Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Response to TfGM's Greater Manchester Cycling Strategy


I am disappointed by the narrow focus of the document “Greater Manchester Cycling Strategy Summary”. Measures to encourage cycling can only succeed in creating modal shift from motor vehicles if there are parallel measures to restrain and reduce the level of motor traffic. Indeed, measures to reduce motor traffic can be very effective on their own.

For example, the increase in the levels of cycling in London, can be traced back to the introduction of the Congestion Charge and not any great improvement in conditions for cycling. The Congestion Charge reduced traffic levels and gave a major financial incentive for people to use other forms of transport to get to work. Since then the growth in cycling has become a social phenomenon as more people discovered its advantages and the increased presence of bicycles has created a safer environment for cycling.

I was heavily involved in shaping the Bristol Cycling Strategy and the Local Transport Plan for Bristol on behalf of Bristol Cycling Campaign back in the late 1990s. I have drawn on that work and more recent documents from Bristol Cycling Campaign and the Greater Bristol Cycling Strategy in this response.

In the following pages I will set out the Vision, Principles, Elements and Actions I think Greater Manchester should adopt for its cycling strategy. These are built on the Bristol Cycling Manifesto and adapted for the Greater Manchester area. Bristol has been very successful in increasing the level of cycling and I see no reason why Greater Manchester, if it is serious about cycling, should not aim to match the level of cycling in Bristol over the next 10 years.

The final pages then set out the background issues and comment in more detail on the “Greater Manchester Cycling Strategy Summary” document itself.

The Vision

Greater Manchester needs to boldly state an aim to reshape its transport landscape away from private motor vehicles, of all kinds, and towards cycling and walking.

This bold vision must ensure that all ten authorities adopt policies to increase walking and cycling, reduce the impact of motor traffic and meet the needs of people who walk and cycle. These policies need to be fully integrated into all the local plans and policies, all other resource bids, and all complementary strategies, including corporate services, corporate resources, education, health, housing, leisure, public safety and environment, not just transport and road safety. Cycling must be built into the policing guidelines and parking enforcement too.
In short, cycling and walking should be placed at the heart of all policy thinking in all of Greater Manchester's local authorities to maximise the role of walking and cycling as transport modes, and reduce the use of motor vehicles and the need to travel.


A history of car centred planning and investment along with ongoing low levels of road traffic law enforcement have made much of Greater Manchester unsafe, polluted and congested. Children and adults are trapped by this motorised environment and people struggle to keep themselves healthy. Greater Manchester can change this by adopting five principles for its cycling strategy.

1. Fairness: The choice to cycle should be available to all, regardless of age, gender, financial circumstances, fitness, or need for non-standard bikes (e.g. trailers, tricycles, cargo). Many people and groups are currently denied this choice.

2. Safety: People on bikes should feel able to travel from where they are to where they need to go comfortably, conveniently, directly, in attractive surroundings and in safety. Good infrastructure will encourage safe and considerate behaviour. Consistent road traffic law enforcement helps protect the vulnerable as would bans on HGV's entering the regions centres.

3. Wellbeing: Cycling and sustainable transport bring prosperity to Greater Manchester. Subsidies for car-use should be reversed so the city benefits from more people cycling. Reductions in congestion will benefit everyone, particularly those who really need to use motor vehicles. Everyone will experience improved health and wellbeing through more active lifestyles and better air quality. Greater Manchester will attract new business as it becomes a more desirable place to live and work.

4. Quality: Greater Manchester should become the benchmark metropolitan area for outstanding cycling provision, with ambitious targets and committed resources. Pound for pound this will offer Greater Manchester better value for money than any other public investment.

5. Sustainability: Greater Manchester must become less dependent on imported energy, increased levels of cycling will contribute substantially to this.


The strategy is supported by five elements, each of which is essential, mutually supporting and require complete integration with all other areas of city policy and implementation.
1. Cycling Neighbourhoods: Every neighbourhood should have a walking and cycling plan linking residential areas and local hubs such as schools, parks, retail and leisure centres. The 20mph speed limit should be made more effective through use of 'traffic cells' to restrict through traffic while improving access for walking and cycling. Plans should set out to make every street a cycling street and must include cycle parking at destinations, workplaces and in residential areas with restricted indoor space.

