Following the publication yesterday of Transport for Greater Manchester's video fly-through of new cycle lanes for Manchester's university district, one of the city's senior designers responds.
See TfGM video below
The designer, who asked not to be named, wrote to Place overnight with the following review of the proposals:
For decades the approach to street design has been too heavily focused on facilitating longitudinal movement of motor vehicles to the detriment of everything else that wants to happen in the same spaces. Much has been written and discussed on this topic, with government agencies and design institutions publishing design guidance to help local authorities move away from a car dominated environment. The increasing popularity of cycling, particularly in the last five years, has demonstrated a shift in public opinion, helping politicians and local authorities take more risks knowing there is public support for such changes.
It is important to note that these risks are ones of perception and general inherent resistance to change, any change. There is a national and an international body of studies, empirical evidence, research papers and successfully delivered schemes that provides comfort and support to address these risks.
Oxford Road Manchester is an excellent opportunity for Manchester City Council and TfGM to harness this paradigm change and capitalise on the work and projects that have been delivered elsewhere to design a scheme that would be a world class exemplar of high quality urban infrastructure. The current proposals for the street are simply not ambitious enough. Cycling through this student dominated university campus should be given the highest priority within the space, while maintaining bus routes in parallel.
Rather than stringing sections of segregated cycle paths together with breaks at junctions and diving on and off the bus prioritised space, it should be seamless.
A more ambitious Oxford Road should have a generous cycling route running the full length of the street, placed in the centre of the street, it should run straight through the junctions, such that all other transport is subordinate to cyclists. The dressing and materials used to form the space should not have conventional lining, marking and basic black tarmac, but should rely on the new landscape, human interaction, the activities of the street frontages extending out into the spaces and the use of a basic rolled materials (similar and comparable in cost to tarmac) but different colours with clever use of detailing to distinguish particular issues of cross movement or dedicated crossings for pedestrians. This landscape could be punctuated with new green infrastructure to soften the environment and incorporate some meaningful sustainable drainage systems into the street, managing water and marshalling movement.
Oxford Road needs to be designed as a complete composition and calls for a more sophisticated response to this brief. The current proposals are a binary response to the complex and broad range of demands placed on the space. If a new design standard can't be set for this project MCC will struggle to convince anyone that it is serious about delivering innovation and hamper the city's ability to attract the skills, talent and businesses it desires as part of its drive to be a world leading knowledge economy.