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Open letter to the leadership of MCC

Streets for People have written the following open letter to Cllr Tracey Rawlins, executive member for transport at Manchester City Council, in which we call for a public meeting for residents to be updated, and have the chance to discuss, MCC’s Levenshulme & Burnage Active Neighbourhood project. We will update you as soon as we have a reply.

In the meantime, please ask friends and family to sign our Join the Dots petition.


“To Cllr Tracey Rawlins. cc: Chris Boardman, Cllr Azra Ali, Cllr Ben Clay, Cllr Bev Craig, Cllr Zahid Hussain, Cllr Dzidra Noor, Cllr Basat Sheikh, Afzal Khan MP

5 July 2021

Dear Cllr Rawlins (and copied parties)

I am Chair of Streets for People Levenshulme and Burnage, a group of local residents campaigning for better walking and cycling facilities in our area, and to end to the dominance of motor vehicles, which is rapidly accelerating the climate emergency, making us sick from air pollution and reinforcing inequalities.

As you will be aware, Manchester City Council has a long-running Active Neighbourhood project in our area. We are now nearly seven months into what was supposed to be a six month trial of modal filters, with the intention of submitting a business case for an extra £1.8 million in funding for a permanent scheme to significantly improve walking cycling facilities in our area following the trial period.

Although you will be aware that the scheme has been a source of debate and occasional disagreement, you will also be aware that the scheme has consistently demonstrated clear majority support through the various ways in which it has been consulted on. Indeed, the consultation prior to the beginning of the trail demonstrated, in the words of MCC, an ‘overwhelming’ two thirds majority in favour of the much more ambitious plans than MCC subsequently implemented. You will also know that MCC is committed both to vastly improving active travel infrastructure across the city (having signed up to the Made to Move proposals), and that MCC has promised to cut carbon emissions in the city to ‘net zero’ by 2040, which entails very quickly reducing car-based emissions (and therefore trips by car).

Streets for People recognise that the filter trial has brought significant benefits to many residents, particularly the 40% of households with no access to a car, most of who are from the most economically disadvantaged parts of our community. We have seen more people riding bikes, more people walking comfortably in the road (where pavement parking prevents comfortable pavement walking), and we know that it has given confidence to many residents for whom walking was previously not an option (for example the child of one of our members who could not previously walk to school unaccompanied because of dangerous rat-running traffic). Removal of the trial filters would only be a backwards step.

However, the measures implemented so far are currently insufficient to meet the aims of the active neighbourhood project, or the funding criteria for a permanent scheme. The watering-down of the trial, plus the lack of new crossings and other traffic calming measures on so-called boundary roads, means that the trial has not created a network of safe walking and cycling routes between residential properties and community amenities, such as shops, mosques and bus stops. Also, despite extra extensive consultation, the North Burnage section of the trial, due to begin in the Spring, is yet to emerge. Finally, while a two hour school street trial is very welcome, we need a much faster and more ambitious programme of school streets than the one that has so far developed. Our ‘join the dots petition’, which has now been signed by over 300 residents, makes these points strongly.

We feel that the original aims of the scheme can be met if MCC would be clearer on the important social, economic and environmental reasons for seriously tackling car dependency. MCC could then build on the solid majority base of support for project and its aims, to take even more of the community with it and create an infrastructure which makes it attractive and viable for residents to leave their car at home for short journeys.

More than anything, we believe it is time for MCC to hold a public meeting (online if necessary) to update residents on the project and what it intends to do next. Whatever anyone’s opinion on the matter, everyone in the community deserves to be told what MCC’s plans are, and the opportunity to put their case across both to MCC and fellow residents.

Positive change that makes a real difference was never easy. Above all, our community deserves clear communication and the chance to speak with each other, away from the divisive and, for  many residents, inaccessible space of social media. With a commitment to democracy, leadership, and taking climate science seriously, we will create a healthier and safer community for all residents.

We look forward to receiving your commitment to stage a public meeting, in which the project managers address the community and allow residents to offer their views in response, to be held in the next four weeks.

