Sir Richard Leese
Sir Richard Leese spoke at a BDP event in March on the city's journey to net zero carbon

Manchester eyes further cycling and walking changes

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Manchester City Council will use lockdown easing to find more ways to encourage walking and cycling across the city, according to council leader Sir Richard Leese.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday regarding the changes to lockdown measures, Leese said it was “vitally important that here in Manchester we continue to be cautious as we continue the fight against Covid-19”.

“Strict social distancing will still be necessary and as some people return to their place of work, making sure that our transport systems remain safe is paramount. For this reason, those of us who can remain working from home should do so.

“This will free up capacity on public transport to allow those who have to travel to be able to do so safely. Staggering work patterns and travel times will also be important to limit congestion and allow ample space in our workplaces.”

The last seven weeks of lockdown have seen an increase in roadworks, across Manchester as well as other cities such as Liverpool, as local authorities seek to take advantage of quieter roads.

The Covid-19 outbreak has also resulted in a drop in pollution levels across the UK, and as climate change targets remain in place, actions being taken to ensure environmental improvements are maintained.

Earlier this month, Manchester City Council announced a large portion of Deansgate would be pedestrianised, in a pilot scheme to encourage an increase in footfall in the city while also enabling social distancing.

Leese has now called on Manchester’s neighbourhoods to put forward further ideas for improvements to walking and cycling routes.

“During the lockdown, our highways team has been working to widen busy footpaths to make sure pedestrians can keep 2m apart at all times – and we will pilot the pedestrianisation of parts of Deansgate to test how we can make our city centre more attractive for people who want to walk and cycle.

“We would welcome ideas from within our communities as to how we can make their neighbourhoods safer. This crisis provides us an opportunity to think differently about how we use our towns and cities, and we must take it.”

In Manchester City Council’s emerging lockdown plan, released to the council’s executive last week, increased emphasis on walking and cycling will form a large part of the city’s coronavirus recovery, allowing some return to activity without risking infection from over-crowded public transport. Increasing use of walking and cycling is seen as essential in many UK cities which would struggle to cope with more cars on the roads.

The announcements chime with Government priorities, with transport secretary Grant Shapps announcing a £250m active travel fund to create cycling lanes and wider pavements.

The money is the first phase of a £2bn investment which was in the pipeline prior to the coronavirus outbreak and was revealed in February.

The Government’s latest position on lockdown is to allow some return to work, particularly in construction and manufacturing, if social distancing is still able to be maintained. Workers who can work from home still should.

However, while the Government has asked workers to avoid public transport where possible, an increase in bus and tram use is still likely. This has led to concerns from Greater Manchester’s politicians that public transport will become strained as more workers use the network, however more services will be required to allow passengers to space out.

A statement from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said already more people were using public transport as a result of the changes announced by the Government on Sunday night.

“But no extra funding has been provided to run the extra services needed to enable people to follow social distancing requirements,” the statement continued.

To date, the Government has agreed to cover 73% of Greater Manchester tram network Metrolink’s current monthly costs on a service operating at 20-minute intervals with much-reduced capacity. Changes in Government guidance are expected to bring more passengers back to the system but there is no funding to provide the extra capacity needed.”

Your Comments

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Who on earth is using public transport at a time like this?

By Dan

Dan – some people have no choice. Don’t be so ignorant

By Anonymous

This is great to hear. Please please please keep getting more protective infrastructure on the ground, MCC. We need the council to be genuinely open to hearing from the public where the problem locations are with regards to safe distancing for people using active travel modes.

Greater Manchester will only go backwards on its Climate aims if private car is the mode we’re enabling.

By Active Travel Trev

This is all well and good but i think people are losing faith in the old guard. They have done a great job but now are behind the times, reactive and not forward thinking anymore. Their time has been and gone. They need to step aside and we need young leaders to replace them.

Andy burnham and Chris Boardman are doing a great job but are not supported properly by the Council.

By New broom required

@Dan – key workers who have no other way of getting to work. Pretty tough to run a car on a hospital cleaner or supermarket floor workers salary – yet they’re having to take risks to keep us alive.

After this we need a fairer settlement – no way people should be earning hundreds of thousands a year whilst those who have to take risks on our behalf get less than the living wage.

By Really?

As more and more people return to work in the City Centre, who want to cycle into the centre, but commute large distances, surely more provision for park and ride on the outskirts of the centre, such as Didsbury, Crumpsall etc will have to be considered, surely? People who previously used public transport (and may be nervous to do so now) and commute more than 20 miles might not want to cycle (depending on their health conditions) such distances so additional parking centres should be considered to allow their cycling commute to be shortened, making it more viable.

By Karen

Dan – lot’s of well-balanced people who haven’t become brainwashed wallies over Covid-19.

By North by North-West

@Really Get back to Russia, comrade.

By Yes, Really

If you want people on their bikes … do a simple thing & fill in the potholes, some roads are so dangerous :-(

By Bo

What about cycle lanes? Great Ancoats St is being renovated but there won’t be any room for cyclists after the roadworks. Instead the council is turning it into 6 lane motorway. Shame Manchester City council!

By Ben

MCC are a joke. An unprecedented opportunity to transform the city centre and all they’ve done so far is temporarily close 250 metres of deansgate. No ambition no vision no clue.
I’m so disappointed with them.
In Manchester we do things different. Well this is correct because every city with a modicum of sense is doing transformational stuff.
Manchester going to fall behind very quickly.

By Mcr resident

@Yes, Really – not really communist to suggest that the people risking their health/lives to look after us and keep shops open during this crisis should be paid a living wage.

By Really?

Have a re think on the “free” bikes. I loved the orange GO bikes but the ease of dumping them was their downfall. Look at a boris bike system.
As a worker that visits Manchester city centre at least 3 times a week I park up behind the MEN for £3.10 for 24hrs….I’m sure that will change soon ! And walk , furthest would be end of oxford rd, right now I’m loving the peace and quiet. Manchester is a great cycling city plus sooo many students use the routes, but cars and bikes just dont mix.
Ps how about a secure garage for bikes. ?

By Colin clarke