Greater Manchester Councillors have been invited to attend a Bee Network workshop on Wednesday 18 September and TfGM have asked for residents to persuade their councillors to attend. The workshop is to allow councillors the opportunity to learn more about active neighbourhoods and what support […]
Greater Manchester Walking Voice is inviting walkers in the region to join them at a Bee Network Engagement event on Wednesday 11 September. GM’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Chris Boardman, will be in attendance, along with fellow walkers, walking agencies, community organisations, population health and […]
Words by Claire Stocks
It’s a year since the Bee Network bank opened for business, so here at Walk Ride GM we thought it was time we looked at which boroughs are leading the way, and which must try harder.
While money isn’t everything, it’s one indicator of which boroughs are taking walking and cycling seriously by aiming to enhance local infrastructure to make it easier and safer to use.
In all, 57 schemes have been greenlit, and more than £330m allocated (although most of it not yet spent)*.
We’ve applied our own ‘Red Amber Green’ system to show which borough needs the most attention. This is based on weighting boroughs for: number of schemes, spend per square mile, spend per head, funds won, and bids in the last six months (in that order).
Salford is the star performer and leads the way – as it has done since the fund launched – with 12 schemes worth £77m, which is more than £300 per head. Some infrastructure is already ‘on the ground’.
We’ll award Stockport with the prize for most improved performer, winning a total of seven bids since Christmas and leaping into second place with a spend per head of £263, so not far behind Salford.
Manchester moves into third spot by virtue of a creditable five more bids since Christmas (versus Wigan’s two). At £1.2m, Manchester’s spend per square mile is twice that of Wigan (and 5th placed Trafford), although it undoubtedly has the heaviest traffic and its schemes’ share of the funding currently tallies significantly less per head.
The most interesting aspect of the table is in highlighting the boroughs that are seemingly not engaging with the Bee Network process and so are failing to prioritise walking and cycling.
While residents of Salford are benefiting to the tune of more than £300 per person, those in Oldham are only seeing a bit of loose change (£3.60) and a paltry £15,000 per square mile, compared with Salford’s £2m.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Oldham and Bolton have had only two schemes approved – and in Oldham’s case nothing since Christmas 2018.
Bolton does have two schemes in the pipeline waiting for approval – Westhoughton and Astley Bridge / Crompton Active Travel Neighbourhoods – thanks to the work of local campaigners.
But, still, something seems amiss in the ways the councils at the bottom of this table are engaging with the Active Travel agenda, for there to be such a disparity in schemes across the boroughs.
As Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said on Twitter this week:
Nope, we cover councils design cost including the hiring of experts (plus an expert team at TfGM at their disposal).
Only reason for not designing driving alternatives into an area is a lack of courage/desire to change the status quo. https://t.co/IjQFvnubdV
— Chris Boardman (@Chris_Boardman) August 13, 2019
So there seems to be no excuse.
We hope that this lack of action is addressed by Bolton’s new leader David Greenhaulgh and Oldham’s Sean Fielding.
And perhaps it can be tabled for discussion by Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, at the new Greater Manchester Transport Committee, on which Fielding sits.
Meanwhile, we await with interest the news about allocations of money in the next tranche.
It is worth noting that allocation of funds is no indication of what is happening on the ground. For instance, a scheme in Wigan that was approved in July 2018 is only just entering consultation:
I believe this is a Tranche1 #BeeNetwork scheme, and Wigan’ve already completed “muddy mile” (tranche3?). @SalfordCouncil Trafford Rd also gone to consultation?
Wish we could, easily, get information about all schemes’ progress, or lack of.@Chris_Boardman @martinkeyBC @MayorofGM https://t.co/TOpCxBlQqJ
— steve h (@matchfacts) August 14, 2019
A word on weighting
We weighted volume of bids more heavily than total value, because there is so much to be done to bring Greater Manchester up to scratch that multiple low-value schemes were considered better than a few massive ones.
We decided to calculate per head spend and per mile spend because we felt that was a better reflection of how much overall value is being delivered to people in the borough, rather than just using a raw total of money won. These figures deserve the closest attention, in our opinion. For instance, Wigan has won £20m more than Trafford, which equates to significantly more per person, but the spend per square mile is the same.
