Greater Manchester’s council leaders have committed to creating enhanced space for pedestrians and people on bikes across the city-region, to enable people to keep their distance for safe essential journeys and exercise during the coronavirus lockdown and through recovery.
Brought together under the Safe Streets Save Lives campaign, local authorities are looking to prioritise a range of temporary, pop-up measures such as footway extensions, one-way streets, removing through traffic on certain roads, adding extra cycle lanes and removing street ‘clutter’ like pedestrian guard rail at pinch points.
The emergency changes will be matched to help ease social distancing at specific locations such as areas outside shops, transport hubs or routes to hospitals in the districts, with £5m of funding made available through the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund.
Whilst there has been a dramatic fall in traffic volumes of about 60% across Greater Manchester, walking and cycling have played an increasingly important role. They now account for approximately 33% of all journeys, with cycling up 22% compared to pre-lockdown data. These trends have also led to congestion almost being eliminated and significant drop in pollution.
By encouraging the use of sustainable modes of transport, Greater Manchester is looking to Build Back Better as part of its recovery plans while supporting the ambition to be carbon neutral by 2038 and honour its commitment to become a walking and cycling city-region.
Key to this is providing people with safe and direct routes around their local area by fast tracking the approval of side road zebras, as part of the emergency response. Greater Manchester was part way through a study with evidence showing that 93% of road users recognised side road Zebra markings that are currently used across the world. The Mayor Andy Burnham has written to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps asking him to enable local highway authorities to utilise these measures immediately.
“Greater Manchester has been leading the way with our plans to build the largest walking and cycling network in the UK,” said Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. “A number of cities around the world have begun implementing measures to enable safe essential travel and exercise during lockdown. As part of our efforts to Build Back Better in Greater Manchester, we’re taking the same, bold approach – Safe Streets really do Save Lives.
“Peoples’ travel behaviour across our city region has transformed during lockdown. As more people turn to walking and cycling, we want that to continue as we move into life beyond lockdown. That’s why we’ve proposed measures, backed by up to £5m of funding, to create space which allows people to continue making safe, sustainable journeys.
“Whatever peoples’ motivation – these choices are contributing to cleaning up our city’s air and causing less congestion on our roads, and that’s something we must sustain for the immediate future.”
Chris Boardman, Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Like any successful response to a crisis, people must be the priority. And fortunately, the data is unambiguous; during lockdown more and more residents across Greater Manchester are turning to walking and cycling for essential journeys and exercise. So, in order give people the space they need to keep safe, the only real question was ‘how soon can we act?’
“If we don’t take steps to enable people to keep traveling actively, we risk a huge spike in car use as measures are eased. Not only is it the right thing to do to protect people now, but it’s vital to meet our clean air goals and protect our NHS long term.”
Local authorities have prioritised schemes that sit within the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund and can be used as coronavirus response measures, with Transport for Greater Manchester providing support to help design and implement the measures across the districts.
Once approved, a list of the Safe Streets Save Lives schemes will be listed on TfGM’s website at: https://tfgm.com/safestreets with further information available via the local authorities.
Last year, Manchester revealed ambitious plans to spend £18 per head on cycling and walking.