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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.

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Uncategorized

All we want for Christmas is an Active Travel Neighbourhood

We should have heard about the details of the Levenshulme and North Burnage Active Neighbourhood by now. It is due to start on the 19th December, in 10 days’ time.

Surely Manchester City Council (MCC) would have announced its plans for the filter locations by now, after another round of thousands of comments by local people in the latest consultation?

Streets for People have learned via an MCC Highways Officer attending the council’s Walking and Cycling Forum that the filters will now be rolled out in the New Year, following notifications to residents this month. Streets for People’s educated guess is that the filters will be placed in early January, given the notice period required by law for temporary road changes.

Of course, this is far from ideal. It is in fact the third time the trials have been delayed in the last six months.

Of particular concern is that the trials will now coincide with the return to school after the Christmas break – traditionally the busiest time for local road traffic – rather than at the beginning of the break, which would allow residents more time to get used to the changes before traffic picks up again.

As things stand, the project will certainly get off to a more difficult start than we hoped for. MCC will now need to be both extra clear and helpful in its communications with all affected parties, and to have extra courage to allow the scheme to settle if things are difficult to begin with.

But an even worse scenario is that the trials are delayed even further, beyond the beginning of January. The more the trials are delayed, the more MCC are wasting money that could be spent on immediate improvements to the area.

What is more, further delays begin to put at risk the bulk of the £1.8million in permanent improvements, which would be released through the formal application by the council to Andy Burnham’s Mayor’s Challenge Fund towards the end of the trial. That money is currently ringfenced for Levenshulme and North Burnage, but Burnham’s team won’t wait forever for MCC to get their act together, and the money could go elsewhere.

But perhaps things are a bit different this January: there is every sign now (unfortunately) that we will still be under some kind of Covid restrictions come January. This should mean that traffic levels will be somewhat lower than the typical first week of the January school term.

Also, the delay would give MCC more time to include some school streets in the trial. School streets are relatively simple projects (there are hundreds already across the country) but MCC has had little experience of them so far. Perhaps an extra couple of weeks will give them the time to catch up?

As we stated in our consultation response,

Schools are a large trip generator and due to the nature of most schools having a local catchment area, most pupils live within 2km or less of their school… it is difficult to see how traffic problems will be avoided without the school streets aspect of the scheme allowing these short journeys to switch from car to walking and cycling. School streets must be part of the trial.

Finally, we really need to know the reasons behind these delays in order to avoid further mistakes in the future.

We recognise that this kind of a project is a first for MCC. Acknowledging that means allowing for mistakes – trial and error not just in the location of filters, but in getting the project through. But time and the patience of the community are running out.

We repeat what we’ve said all along: without clear, positive leadership from MCC and the councillors, this project is on very shaky ground indeed. It is not too late for either to stand up and be counted.

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Other events and consultations

The Great Pavement Robbery

How cars are taking our street space and what you can do to stop it.

Help stop Levenshulme and Burnage’s 100+ PAVEMENT BLOCKS.

These roaming metal boxes appeared without ANY CONSULTATION, and are MULTIPLYING year on year. They could appear outside of YOUR SHOP OR HOME at any time, turning paths into

P A V E M E N T

P R I S O N S.

Say NO to pavement parking. Answer the consultation TODAY

Ahem, sorry about that, not sure what came over us.

Whilst we’re waiting for the active neighbourhood trials to begin, we thought we’d draw your attention to another important part of the “Streets for People” puzzle, the scourge of pavement parking.

Reclaiming street space for walking and cycling is important. Low traffic neighbourhoods with modal filters make streets safer by reducing through traffic, but there is another problem.

We must not only reclaim road space from through traffic, but also reclaim the pavements for pedestrians, particularly those with mobility issues and pushchairs, who require more space to navigate safely.

In the olden times, pre-car, we would walk in the street, but now pedestrians are relegated to pavements, giving most of the street space over to vehicles.

(Karl Jilg/Swedish Road Administration)

Now even what little space is left is being taken from us, by the very machines that made the streets too unsafe to walk on in the first place.

Here the whole of Danforth Grove pavement is lost to cars, increasing the risk for those who cannot fit through this tiny gap.

With many pavements unwalkable, and streets too unsafe, those who rely on mobility aids, are visually impaired, and those with small children in pushchairs have no choice but to put their lives at risk by stepping out into traffic.

This van here is blocking the tactile paving that allows the visually impaired to cross safely.