– *Beelines funding figures collated from news reports on the Bee Network website. Figures are accurate to August 2019 (five tranches released since July 2018).
– Borough populations and square mileage were sourced from Wikipedia.
Tomorrow, Thursday 8 August is the annual Cycle to Work Day. Whether you are dusting off the old wheels or looking to make your commute more reliable and healthy, now is the time to get started, alongside thousands of others from the Greater Manchester area. […]
Community groups in Stockport have the opportunity to apply for funding via the council to provide a warm welcome to cyclists competing in the Tour of Britain. The fund has been introduced to help with materials for banners and flags to support the competitors on […]
Councillors are due to convene during August and September to discuss the revised plans. In the meantime, keep writing to your local councillors to outline the importance of this scheme for active travel and healthy living in the area.
In the week when TFGM boasted of its new CYCLOPS junction design, the likelihood of seeing it on the Chorlton Cycleway seems to be diminishing by the day.
On the morning of Sunday 23 June, all seemed normal on Wilbraham Road, a busy thoroughfare going through the heart of Chorlton. Traffic was busy, as usual, and a handful of pedestrians were getting breakfast in the cafes and restaurants close to the Four Banks […]
This evening, hundreds of people attended a group walk and ride through the Northern Quarter and Ancoats to protest the Great Ancoats Street scheme revealed by Manchester City Council earlier this month. Those involved in the event included campaigners from Walk Ride GM, alongside people […]
Over recent years increasing numbers of cities, regions and indeed city-regions have started to take cycling and walking more seriously, and have appointed regional Cycling and Walking Commissioners (or equivalent roles) to steer and oversee these processes of transformation in how we get around. On Monday 17 June the UK’s Cycling and Walking Commissioners were invited to the first national summit hosted in central Manchester by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester.
On the panel were:
- Chris Boardman, GM Cycling and Walking Commissioner
- Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region
- Sarah Storey, Active Travel Commissioner, Sheffield City Region
- Will Norman, London’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner
- Shanaze Reade, West Midlands Cycling and Walking Ambassador
- Liam Robinson, Chair of the Liverpool City Region combined Authority Transport Committee
- Simon O’Brien, Cycling Champion, Liverpool City Council
- Lee Craigie, Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland
Naturally, a couple of WalkRide GM representatives were in attendance, eager to report back on the outcomes of the summit.
Andy Burnham introduced the meeting by explaining that we urgently need a culture change to tackle the combined issues of congestion, pollution and inactivity: in short, we need to stop building for cars. He explained that he had to work hard to convince the ten leaders of the GM Combined Authority to spend the bulk of the Transforming Cities Fund on cycling and walking, but ultimately the fact that active travel brings with it not just economic, but also health and environmental benefits cannot be ignored. Currently 250 million journeys of under a kilometre are made by car across GM, and there is no stronger case for change than his recent experience at a primary school in Radcliffe where only some four children currently cycle, but almost all would if it were safe. This is about the next generation.
Next to speak was Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield, who was elected more recently than Andy Burnham and is seeking to emulate many of the things that are happening across Greater Manchester. He has appointed Sarah Storey as his Active Travel Commissioner and is keen to emphasise that active travel is fun as well as efficient. He acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done in winning over the many people who have not yet bought into the active travel agenda. He then told us that at the upcoming Transport for the North meeting in Bradford, active travel is an agenda item for the first time. He also explained that the Commissioners needed to work not only with national government and the new minister with the active travel brief, Michael Ellis, but also to ensure that active travel is also prioritised at regional level.
It was then the turn of Chris Boardman, our very own Cycling and Walking Commissioner. He started by saying that rather than talking about walking and cycling, he considers his brief to be enabling people to get around without cars. And for that to happen, we need to create alternatives that are at least as appealing as driving. He then outlined the five key areas for nationwide action that the Commissioners have highlighted in a letter to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling:
- A commitment to long-term funding, such as is enjoyed by other modes such as the roads programme overseen by Highways England.
- Political commitment to minimum quality standards, to ensure that any walking and cycling money is spent well. Painted white bike lanes can actually decrease cyclist safety, so should be avoided, for instance.
