A voter asks
Can you tell me what you think of the situation with regard to cycle lanes, which are being increased by a very large number all around Stretford, Trafford and most other surrounding areas?
It is a driver’s worst nightmare and it no longer matters when you are travelling. There used to be a certain build-up of traffic in the peak times, but now there is a build-up of traffic all day. This is due in my opinion to a four-lane road being turned into a two-lane road, which seems to be done with very little realistic thinking.Question asked by voter in response to election material
So, why are we doing this?
This is a question about cycling lanes being asked by so many drivers. I really feel it needs answering and I genuinely feel there are some good reasons so let’s set the context.
Right across Europe, US and Asia, cities are installing cycling infrastructure. It can’t just be on the whim of politicians like Andy Burnham or Boris Johnson.
There’s even a bike on the front cover of Trafford Labour’s Manifesto
There isn’t a single answer but the reasons are manifold including:
- Carbon Reduction
- Air Quality
I’m going to go through these reasons individually and hopefully bring that together in Trafford’s strategy.
Modern life styles are so reduced in physical activity, it is having a detrimental effect on healthy lifespans. Over the last 30 years, deaths and disability from cardiovascular disease have been steadily rising across the globe. In 2019 alone, the condition, which includes heart disease and stroke, was responsible for a staggering one-third of all deaths worldwide.
The main thing we need to do about it is to walk* more. Whether it is working from home or our dependence on cars, we’ve got to move more.
*I deliberately put the emphasis on walking. Whilst cycling and walking infrastructure is linked, we are not putting enough thought into making a walk to the school or shops an easy option.
As Covid has exacerbated this. I think it’s fair to say to we would want to improve walking and cycling whether Government was leaning on us or not, but the fact is Government is leaning on us to do it.
We’re obligated under international treaties particularly COP to reduce our carbon emissions. Globally, the transport sector is a huge contributor to those emissions and one that is seen as being comparatively easier to tackle but with significant positive side effects if we do.
The Government has directed Greater Manchester to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide on local roads “in the shortest possible time” and by 2026 at the latest. The Government still wants a charging zone for polluting vehicles but Manchester is resisting having got its fingers burnt. Let’s be honest, it was an awful initial plan, putting most of the charge on business vehicles that had to be used regardless of whether there were public transport alternatives or not. Essentially, there’s now a standoff between the government and Manchester, but clearly promoting cycling is an easy win in this, supported by both Govt and the Combined Authority.
Bikes do not cause congestion, traffic does. Greater Manchester has been suffering congestion for decades. Drivers will point to cycle lanes but there are so many roads without cycling infrastructure and that are still congested. Bikes are ultimately part of the solution rather than the problem.
I’m a keen City fan and try to get to a decent number of home games. If I’m travelling alone I’ll use the bike. The roads through central and east Manchester become chock-full, yet there’s no cycling infrastructure worthy of the name on that side of Manchester. As a 64 year old man, I can easily beat my neighbours home on my bike even though they leave early to avoid the worst of the congestion. If I went in the car, I’d simply be adding another car to that congestion. By going by bike, I am helping to reduce the congestion, cycling does not cause congestion.
Regardless of bike infrastructure, this congestion is hugely detrimental to Manchester. It’s costing businesses millions. It is costing Manchester investment too in investment. And here I return to walking because I can’t emphasise enough how critical good walking infrastructure is.
Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who I have huge respect for argues that in addition to the health and environmental benefits mentioned above, walkable neighbourhoods caused
- Increased property values: Walkable neighbourhoods are in high demand, and as a result, properties in these areas tend to have higher values than those in less walkable areas. Walkability can also help attract new businesses to an area, further increasing property values.
- Increased economic activity: Walkable neighbourhoods often have more small, locally-owned businesses, which can help to create a sense of community and increase economic activity in the area.
- Increased social capital: Walkable neighbourhoods can foster a sense of community and social connection, which can have positive impacts on mental health and overall quality of life.
To summarise why we’re doing it
- We’re doing it because Government is telling us to do it
- We’re doing it because many of us (but not all) across all the main parties (and I do mean all) believe in doing it for all the reasons above.
So how are we doing in Trafford?