Thank you

Sincerely

Tom Haines-Doran

Chair, Streets for People Levenshulme and Burnage”

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School Streets are go!

School Streets - The movement for children's freedom grows - Playing Out

Manchester City Council are trialling a School Street on Thursday 1st July at Alma Park Primary School, following years of hard campaigning by local residents.

A School Street prevents non-residential traffic from passing by or close to a school. School streets are common in other parts of the country. They are proven to make children’s journey to school safer, and to allow more parents to leave their car at home, taking walking and cycling options instead, which improves children’s health and reduces air pollution.

The red dots on the map below show where temporary closure of roads to motor vehicles will take place, leaving the area around Alma Park traffic-free for the time of the trial, which will run from 2-4pm. If parents have to drive for whatever reason, they are encouraged to park at Tesco’s on Alma Road, just a very short walk from the school gates. Tesco are aware of this arrangement.

Local residents, buses, and essential emergency vehicles will still be able to access the school street area at these times, but will be slowly guided by volunteer marshals. Because Alma Park School lacks the capacity to provide marshals itself, it is asking volunteers from parents and the community to help in this role, for which training will be provided. If you are interested in volunteering, please email centralnt@manchester.gov.uk as soon as possible.

Streets for People enthusiastically welcomes this trial, noting that it has taken a considerable effort of organising to keep the pressure on Manchester City Council to get this far. All of those involved in campaigning should be very proud of what they have achieved so far.

In the lead-up to the trial and beyond we also need to think about what a permanent School Street scheme would look like. Most obviously it would need to also involve St Mary’s school, just south of the current trial area.

Manchester City Council have chosen a large area for the trial, which is why so many Marshalls are needed. In the long term this is unsustainable, needing 20 volunteers or staff to cover three or more hours of marshalling Monday to Friday.

Things would be a lot simpler with a bus gate (bus-only through access) on Errwood Road, and a filter on Alma Road, or some similar arrangement, which would reduce through traffic permanently, putting less stress on the School Street area. This was part of the original Active Neighbourhood plans, but the Active Neighbourhood has been delayed to ‘Phase 2’ of the project, after further consultation. Phase 2 was due to begin in the Spring, but Manchester City Council have yet to announce the reason for its delay. It is high time they informed the community of its plans for this area.

But bus gates and filters do not completely solve the issue of the polluted and dangerous school runs that are damaging the health and wellbeing of the community. School streets are needed too, especially to solve the problem of turning vehicles dropping off and picking up kids (with St Andrews on Broom Avenue being a good example). So, despite the limitations of the trial, it’s good to finally see some activity on the ground.

Streets for People members will be volunteering our time to make the trial as successful as possible. It will be a steep learning curve for all of us, but it is the right thing to do. As always, we want to make this work for the whole community and have the widest possible conversation about lessons learned and how to make much greater progress. We also want to see similar progress on all of the schools in Burnage and Levenshulme. The funding is available to make that happen. Trialling one school at a time over several months and years is too slow to deal with the air pollution and climate emergencies.

Onwards and upwards!

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Come to our community events!

Streets for People are proud to announce a series of socially distanced community events. We’re here to help our neighbours get out of their cars and to walk and cycle in our community and beyond.

Come join us! All events are free!

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Letter to our neighbours on the One Levenshulme protest

We support your right to protest, even if we don’t agree with your desire to remove the trial modal filters and suspend the Active Neighbourhood project.

If you really want to reduce traffic and air pollution that means reducing the amount of journeys made by car. 30% of journeys in Manchester made by car are under 1km. If we could transfer many of those journeys to walking and cycling, that would make a big impact on traffic and pollution.

Making walking and cycling attractive enough for those that currently drive involves providing a safe and comfortable network of infrastructure to allow that to happen. That means linking filtered roads with crossings and speed calming measures on main roads.

We need both filtering and main road interventions for a functioning active neighbourhood. If you narrow and add crossings to main roads without filtering the adjacent streets, cars would redirect down these back streets. We need a low traffic neighbourhood, not just a slow traffic neighourhood.