- Enable revenue from fixed-penalty notices to fund road danger reduction measures. Cuts in policing have resulted in a decline in enforcement of road traffic offences. However, if there were a mechanism by which the revenues from fixed-penalty notices could be re-invested in the community, this could generate public support for both enforcement measures and the resulting road-safety initiatives.
- Keep traffic regulations under review to facilitate innovation: for example to permit pilots of informal zebra crossings (i.e. just the stripes, no beacons), which can be installed for around £300 and which have been proven to enhance safety for pedestrians.
- Transport investment decisions should account for the true cost of car use to society: as a result of ignoring the negative consequences of car use, our society has often underestimated the benefits of active travel and overestimated the value of motorised travel, with the result of a frequent poor rate of return on public money.
Liverpool’s cycling champion Simon O’Brien then took the floor. He related a story from 30 years ago when he realised the cognitive dissonance of having a Greenpeace window sticker in his car, whereupon he sold the car and has since travelled almost exclusively by bike. He said that the key to good PR for walking and cycling is to explain to people why it’s brilliant, and not to cajole people who currently drive. He noted that you can tell how forward-thinking a country is by how many protected bike lanes they have, and that on a visit to Burkina Faso 20 years ago they had more protected bike lanes than Liverpool does, and he suspects that’s still the case. He also intimated that the eternal rivalry with nearby Manchester may be pushing cycling up the agenda in Liverpool.
We then heard from Shanaze Reade with the Midlands perspective. She explained that since taking up post recently she has been exploring the barriers to cycling and spending a lot of time in schools, noting that nowadays many children can’t even ride a bike. She welcomed the opportunity to compare notes with other commissioners, and explained how she’s particularly passionate about enabling more women to cycle.
Next up was Lee Craigie, Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland, who started by outlining her background as a mountain-biker and outdoor instructor, before reminiscing about a childhood many of us of a certain age can relate to, namely buzzing about on bikes with your mates pretending to be characters from 1970s/1980s kids’ TV shows. She noted that Scotland is currently 50 years behind the Dutch position and is still hugely car-obsessed. She addressed an issue that many of us are painfully aware of, that many elected members are terrified of the potential backlash from their electorate if they are seen to be anti-car: indeed, many car drivers in Scotland (but not only there) deem bike-riders worthy of fewer rights on the road. Research shows the main barrier to cycling in Scotland not to be the weather or the terrain, but that there are simply too many cars. Cycling levels in Scotland remain at a stubborn 3% of journeys. Children in deprived areas are three times more likely to walk or cycle to school, but they are disproportionately affected by tailpipe emissions and traffic danger, so improving active travel is in fact also a social justice issue. On the plus side, Scotland has increased its active travel budget to £80 million (which is match-funded by local authorities), representing spend of a respectable £25 or so per head. Traffic injuries are down, and the 3% cycling levels conceal localised peaks such as 9% in Edinburgh. Six major infrastructure projects are being built and there are another ten in the pipeline. And Edinburgh is currently closing central streets one Sunday a month for 18 months to give a flavour of what a car-free city looks like.
The next speaker was Dame Sarah Storey, Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region. She explained that she has been in post since 1 April 2019 and is keen to ensure that any initiatives have community buy-in, that people decide themselves to get out of their cars. Similar to GM, in Sheffield 40% of car journeys are less than 1km. She reiterated the need for minimum quality standards and that her background in para-sport means that she’s particularly focused on ensuring that infrastructure is accessible to disabled people. She then outlined her timetable for drawing up standards, network planning and getting the first infra on the ground by May 2020. Her last point was that leisure cycling is worth focusing on as many people progress from leisure to utility cycling, so that is also a key part of her strategy.
Last up was Will Norman, London’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner, who started by saying that all around the world it’s cities, not nations, that are truly innovating, which is why this forum is important. And this panel represents 22 million people, and thus a sizeable proportion of the UK population. His brief under Sadiq Khan is to increase walking, cycling and public transport levels from an already enviable 68% to 80%. He reiterated the need for a plan at both national and local levels and said that London has done more partly because it is able to access funding differently. Some London policies such as safer trucks should be national, not just regional. Walking and cycling is as much about changing neighbourhoods as it is about travel: in streets that have had an active-travel upgrade, there tend to be fewer empty retail units. He closed by saying that the inactivity issue is very important in London, where 20% of children do not meet WHO activity criteria.
