Cycle scheme plan secures £15m

Simon Donohue

Transport for Greater Manchester is understood to have secured £15m from the Government's Cycle City Ambition Grant programme to encourage more people to get on their bikes.

The money will be used to invest in a network of cycle lanes and cycle-and-ride bike parks.

Transport for Greater Manchester, which bid for £20m, has drawn up a 12-year cycling strategy, called Velocity 2025, on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The aim is to make cycling mainstream cycling and increase the number of people cycling by 300% by 2025.

TFGM says the grant could unlock further cycling investment for Velocity 2025 worth £150m to £200m from public and private partners over a ten-year period.

Velocity 2025 includes a new network of cycle routes, some integrated and some segregated from other road traffic linking employment centres, schools and leisure facilities.

The destinations involved in the planned network include Ashton-under-Lyne, Prestwich, Manchester Airport, Stockport town centre, Media City UK and Wilmslow Road to East Didsbury.

Cycle-and-ride facilities are now expected to be developed to help people connect with Metrolink and rail services from the outskirts of the regional centre.

There could also be a programme of cycling promotion and education inspired by the success achieved with similar initiatives in Germany and augmented by strong partnerships with organisations such as British Cycling, Sustrans, CTC and local cycle groups.

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It could be good and with the bid being co-ordinated through TfGM there is promise that it is not simply be a narrow cycle-focussed programme. Many people will not cycle down in to the natural bowl in which Manchester sits over the distances involved and face the long and often stiff climbs back out for their return journey. Combining cycle journeys that the mass of the population can comfortably manage with longer journeys by other modes is exactly why over 60% of Dutch rail passengers cycle to the station – within the 4 Km distance range, but the figure quickly drops down that distance increases. TfGM will, once the Metrolink network is completed have one of the widest geographically-spread tram networks, and despite the promises of looking at restoring cycle carriage to the rail routes taken over by Metrolink, there has been a door firmly kept closed, when any initiatives have been put forward. Yet the development of Metrolink, displaced many who combined rail and cycle to travel in to the city from Bury, Altrincham, Oldham, and to a lesser degree (because they retained nearby rail routes) other parts of the city, and very little has been delivered to either restore cycle carriage (and outside the city core – where it is actually faster to cycle and the trams are not always filled throughout the day), or to deliver the options for combining cycling and Metrolink without diminishing passenger capacity when the trams are filled at times of peak demand. The same applies in many respects to the rail network, where secure parking and commuter-oriented bike hire, either the folding bikes of Brompton Dock, or the Dutch model rolling out in the UK as Bike’n’Go, are likely to be appropriate solutions. I’d hope that people also recognise that those are different from a bike sharing system which is more suited to a concentrated city centre area for grab & go use. In the centre perhaps a substantial delivery of 2-way cycling across some of the 1-way system, where it already goes on unofficially, and some cycle ‘access’ turns (eg From London Road Northbound to the Fairfield St entrance for Piccadilly Station) might be considered after observing the actual behaviour of cyclists indicating demand. I think, although this does involve commercial operators, that cycle carriage/connections to the much faster (than current rail) direct bus/coach services to Burnley, Colne, Accrington, although a 100Km/h coach would vastly improve the experience over the 80Km/h bus gasping flat out on the Motorway sections of the route in from Burnley, and deliver a well connected bike-coach-bike door to door journey. The right mix can deliver some phenomenal economic gains. An actual example of a couple in St Werberghs selling both their cars and making their main longer trips in to the city with Metrolink, but combining this with folding bikes, for local trips and extending their options via Metrolink boosted their value in locally spent income by around £4000 per year, without increasing their wages cost to their employers, or their tax code – because no pay rise was needed. Imagine that multiplied across a few thousand Manchester households able to embrace cycling as part of a total travel regime – which is where I came in. With the fully integrated detail cycling acts as the lubrication to unlock train, tram and bus as equivalent to and often faster than using private cars, and makes it possible to escape the heavy drain on finances that owning a car delivers, look beyond the bike riding to the bike use. One final area to make sure to include in the development – Cycle Logistics. With cycle logistics the potential to offer low cost and fast local delivery of around 90% of van delivered packages, and an estimated 30% of all deliveries to businesses in the city, Manchester could sweep away the clutter of vans, often blocking footways or carriageways delivering ridiculously small packages. At the same time the work can employ young people with minimal academic qualifications and bring them in to the jobs market, as well as providing flexible work for the semi-retired, and those with commitments that prevent them working conventional hours. With structured cycle logistics Manchester could also have door to door deliveries to or from London in under 3 hours – that is door to door, not station to station – you want it urgently at 9 am and you’ll have it by lunchtime, and it won’t cost the earth.

By Dave H