2. Cycling Freeways: The most direct route with the best gradient for cycling in Greater Manchester is usually along a main road and these routes already carry the largest number of cycle journeys. They must be comprehensively adapted to become high quality, continuous routes for cycling. A Dutch-style matrix of infrastructure responses for each road type and condition should be used to determine suitable provision, with segregation on busy roads and junction treatments that favour cycling. Priority must be given to removing obstructions to the flow of cycles. All measures must provide for future high levels of cycling.

3. Cycling Quietways: Pleasant traffic-free routes that extend through the city and surroundings with clear signing. Velocity is looking to utilise canal towpaths. This network must be further improved and extended. Greater Manchester has an extensive network of disused railway lines and canals, much of which could be turned into a cycle network.

4. Integration: Excessive and inappropriate motor vehicle use must be made less convenient, and fairly priced, e.g. through congestion charging and parking management schemes. Integration with public transport must be made as easy as possible. Development control policies must provide for high levels of cycling, and rigorously applied. A danger reduction strategy to make our roads free from fear and harm must be followed. Transport planning models must ensure cycling is properly valued. Enforcement measures must protect the vulnerable. Integrated signing, mapping and online tools must make the area easy to navigate by bike. All measures should also support walking.

5. Encouragement: Greater Manchester must take the lead in making cycling a fully accessible mode of transport. As well as a sustained and well branded city-wide programme, every infrastructure project must include related encouragement measures. Every primary school pupil should receive Bikeability to Level 2, with Level 3 available to every secondary pupil. Adult cycle training should be easily available and affordable. Encouragement programmes must include events, marketing and promotion and work in particular with retailers, employers, schools and universities.


The councils of Greater Manchester must together take these fundamental actions to deliver the strategy.

1. Set a target to increase levels of cycling to 20% of all trips by 2025, and 30% of journeys to work.

2. Fix a Plan to deliver a comprehensive cycling network by 2025, with every road and street fit for cycling.

3. Commit investment to deliver the plan at European levels of at least £16 per capita. Further funding should come through major scheme bids and the Greater Manchester Transport Fund which has provided the tram network.

4. Implement the plan through a multi-disciplinary team of experts to co-ordinate delivery of the action plan across all sectors and areas of the city. An Annual Greater Manchester Cycling Report must report progress.

5. Engage an inspirational Cycling Commissioner to lead the transformation with full authority at a senior level. By bringing together the plans and people working in health, transport, planning, neighbourhoods, education and business the Commissioner will push forward cycling and promote a new vibrant cycling culture in Greater Manchester.

Cycle Network Requirements

Greater Manchester's road and path network must meet the needs of people who walk and cycle. The key requirements are:-

Coherence - The infrastructure should form a coherent entity, linking all trip origins and destinations; routes should be continuous and consistent in standard.

Directness - Routes should be as direct as possible, based on desire lines, since detours and delays will deter use. Barriers to walking and cycling must be removed.

Attractiveness - Routes must be attractive on subjective as well as objective criteria. Lighting, personal safety, aesthetics, noise and integration with the surrounding area are important.

Safety - Designs should minimise casualties and perceived danger for people who walk and cycle, as well as other road users.

Comfort – People who walk and cycle need smooth, well-maintained surfaces, regular sweeping, and suitable gradients. Routes must be convenient to use and avoid complicated maneuvers and interruptions.

Fairness – The promotion of cycling is not just a transport or leisure issue. It is also a matter of social equity in terms of access to work opportunities, goods and services. People using pedal cycles to carry children, cargo and people with disabilities need wide, barrier-free cycle routes without steps or steep slopes. Currently Greater Manchester's cycle infrastructure discriminates against people who have to use hand-cycles or other specially adapted forms of pedal cycle. The use of “Cyclists Dismount” signs is inherently discriminatory.

What Cycling can do for Greater Manchester

From an economic point of view expenditure on walking and cycling produces far higher returns than expenditure on public transport measures. The consequential reduction in traffic levels, pollution, road danger and congestion will provide a powerful boost to the local economy, with the reduction in congestion alone being worth several million pounds per year. Cycling provides economic benefit in terms of improved public health, reduced levels of local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Investment in cycling presents very good value for money. Analysis by the Department of Transport (DfT) estimated that the Benefit-Cost Ratio for investment in cycling is between 2.5 and 6.1 to 1 (i.e. there is a £2.50 – £6.10 return for every £1 spent on cycling). The figure of 2.5:1 is based solely on the cost benefits of reduced mortality, and this alone puts cycling into the DfT’s ‘high’ value for money category. This benefit-cost ratio increases when congestion, amenity, absenteeism and cycling casualties are also considered. There is a further improvement when the investment is sustained over a period of 30 years.