Andy Burnham then collected questions from the floor:
- A representative of Manchester University NHS Trust asked about the link between active travel and health, for instance in the context of social prescribing.
- A representative of the Ramblers reiterated the need for sustained funding and parity with other modes.
- A representative of the Urban Transport Group reiterated the points about the need for defined standards and funding as well as more action around road safety.
- A representative of the Global Action Plan, which is behind Clean Air Day, asked the panel what they would be doing on this year’s Clean Air Day (Thursday 20 June).
- Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive, of Cycling UK explained that he has been in post for five years and is now on his fourth minister with the active travel brief, which is part of the problem. He said in order to sell the issue to the UK populace we need a relatable PR campaign.
- A journalist from the Sunday Times addressed Andy Burnham, asking how he intends to bridge the gap between the £160 million currently committed to the Nee Network and the £1.5 billion that Chris Boardman says it needs.
- Journalist Laura Laker then asked what the world would look like if active travel were given the prominence it deserves.
- The final point from the floor came from Roger Geffen of Cycling UK, who said that the government’s minimum design standards looked pretty good but the challenge will be to ensure they are applied consistently.
Andy Burnham gave the panel the opportunity to pick which question to respond to.
Simon O’Brien said that on Clean Air Day he’ll be riding his bike like every day, and that initiatives like this need to be a focal point for broader activities.
Andy Burnham then said that he thinks this group should be formalised and meet, say, once a quarter, to which the others agreed.
Shanaze Reade said that on Clean Air Day she will be visiting a school, and that she thinks a campaign such as the recent This Girl Can would be effective.
Lee Craigie answered Laura Laker’s question by saying we wouldn’t need an active travel budget in that world, and made us all slightly jealous by saying that she’ll be spending Clean Air Day at home in the Scottish Highlands, where pretty much every day is Clean Air Day.
Will Norman answered the NHS point by saying that it’s not just about the health of the population, but also about the NHS as a major organisation: how its staff gets to work, how it organises its deliveries etc. And on Clean Air Day he’ll be at a play street in Great Ormond Street talking about London’s forthcoming car-free day.
Liam Robinson from Liverpool explained that the role of the Commissioners is to hold elected representatives to account, that the issues around active travel need to be popularised more and that Liverpool has a campaign called “Arrive Happy” that also focuses on the mental-health benefits of active travel.
Dan Jarvis reiterated the need to stress the link between active travel and health and well-being, that we should be talking about investment and not just funding, and that one possible upside of a Boris Johnson premiership may be an increased focus on active travel. On Clean Air Day he’ll be at the Transport for North summit with Andy Burnham.
Andy Burnham closed by addressing the funding point. He said that with matched funding the £160 million has become £205 million. But what we need to see is for the Transforming Cities fund to become permanent, and that we should await a potential spending review later in the year.
For us at WalkRide GM this was a fascinating overview of the current landscape in the UK at the present moment around the issues we campaign on. On the one hand, such a summit would have been a lonely affair for Will Norman just two or three years ago, and the fact that such an illustrious panel is now possible is testament to the increasing political significance of walking/cycling/active travel across the UK.
At the same time, there seemed to be a certain amount of improvisation going on: “Oh, you’re doing that in your region, let’s see how it works here”, which of course is a stark contrast to how roads are built. The key messages were around the need to ensure not only that national standards for cycling and walking are in place, but that they are observed in every single transport scheme across the UK, no matter what the funding stream. And most crucially: the fact that we don’t know where the next chunk of cash is coming from is playing on everyone’s minds, and it is essential that that is secured to end the previous cycle of stop-start funding, with the logical outcome of the all-too familiar stop-start infrastructure, which benefits no one.
The bottom line is that we’re on the right side of the argument, momentum is growing but we need to buckle up for the long haul. While we’ve made a lot of progress in a short time, we’re still very much at the start of this journey, and we hope you’ll stick with us in making Greater Manchester – and indeed all the other (city-)regions represented today – the best places for walking and cycling they can possibly be.
ACTIVE TRAVEL SUMMIT – March 2019 I attended the Active Travel Summit organized by Labour Cycles on 16th March. Despite the London-centric nature of the conference (raised eyebrows that we’d come from Manchester), there were some points that it’s worth Walk Ride GM considering. […]