The money for the active neighbourhood trials comes from the ‘Mayor’s Challenge Fund’, which is being used to implement a Greater Manchester-wide high quality walking and cycling network.
The Fund is for the purpose of designing a Greater Manchester wide walking and cycling network which, when completed, will be one of the largest in the world.
The GM Bee Network project, headed by Chris Boardman recognises that previous attempts to improve walking and cycling through infrastructure has failed – it has not enabled the shift to walking and cycling from car use that it was supposed to. That’s because it’s been of poor quality, not following examples of places that have managed that shift. So the MCF only hands out money according to strict criteria that meets international best practice.
One of the key criteria is the ’12 year old on a bike test’.
On busy main roads, such as the A6, international best practice shows that you need to physically separate cyclists from motor vehicles with segregated cycle tracks. Would you want your 12 year old relative cycling on the A6 with anything less?
But that’s just part of the picture. Most local journeys in Levenshulme and Burnage are not on those main roads, but on the quieter ones. We need a walking and cycling infrastructure network that caters for those journeys too.
Otherwise, as London experienced with their Cycle Superhighway schemes, the main beneficiaries will be commuters accessing the city centre. What about the parents taking their children to school, what about the journey to the mosque, and what about local shopping?
There’s not the space on most of our streets to put in segregated cycle lanes, especially since most of our street space is used for car parking. So you have to manage car movements in a way that will make that 12 year old comfortable enough to cycle on the road to school. International best practice shows that neither traffic calming nor one way streets achieve that if traffic volume is too high.
The only way is to prevent rat running is through the use of ‘modal filters’ – so that only people actually driving on each street are the ones driving to that street.
How many modal filters you use in an area depends on the volume of traffic going down each through road. Unfortunately, where we live, every through road has too much traffic for comfortable cycling, and so all back streets require filtering.
So there’s no scenario where our community will gain from £2.5 million of improvements for walking and cycling without the widespread use of modal filters.
Our local councillors all know that. Unfortunately, they keep telling people (or at least heavily implying) that’s not the case, in a bid to quell opposition from a vocal minority, rather than take arguments head on.
There’s two interrelated problems with that strategy: 1 – it’s dishonest. Our campaign believes that you must win people over with conviction and confidence. 2 – people here are smart, and will record everything you say to discredit both you and the project in the future.
Please, stop messing the community about. We have a fantastic opportunity to make a huge difference to physical and mental health, to reduce transport-related inequalities, and to do our bit to stop the worst of climate change.
Be brave and make these arguments, and ensure that the project you started – which was a brilliant and brave thing to do – is successful. Thank you.