One Levenshulme (OL) ignore that the trial of filters will unlock £1.8 million in funding, which can be used on permanent measures, including measures for main roads. Removing the trial would be devastating for residents on both filtered and unfiltered streets. Filters mean Funding for our community.

We thought this was common knowledge. In December last year OL supported the trial of 14 of the planned filters and an additional 5 paused filters, which they acknowledged had ‘strong support from the community‘ (OL have since deleted that post, but we took the precaution of archiving it for posterity, since we suspected such support was a temporary position short of campaigning for the total removal of filters later on.)

We mustn’t forget that at the major public consultation that took place ahead of the trials, some 2/3rds of residents supported them going ahead. There is clear majority in favour of both the concept of filtering rat runs and trialing filter locations. OL’s petition calls for the scrapping of the ongoing online public consultation while at the same time their website encourages residents to participate in it. Which is it to be? It’s not right to only accept consultation outcomes where they reflect your opinions.

S4P will continue to campaign for fewer cars, less pollution and safer walking and cycling on every street. This is why we started our “join the dots” campaign that has 3 major asks:

  • Take action on “boundary roads”
  • Strengthen the network of modal filters to make safer routes, not just individually filtered streets
  • Encourage walking and cycling via other measures, including School Streets and walking buses, improvements to pavements, provision for cycle parking, etc.

Only with all of these actions will a true active neighbourhood be possible.

We have also put together a list of detailed suggestions for plans for every street with through traffic in Levenshulme. Take a look.

As ever, we would be happy to meet with the leaders of OL to discuss how to constructively move forwards, and heal some of the hurt in our community. OL have never taken us up on that, but the door is always open.

Much more needs to be done by the council, which is why we continue campaigning, but nothing will be achieved by ripping out filters, reopening rat runs and returning to the status quo.

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Taking a ride with Nooralom and Sham

Street’s for People’s Chair, Tom Haines-Doran went for a ride with Nooralom and Sham, two local residents who have taken YouTube by storm through their ‘2 Muslim Night Riders’ channel.

Tom said:

“It was a real pleasure to go for a ride with Nooralom and Sham. Their videos, which started after the first lockdown, have been inspirational. They show how cycling is great for mental health and companionship. The ability to get out there to green spaces has been a blessing during the last year.

“What’s really great is that they’re encouraging others to join in too, especially those that haven’t been on a bike for a while. When we come out of lockdown, Streets for People will be looking to help organise events which will allow more people to get on their bike, from all parts of our community.

“We look forward to working with Nooralom, Sham and others to make that happen.”

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Public meeting recording

Recording of our public meeting with Clean Air Levenshulme. It was a very constructive meeting where we launched our ‘join the dots’ campaign.

Councillors made a number of promises to the community, which was great to see, although we will clearly need to keep the pressure up if we are to see the active travel neighbourhood we want to see.

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Public meeting: Safer streets, cleaner air

Streets for People and Clean Air Levenshulme are pleased to announce an online public meeting for Burnage and Levenshule residents on Sunday 7th February at 3pm.

A month after the installation of trial filters in Levenshulme as part of the Active Neighbourhood project, we ask what Manchester City Council and the community can do together to improve our streets for walking and cycling, to make our community less reliant on cars to get around. Making it easier to get around on foot and bike helps tackle inequality and creates less air pollution in Burnage and Levenshulme.

We ask what should be done next in the Active Neighbourhood project, and where the council are at in improving unfiltered roads and creating safe ‘school streets’ for our youngest residents.

Unfortunately Chris Boardman is now unable to make the meeting. However, we’ve still got a great line up, including local councillors and speakers from Streets for People and Clean Air Levenshulme, with more to be confirmed.

Please email streets4peoplelb@gmail.com any questions that you would like to put to Manchester City Council about School Streets and the Active Neighbourhood. We’ll then put these to the speakers.

Please also note that this meeting is for people local to Burnage and Levenshulme.

Children welcome.

