) that all too often provokes an ‘us and them’ mentality among otherwise rational people.
In Seattle, a pro-low-traffic neighbourhoods community group decided to take Portland, OR’s ‘neighbourhood greenways’ political rebranding exercise a step further, by peddling more people-friendly terms to regain the humanity of cycling. So, cyclists became ‘people on bikes’; similarly, drivers became ‘people driving’.
Accident vs crash
As tragically shown on our page, road traffic incidents continue to endanger people using active travel modes on our roads. There is a strong argument to say the fact that an average of 5 people every day are killed in collisions involving motor cars means we need radical change in our road culture, not least how they are managed and policed. Some police forces are better than others, and work is being done to bring police forces up to best practice standards – and this includes how these incidents are described by the police and media.
The party line is that they don’t want to prejudice any potential trial by adding emotive language. But there has to be a solution that doesn’t remove the agency from reporting, and instead helps to show these incidents for what they are: unacceptable.
The victim support charity Road Peace explains this well and has a ongoing campaign calling on the media and authorities to stop using the word ‘accident’, using its #crashnotaccident hashtag on social media.
Even the American Automobile Association has acknowledged that ‘crash’ should be used in place of ‘accident’, saying that crashes are drivers’ responsibility and not something that ‘just happens’.
So when will we see this implemented across our media and authorities?
Obesity vs inactivity
With almost daily mention being made of the “obesity epidemic” by one or another media outlet and/or politician, what better bandwagon for us active travel campaigners to jump on, right? Actually, wrong – for a number of reasons.
First, the categories of ‘normal weight’, ‘overweight’, ‘obese’ are based on a person’s BMI score, a crude measurement of no more than someone’s height-to-weight ratio that says very little about their general state of health or activity levels.
Second, even if BMI were an accurate measure of someone’s overall health (reminder: it isn’t), it is a divisive and discriminatory concept in the context of active travel advocacy. It risks our message being divided into: “thin people should travel actively because it’s fun, quick, green, and saves money. Non-thin people should travel actively because they need to get thin!” There are so many universal, inclusive benefits to active travel that we don’t need to join the cacophony of unkind voices telling folk in the higher BMI range that their bodies are wrong and we know how to fix them.
But third, even if it were the role of active travel advocacy to police people’s body shapes and sizes (reminder: it absolutely isn’t), what we advocate – in essence, replacing short car journeys with walking or cycling trips – is unlikely to move someone from the ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ BMI range into the ‘normal’ range without additional, far-reaching lifestyle interventions that go way beyond the changes to urban infrastructure we campaign for.
And thus, it is not only more humane, it is also more accurate to talk about active travel as a means of tackling ‘inactivity’ as opposed to ‘obesity’. Embracing active travel may well not make you thin, but it will make you more active. And being more active is something we can positively advocate across all strata of society, irrespective of age, social background, and body shape. This blog post is a good starting point for a more detailed exploration of the manifold issues around this topic.
Road closures vs open streets
As we begin to see more and more active neighbourhoods across Greater Manchester, the access permissions of different transport modes to and through our streets are being changed. The default term for the modal filters, such as bollards or planters, that are used to transform rat runs into access-only streets is often ‘road closures’, or similar.
But the streets are open to everyone; even people using a vehicle. The difference is that through routes are only open to people using active, non-vehicular modes. Signage has been created by campaigners to reflect this (see below), and we can help to keep emphasising that streets are more open to people, including those who were previously disabled by the living environment.
Active travel vs ???
How should we describe the phenomenon for which we’re campaigning? ‘Active travel’ has attained default among those savvy with the lingo, in part because saying ‘walking and cycling’ doesn’t tick all the boxes (e.g. scooting, roller-skating, wheelchairing) and adding all the other specific modes into the phrase would be a bit of a mouthful. If you have any ideas, then please add them to the comments, below…
Words by Ian Pennington and Nick Hubble.
At our last General Meeting of 2020, Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner Chris Boardman said that more than 30 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs – also known as Active Neighbourhoods or Filtered Neighbourhoods) would be implemented across Greater Manchester during 2021. Here we have a …
Just before Christmas, Walk Ride GM member Cat Swanson launched In Tandem, an active travel themed brand for clothing and other merch with an ethical business model. Selling t-shirts, posters and more, In Tandem is a brand for people who are passionate about creating safe and …
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.
For our October General Meeting, we were joined by Morag Rose, a Manchester based walking artist-activist-academic, who in 2006 founded psychogeographical collective The LRM (Loiterers Resistance Movement). Her research, writing and campaigning focuses on public space, access, equality and walking as a creative, political and …
Words by Jack Hunter (Walk Ride Whalley Range) Last Sunday, residents of York Avenue, in Whalley Range, held our first play street. With permission from the council, and help from Walk Ride Whalley Range, we closed our road to through traffic for an afternoon. Residents’ …
Manchester City Council this week announced that it is removing the application fee for Play Streets, which provide the opportunity to open up residential streets for use by people living in those communities.
The council’s website states that, “A group of residents can apply to [open] their road on a regular basis for a few hours each time so there is no danger or inconvenience from through traffic.”
🤸🏾♂️ 🚶🏻♀️🧑🏽🦽 🛴 I’m delighted that @ManCityCouncil have made it much easier for residents to turn their streets into people-friendly ‘playstreets’ by temporarily closing to cars. Application form for #Manchester residents is here. ✍️https://t.co/ocMsrc64P4. pic.twitter.com/yzLf728clt
— Eve Holt 😷 (@evefrancisholt) August 12, 2020
It is a way to meet your neighbours, improve the air quality, enable kids to play safely in the street, give people a chance to see what it would be like without speeding cars, and help to create a better, healthier way to live.
Osborne Road in Levenshulme benefited from becoming an Open Street for an afternoon last year. Residents who organised it said,
“It’s not an event. There’s no bunting. It’s not a street party… we want to be able to normalise regular residential roads for play”
Residents involved with Walk Ride Whalley Range have arranged three streets in their area to be among the first Play Streets under the new system, which is available for free to all Manchester City Council residents. The play streets are York Avenue, Blair Road, and Park Avenue, with dates scheduled for August and September. For more information, follow the Walk Ride Whalley Range page on Facebook.
The application takes up to 4 weeks to process via the Department for Transport.
Other Greater Manchester councils are expected to follow suit by removing the fee when residents apply for temporary Play Streets and similar schemes.
Play streets are one of a number of ways to help demonstrate the benefits of low traffic neighbourhoods. We have created a guide to highlight the current process to bring safer streets to your area, here.
Image of Guywood Lane, Romiley Open Street courtesy of TfGM.
Two public consultations were launched this week for schemes that have the potential to improve the active travel network in Greater Manchester. Monton Village Filtered Neighbourhood and the Fallowfield Loop are the latest locations in the region to be opened for comments from the community. …