This also causes permanent damage to pavements that weren’t designed for the constant stress of cars and vans, which are continuing to get larger and heavier. This causes health hazards through uneven pavements which again are the most trouble for those who find mobility difficult.

Whilst the government has pledged to end the sale all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, electric cars alone will not stop this unequal distribution of street space, and with them being even quieter it could actually increase accident risk for those who are visually impaired. Electric cars also do nothing to increase our active travel and combat the current obesity crisis.

We need to create spaces people feel comfortable in outside of a car, and currently we have cars clogging our paths, preventing the flow of pedestrians, and preventing the active travel that keeps us all fit, decreases the risk of crime (more eyes on the street) and helps business.

What can I do about it?

Pavement parking laws and guidelines are currently unclear. 46% of drivers say they’re confused by current laws, and only 5% know all aspects of it. 65% of people admit to parking on the pavement.

Scotland and London have already outlawed pavement parking, but for everyone else a new pavement parking law is needed, to make it clear to drivers that they CANNOT park on the pavement unless a clear exemption is in place.

Campaigners Living Streets have an e-petition to support ending pavement parking. Once you have completed this the site will take you to the government’s official consultation. This ends on the 22ND NOVEMBER so you’ll have to act quick!

The government consultation gives you three option to feedback to the Department for Transport. The recommendation of Living Streets (and us) is to choose OPTION 3 if you want to see real, enforceable change in the way pavement parking is addressed in our area. This would bring in London legislation of a “complete prohibition on pavement parking” England-wide. The Highway Code says you ‘MUST NOT’ park on the pavement in London (unless signs say that you can).

Help us end pavement parking in Levenshulme, Burnage, Manchester and the whole of the UK, and reclaim our streets for people!

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Active Neighbourhood Trials

S4P: Consultation response

See below for our response to the Levenshulme and Burnage active neighbourhood consultation that we sent to Manchester City Council prior to November 4th, on behalf of our volunteers and 500+ supporters.

Into this we have put all of our knowledge and experience that we’ve gained from both engaging with our supporters and fellow residents in Levenshulme and Burnage and researching active travel and traffic management. In the past few months we’ve learned alot, and grown from a handful of people excited about making Levenshulme and Burnage better to a fully organised team.

This response is in no way meant to be exhaustive, as we can only draw on what we have learned ourselves, but we hope it gives the council some direction when it comes to making sure this trial has the highest chance of working for all of us, and helps residents see how this scheme could make our streets better for everyone.

You can download the full version of the consultation response PDF below, or read our summary bullet points first.

Response summary and recommendations:

Streets for People supports the scheme but asks that MCC work with local residents to identify where filters will be placed to help guarantee a successful trial and increase in pedestrian and cycle use for short journeys.

Thought will need to be given to the wider areas around the Active Neighbourhood trial area, to reduce traffic and encourage car use throughout Greater Manchester to enable transition to more sustainable forms of travel.


We would recommend that the following points are considered as part of the trial to make it as successful as possible:

  • There is a clear need for the trial and the trial should be kept as per the proposed plan or as close to the proposed plan to help create a truly active neighbourhood;
  • If the trial is to be successful it requires full public support of Councillors and officers within MCC. MCC need to be firm in their public support for the scheme;
  • The trial should be built on evidence and data to show how it has affected pedestrian, cycling, and vehicular movement within the trial area;
  • The trial needs to be undertaken in consultation with the emergency services and other partners of MCC;
  • Satellite navigation apps should be informed of changes to help reduce the risk of vehicles being misdirected;
  • The North Burnage part of the trial should be progressed without unnecessary delay to help bring benefits of active travel to local residents as originally promised;
  • School Streets should be considered as part of the trial or introduced as soon as possible to help compliment the Active Neighbourhood;
  • All roads within the scheme area should be reduced to a 20mph limit;
  • Raised crossings should be installed at junctions between main arterial roads and routes within the Active Neighbourhood (if they have been identified as routes with high or potential for high pedestrian footfall);
  • If any streets are to be reduced to one-way traffic, two-way movement should be maintained for cyclists;
  • Other measures to help walking and cycling need to be included to help promote the benefits of active travel, for instance pedestrian crossings, additional cycle parking etc;
  • Pedestrian and cycling crossings, which help break severance points, are equally as important as modal filters and these should be introduced as part of the trial, or as soon as possible to aid pedestrian movement;
  • The existing traffic using boundary and arterial roads needs to be considered, as well as the effect the trial has on it;
  • Where filters are installed, any on-footway measures to prevent vehicular movement should not impede pedestrian movement on the footway, including people with mobility aids and parents with prams and pushchairs.
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Active Neighbourhood Trials

We need more honesty in this consultation process

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’.

