Author: Ian Pennington

2021: The Year of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

2021: The Year of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

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 

January Offer: 15% off In Tandem’s Ethical Active Travel Merch for Walk Ride Readers

January Offer: 15% off In Tandem’s Ethical Active Travel Merch for Walk Ride Readers

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 

Review: Walk Ride GM December General Meeting

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 ellen.holmes@cyclinguk.org.

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).

Chris Boardman

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 kirsty.mccaskill-baxter@tfgm.com.

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.

Full Meeting

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.

Interview: Morag Rose (The Loiterers Resistance Movement)

Interview: Morag Rose (The Loiterers Resistance Movement)

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 

“We Just Held Our First Play Street – Here’s What Made It a Success”

“We Just Held Our First Play Street – Here’s What Made It a Success”

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 Residents Encouraged to Apply for ‘Play Streets’ to Create Safer Neighbourhoods

Manchester Residents Encouraged to Apply for ‘Play Streets’ to Create Safer Neighbourhoods

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.”

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.

Consultation Maps Launched for Monton Neighbourhood Area and Fallowfield Loop Route

Consultation Maps Launched for Monton Neighbourhood Area and Fallowfield Loop Route

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. 

TfGM Confirms £3.1m Emergency Active Travel Fund Allocations for Greater Manchester

TfGM Confirms £3.1m Emergency Active Travel Fund Allocations for Greater Manchester

TfGM has officially announced the road safety measures that will be built across Greater Manchester as part of Tranche 1 of the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF). Many of the schemes, which will be funded by the £3.1m Tranche 1 budget, have previously been announced 

Why Prioritise Active Travel? The Social Justice Reasons

Why Prioritise Active Travel? The Social Justice Reasons

Social justice issues lie at the heart of our campaigns to create healthy streets, and this is even more stark during the COVID-19. Chris Boardman, the Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, reiterated this during his interview with Radio 4’s World at One on Thursday 16 July: “The most important point that isn’t getting across is: who is this for? [The A56 pop-up lane] isn’t actually a cycle lane at the moment; it’s an alternative to public transport.”

Here we highlight some of the reasons that active travel provides social justice, starting with Boardman’s point:

Public Transport Capacity

As Chris Boardman says in the World at One interview, one third one Greater Manchester households do not own a car, with that figure rising to 45% of households in Manchester. These people are largely the poorest in the Greater Manchester area and in the lowest-paid, most precarious jobs. They are disproportionately women and BAME people, who are known to be worst affected by COVID-19.

The alternatives for those who do not own a car are usually many and varied, from the regional Metrolink to the bus network to cycling and walking. However, currently, in a time when we have been told it is our civic duty to avoid public transport, those options are limited. Even with face coverings, public transport use will be severely restricted to as little as 20% of capacity, so there needs to be a safe option for those who would usually use public transport to go to work, shops, school or elsewhere. With previously 300,000 daily public transport users, it would mean 240,000 people per day need to find a transport mode that isn’t car or public transport.

Without imminent provision of safe travel lanes, which could accommodate bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, skateboards and more, those without access to a car would face tough choices. Should they risk their and their family’s health by boarding an overcrowded bus? Should they risk getting into debt leasing a car? Or should they stay at home and risk losing their jobs?

COVID-19 Keep Your Distance

Car Financing

The increased availability of car finance has kept car sales high over the past few years. The widespread use of car finance means that very few people actually own their cars; they lease them and have to keep up monthly payments on them, a bit like a mortgage.

Given this situation, people working in finance are worried that car finance could lead to the next ‘credit crunch’. In practical terms, a rise in unemployment will also mean a lot of people losing their cars. There is risk of more people being added to the 80% of regular public transport users unable to fit onto trains and buses in the context of social distancing, as they search for work.

Therefore, the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 is likely to hit hardest those who have been forced into car dependency and cannot afford to retain a car without their regular income.

Add to this the fact that driving is already heavily subsidised and it becomes clear it’s harmful to society on social, economic and environmental considerations, as the next point illustrates…

Pollution and Severance of Inner-city Communities

Since the proliferation of the motor car in the 1960s, air and noise pollution has affected social cohesion, which has in turn been shown to predict unhealthy behaviours, poor health and mortality. The communities around the most polluted routes are among the poorest in Greater Manchester – including a disproportionate number of BAME residents – and experience health inequalities as a result.

Studies have shown that air pollution, deprivation and poor health can combine to increase risk of disease. During a respiratory disease pandemic, this means that by inviting cars back onto our roads – and not providing safe, direct routes for more space-efficient alternatives – we are condemning those living in areas of the poorest air quality (Air Quality Management Areas, or AQMAs) to greater vulnerability to disease, including COVID-19.

COVID-19 has particularly highlighted this social injustice in relation to air pollution’s impact on BAME residents – a study found that, “patients from ethnic minorities were twice as likely as white patients to live in areas of environmental and housing deprivation, and that people from these areas were twice as likely to arrive at hospital with more severe coronavirus symptoms and to be admitted to intensive care units.”

So Chris Boardman’s call for travel heroes to use active travel modes unless absolutely impossible takes on another health imperative: ensuring that people’s health is not impacted and pressure is not piled back onto the NHS.

Clean Air GM

Bicycle Access

By comparison with driving, and even public transport, riding a bicycle is very cheap. However, in the context of travel options during COVID-19, there is a risk that the poorest in society may not be able to afford a bicycle in the short-term, so excluding them from the benefits of getting around that cycling brings, such as trips to work. Here, the Greater Manchester councils must step in to support the most deprived in society.

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is helping by funding The Active Wellbeing Society to help with initiatives such as short-term bike loans. WMCA are also offering to deliver free cycle parking racks to up to 100 businesses in the region, so mechanisms are available to authorities.

Images courtesy of TfGM.

Why Prioritise Active Travel? The Health Reasons

Why Prioritise Active Travel? The Health Reasons

Words by Dr Patrick Carrington, Lead Cancer Clinician for Trafford overseeing provision of all cancer services in Trafford hospital First, a bit of context – I have been a doctor treating people with various diseases for around 40 years, and for over 30 years I