We published the Walking, Wheeling and Cycling Strategy in March 2023 which includes our overall goal that over the next 10 years
- 90% of journeys under 1 mile will be taken by foot or wheeled
equipment (e.g. cycles, scooters, wheelchairs, mobility scooters).
- 80% of journeys under 5 miles will be taken by foot or wheeled
equipment (e.g. cycles, scooters, wheelchairs, mobility scooters).
That is hugely ambitious when you consider that the Greater Manchester’s figures for 2019 were:
- Car or taxi: 55% of trips
- Public transport (including buses, trains, and trams): 27% of trips
- Walking: 11% of trips
- Cycling: 2% of trips
So we do have to get a move on. The Talbot Road / Stretford Road cycleway was largely in place or committed to when we in Labour came into control of Trafford. Then Covid came along and triggered the A56 cones to be installed as an emergency measure primarily to get people to work without placing them in the then-considered hazardous environment of public transport. The government insists it doesn’t will not fund local authorities who rip out the infrastructure already funded by the government so that has left us with coned areas of the A56 that please no one.
That said, there have been too many projects abandoned after considerable in-house work has been committed to them. We need to get better and the recent appointment of Councillor Aidan Williams as the responsible Executive Member has helped enormously, but we’re still getting some unfathomable decisions elsewhere in the council such as the failure to resurface the full width of Talbot Road and leaving the cycle lanes on the same road in a poor state of repair. We’ve made the commitment to walking and cycling – people will just get sceptical as to what we’re doing if we don’t stick with it.
Going back to the original question, we’re not yet seeing the big increase in cycling in Stretford we need to justify the policy and we won’t until it’s joined up. A journey to Manchester, Chorlton or Eccles entails too many sections that are actually quite scary and until there’s an accommodation for the inexperienced cyclist, we’re not going to see that increase. It’s hard not to sympathise with the voter who raised this question. We need that acceleration in the policy.
Lostock and Barton Ward
The Talbot Road / Stretford Cycleway is often cited amongst Greater Manchester’s better pieces of cycling infrastructure, but for me, Barton Dock Road is the best and it’s in the ward. It is everything cycling infrastructure should be. It doesn’t interfere with traffic but gets you there on the most direct route. The Trafford Centre and particularly Asda could do much better in accommodating bikes when you arrive at the destination, but there’s no denying the quality of the Barton Dock Road cycle path.
In choosing walking for short trips the position is more mixed, to put it mildly. Walking has a huge advantage over driving in getting across the railway line from Lostock to Derbyshire Lane, but the upkeep of the Humphrey Park Station tunnel is so appalling and inaccessible to wheelchairs. It usually is in a squalid state of cleanliness. We can do so much better with what is an essential route for parents and school children in particular.
Similarly getting across some of our minor, but busy roads on foot or in a wheelchair is far more difficult than it should be. The crossings give so much priority to cars. It should be a given that drains next to crossings are prioritised but they’re not. The crossing at the Melville is too often a wade through a large puddle, after you’ve got splashed by cars first obviously.
So my Lostock and Barton priorities for active travel are:
- Making the Park Road/Derbyshire Lane junction safe for pedestrians
- Working with the GM Mayor’s office, Trafford, and Northern Rail on Humphrey Park subway to make it accessible
- Pursuing improvements to the route from Lostock Park to Trafford Park
- Working with Asda to improve their cycle accessibility from the roundabout and into the parking area
- Working with colleagues to ensure that the Urmston Active Neighbourhood has clear objectives impacting on the Lostock and Barton neighbourhoods
- Looking at all crossings to ensure they meet the needs of those crossing the road in terms of maintenance and responsiveness.
- Looking at bus routes to ensure our neighbourhoods are connected to the places they want to go to
- Looking at bus stops so they’re clean and comfortable
Trafford Labour’s 2023 manifesto sets out our general policy priorities.
Trafford under Labour will work with partners and communities to ensure Trafford’s streets are safer and have accessible walking and cycling routes.
Under Labour £20m is being invested in improving our walking and cycling routes.
Continue to work with local communities to help establish Play Street schemes, where children can play safely together, free from traffic.
Commit to ensuring that children in Trafford can get to and from school safely in an environment that supports walking, cycling, and other forms of cleaner transport by rolling out School Streets.