Register to attend here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqcuuoqD4qEtCHk315A5iZ8og1vOQ3Nxht

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Consultation finds ‘overwhelming’ support for an Active Neighbourhood, but will Manchester City Council match the community’s ambition?

Yesterday, Manchester City Council (MCC) announced the details of the Levenshulme and North Burnage Active Neighbourhood Scheme trial. We were absolutely overjoyed by the news that the vast majority of people who responded to the consultation support the creation of an active neighbourhood.

Its great to know what we always suspected, that there is a deep well of support for active travel within Levenshulme. Manchester City Council noted that feedback was ‘overwhelmingly positive overall, with roughly two-thirds of all comments being positive’. This is a highly impressive level of support for what were quite ambitious initial proposals. Indeed, Streets for People are not aware of another low traffic neighbourhood proposal in Britain that has attracted a higher level of support at initial consultation.

The announcement shows where new ‘modal filters’ are going to be placed for the six month trial. Filters prevent motor vehicles from entering from one end of through roads. They stop ‘rat running’ (using smaller, residential, through roads for longer car journeys), while maintaining car access to all of a street’s properties.

The announcement significantly reduces the number of filters that are to be trialed in the Levenshulme area from those presented to the public in the consultation. Whereas the original proposals included 25 filters, this has been reduced to 14.

MCC indicate that five of the filters may be re-instated (without being clear as to which ones) if they are able to assess what the impact would be of including them in the trial.

Our view

Streets for People welcome the fact that this project is now moving again. The introduction of 14 filters will create a good number of streets where people feel safe to walk, cycle and wheel. We are particularly pleased that the original designs were retained for the area between Albert Road and Slade Lane. We urge the council to do what it takes to get the additional 5 filters which were welcomed by the community in place as soon as possible.

We are concerned that removal of some of the filters could result in unintended consequences. The original plan had a coherent design which split Levenshulme into cells, where transfer between cells by car was only possible via the “boundary roads”, thereby preventing rat running and making short trips by car less convenient, discouraging them. Discouraging short car trips would then ensure a reduction in the overall traffic levels across the area. The design meant that the filters were more than the sum of their parts because they worked together to stop rat running in whole sections of the community. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to design the active neighbourhood based on the popularity of individual filters, because filters work together. By removing some of the filters it is possible that some roads and areas will remain as rat runs, perhaps with heavier traffic than before.

We believe that if these problems occur, they are both foreseeable and remediable. We therefore have one big ask for our councillors. If the scheme has problems at first, fix it – don’t bin it. Work with residents to tweak the scheme until we get it right. The consultation shows that residents are overwhelmingly in favour of the scheme, so the council owes it to the local community to find solutions that work.

A trial will enable the community to find out what the ‘on the ground’ impact of the latest proposal is. This will provide the opportunity for Manchester City Council to experiment with both the number and placement of the filters. We believe it may be necessary to reinstate some of the filters that have been dropped from the most recent plans in order to achieve a truly active neighbourhood.

During the trial, the council will need to make a ‘business case’ bid to Mayor’s Challenge Fund, which is administered by Chris Boardman. The Fund has ring fenced £1.8million which can be spent making the Active Neighbourhood permanent, with additional features to improve its quality and reach. That fund comes attached to strict criteria. The changes that any scheme creates must feel much safer for walking and cycling, and form an integrated active travel network. We urge the council not to lose sight of that, and treat it as a positive challenge, not an inconvenient hurdle. Otherwise there is a risk that the opportunity for big improvements in our community will be lost, and the money will move to other councils in Greater Manchester who show more ambition.

Streets for People will now look in greater detail at the latest proposals and produce a more detailed response. We will seek to highlight both the foreseeable benefits and possible pitfalls of the latest design. We will aim to work positively to try and identify solutions to any problems which may occur. You can help by letting us know about any problems you might be experiencing or solutions you want to see.

Finally, it is important that the council indicate what its ambitions are for the North Burnage part of the scheme. The consultation for that closes on 21st December.

Streets for People will do everything in our power to make our community healthier, happier, more active, and greener. Our determination has never been stronger.