Taken from: https://assets.ctfassets.net/nv7y93idf4jq/Xx5s7azQY1SYmdNKIAviX/e4395ab029410907365cd0962d17bf81/19-1950_Bee_Network_delivery_plan-style_-_website_version.pdf

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.

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Active Neighbourhood Trials

Leafleting campaign launch

Streets for People, Levenshulme and Burnage are proud to unvail our new leaflet and poster, which we will post through every door in the low traffic neighbourhood trial area.

We’re asking for participation from our supporters to distribute the leaflets. If you can, please email streets4peoplelb@gmail.com with the names of the roads you would like deliver leaflets to (Covid secure instructions will be provided).

Printing thousands of leaflets costs money, and our group has no source of funding. Therefore, we have launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise £1000 for materials. Please go here to donate, and please share the link with your friends and family: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/poster-levenshulme-amp-burnage?

Finally, here is a link to the poster iteself, for printing at home:

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Active Neighbourhood Trials Analysis and research

Active Neighbourhood: Access All Areas

“Roads are blocked to cars” is a statement we hear at least once a day about the active neighbourhood scheme, and yet it is clear from the map that anywhere a car can access before, it will still be able to.

But access to where? From where?

What the concern is for many is that they may have to find new routes out of their street, a concern that is valid. The Council can still do more to signpost how people’s driving patterns will have to change should they be unable to shift to cycling or walking. Even if we do walk and cycle more, some trips will still be made by car, and that’s alright.

To address these access concerns, and give people a clearer idea of how the overall scheme will look, Streets for People have created a colour coded “Access Map” that allows you to see where you will have to exit your street. We have also added in ALL street names, and even a couple of streets, that were missing.

Closer to the start of the trial, when filters have been finalised, it should be possible to create a visualisation that shows, where certain streets have a filter in the middle, which house numbers are on which side. This will particularly help delivery drivers and others whose work means lots of visits to different houses where it cannot be done without a car . This would be much better done through the official channels, but in absence of that Streets for People want to ensure there is no uneccessary delay due to lost drivers.

Access all areas: Google maps

Another issue, and often the reason there is so much through traffic on side roads, is navigation apps. Other active neighbourhoos schemes have found it takes Google Maps up to 6 weeks to update road closures, which could cause problems for anyone using GPS well into the trial. We would ask the council to consider contacting Google in advance of the trial to inform them of road closures.

Streets for People are going to begin to submit reports to google of the planned road closures prior to and immediately after installation, mentioning the date in case google decide to jump the gun. The more people report it the more likely they are to update, and the more we can avoid uneccesary congestion.

Here’s a handy video guide on how it works once you load up Google Maps. This uses Marley Road/Stockport Road filter location as an example but the process is similar for all of them. Google does not differentiate between a junction closure and a road closure, so you will have to specify a junction in your comment.

We hope this helped you understand a little bit more about the way the trial will work, and how you can still get to and from your residence. Streets for People are continuing to analyse the proposed plans and will be giving you more information soon.

If you want the full high quality version it is in downloadable PNG form below. Please report any mistakes! We’ve already identified a few places where roads were missing from the original map but there’s always room for improvement.

This map will have its own place on the site soon, but feel free to share (with credit). The more people see this map the more informed they will be about the upcoming scheme. We will make sure to update if the council make any changes!

Don’t forget to leave your feedback on the scheme on Commonplace

Happy travels!

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Active Neighbourhood Trials

Our community deserves better: Streets for People statement

Statement from Streets for People – Levenshulme and Burnage organising group

Streets for People are pleased to see lots of engagement with Manchester City Council’s feedback site for the filtered neighbourhood plans for Levenshulme and North Burnage. We understand that residents in these areas are also receiving brochures, and there are plans for Webinars, public meetings, or similar.

However, we are concerned with some of the quality of the engagement material, and apparent delays in reaching residents. We have been told that the Project Manager has quit, leaving his boss in charge, and this explains many of the delays and mistakes in the project, including engagement. We were always worried about the amount of work being asked of the Project Manager (who was also responsible for several other high profile schemes), and it now appears that the pressures on him led to his resignation.

We believe that the Project Manager situation is illustrative of Manchester City Council not putting in the financial and personnel resources required for a successful project, including the much-needed funding of School Street trials. Too much of the engagement work has fallen on too few shoulders, with many of the tasks performed by already overstreched neighbourhood officers, and in some cases, councillors themselves.

Yes, the Covid situation has made everything more difficult, but social distancing requirements mean more space for pedestrians is a priority, not something that should fall down the agenda, as recent national and local government statements have made clear.

Councillors have told us that resourcing problems are due to a general lack of funds with MCC. To this, we argue that our councillors should not simply accept the situation as it is. What are they doing to fight for more resources for our community? Why is it that vanity projects like the Great Ancoats Street ‘European Boulevard’ project receive £10 million in public funding, despite doing nothing for walking and cycling (and with, as it happens, very little consultation at all), while communities like ours are left to fight over scraps? It isn’t good enough. The project requires a full time Project Manager, dedicated solely to making it a success.

Furthermore, while we agree that all residents should have as much information about the trials as possible, and opportunities to influence the details of the trial, we do not understand the purpose of collecting positive and negative feedback on the trials as whole prior to them taking place. Commenting on individual filter or crossing locations clearly makes sense, but the purpose of the ‘Have Your Say on the Scheme Overall’ section is less apparent.

Anyone glancing at the existing comments will see over 400 comments, balanced largely between extreme support and extreme opposition. We don’t think that adequately reflects the views of the community. It’s likely that many want to see the trials in action before they make their minds up either way, or have become tired of responding again and again to such similar questions.

There are also a number of questions regarding this engagement (consultation?) process:

  1. How will responses, including the ‘have your say on the scheme overall’ play into shaping transport policy in Levenshulme and Burnage? It is simply a listening exercise, or will it stand in favour of, or detriment to, creating a ‘filtered neighbourhood’? What does a successful engagement look like?
  2. How will the many thousands of responses already collected in previous consultation responses to this project, including previous Commonplace exercises, public meetings, meetings with schools and community groups, and postal responses, feature in any such evaluation?
  3. It appears that the Commonplace site has been subject to spamming from all sides. How will the Council account for that? It is easy to set up new email addresses, fake postal addresses and fake IP addresses. How do the Council know comments received are genuine?
  4. Similarly, postal forms are completely anonymised. What’s to stop highly motivated individuals from submitting multiple forms, thus skewing results one way or the other?
  5. When will the public meetings take place? They need to happen soon.

Clearly, there will have to be a formal consultation on the scheme conducted in the fullness of time. The only sure way to ensure that it is fair and representative is to give each person on the electoral and/or council tax registers one feedback form each, with provision for those not on the register for whatever reason to have their say as well, and once everyone has had the opportunity to experience the changes first hand, following a period of bedding-in.

It would be a tragedy if, after all of these maps, announcements, online questionnaires, street clutter surveys, postcards, public meetings, meetings with schools, places of worship and community groups, and emails and collective letters to councillors, that the real voice of the community is not heard.

Streets for People are clear that we are in favour of the scheme going ahead, but that it is crucial to generate as much feedback as possible from as wide a section of the community as possible to ensure that it best serves the community.

Please engage with current proposals here.

Sign our collective letter to councillors here.

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Other events and consultations

Clean Air Day

Thursday 8th October is Clean Air Day, a national day to promote clean air initiatives and encourage people to think about what they can do themselves. What small steps can you take to to reduce pollution where you live? Clean air is something which we all value, but too often taken for granted. We know from research that 30% of all car journeys are less than 1km, a distance that can be walked in less than 15 minutes, and a 60% of car trips are less than 2km, which can be cycled in less than 10 minutes. If we got half of these people walking or cycling it would result in a 30% drop in car use.

Just think how much cleaner our air would be.

Our Friends at Clean Air Levenshulme have created a petition for school Head teachers and local Councillors to ask them to support Clean Air Day and also take steps to help people to reduce their carbon use and make our streets healthier and more pleasant.

Clean Air Levenshulme braving the bad weather to discuss ways to combat pollution!

If you are a parent please add your name and the school that your children attend to their open letter at this link.

There is more information about Clean Air Day on their website (www.cleanairday.org.uk). Everyone has a part to play and we challenge you to think of one way that you can help to reduce pollution or take steps to help others reduce their carbon foot print on Thursday 8th October.

  • Can you walk or cycle for one less journey?
  • Share a journey with somebody else?
  • Walk to school with some friends?
  • Take public transport instead of driving?

There are plenty of ways that everyone can get involved and help clean up our air again. Why not Tweet your pledge #CleanAirDay and inspire others as well?

For more info about Clean Air Levenshulme and what they do you can follow them on Twitter @LevyCleanAir