If the Manchester area is to compete on the international stage for the brightest and best people in the world to work at its university and wider industries then it needs to provide the kind of urban environment that such people expect. Take a look at MediaCityUK; despite the almost complete lack of cycling infrastructure in the area around 12% of employees there cycle. When you look at just the BBC, where more new people have moved in from London, around 14% cycle to work. The survey only asked about the main mode of transport and this figure doesn't include people who combine a train journey with cycling, so the number of people arriving by bicycle is actually somewhat higher.

Similar effects can be seen around the Manchester Universities.

Comments on the TfGM document

The most notable things about the Greater Manchester Cycling Strategy are the omissions. The most striking of these is the lack of a clear leadership figure. A strategy can only succeed if it has clear commitment from both the politicians and officers who will ensure its success. The fact that a leadership figure has not put their name to this document is disappointing.


There is no mention of the Greater Manchester Transport Fund in the Investments column. Currently this fund is used almost exclusively to fund public transport. This spending gives a poorer return on investment than if this money were invested in cycling. At least 50% of this fund should provide measures to support cycling in future years.


There are some key organisations that could make or break the success of a cycling strategy:-

Greater Manchester Police – good and fair road traffic law enforcement is vital to the success of this strategy. Currently GMP see cycling as a problem and often seek to place blame on the victims of road collisions rather than prosecuting the drivers who present the danger to people cycling. GMP need to be brought into the centre of this strategy as part of a process of changing driver attitudes and behavior towards people who cycle.

Network Rai
l – Network Rail have responsibility for the area's largest railway station, Manchester Piccadilly, where there is a desperate need for improved cycle facilities. Contrast the extensive secure and under-cover cycle parking at Bristol Temple Meads with the poor quality facilities at Manchester Piccadilly.

Business organisations such as Chambers of Commerce
– One of the keys to the success will be the enthusiastic involvement of employers and business leaders. There is no sign of any engagement with such groups.

Visit Manchester - The Official Tourist Board for Manchester & Greater Manchester must be included in the cycling strategy to ensure that visitors adopt cycling as a mode of travel as well as residents.

Universities – some of the largest generators of cycle journeys in Greater Manchester are not listed as partners.

The NHS – Hospitals are major employers and major travel destinations in the Greater Manchester area, as well as being key partners in health initiatives. It is unthinkable that a major cycling strategy should not partner with hospitals and GP surgeries.

Manchester Cycling Lab – this new initiative at Manchester University’s Living Lab needs to be embraced as a major partnership.

Cycle Businesses – Bike shops, repair centres, mobile mechanics, cycle hire companies are all examples of bike based businesses in Greater Manchester who could contribute to the success of this strategy.

Cycle Logistics – Greater Manchester needs to develop a network of cycle delivery companies to remove the need for vans and lorries to enter the urban centres to deliver small and medium sized goods.

Cycle Rickshaws – Greater Manchester needs to develop a network of cycle rickshaws in the main centres to reduce the need for motorised taxis in the local centres. Rickshaws are currently banned by Manchester City Council and possibly others. This must change.

Cycling Organisations - The list of partners includes “Cycling organisations” yet these are not mentioned in the rest of the report so this is only a passing reference not a firm commitment. Greater Manchester has many different cycling organisations covering a very wide range of activities. Manchester City Council has, over the past few years, spent large amounts of money on cycling as a sport but has only invested around 1/10th of that amount on cycling for transport. British cycling has gained excessive influence over the council through the Memorandum of Understanding between Manchester City Council and British Cycling which is a partially secret document which states that “BCF shall contribute to MCC policy developments in these areas and act as “the voice of cycling” within the relevant policy forums.

This is a dreadful situation because it seeks to exclude local and community cycling groups from the debate. Transport for Greater Manchester must engage directly with all of Greater Manchester's cycling groups, particularly those that support cycling as a mode of transport.
The Main Document

The rest of the document is most notable in the way that it ignores the impact of motor vehicles on the level of cycling. In much of Greater Manchester unrestrained motor traffic has a strong negative impact on cycling. A cycling strategy can only work alongside a significant restraint on all types of motor vehicle.

The Dutch experience is not all about high quality cycle routes it is very much a combination of traffic restraint alongside cycle measures :-

A history of cycling innovation in the Netherlands

With 26% of all traffic movements done by bike (by far the highest proportion in Europe), the Dutch are the bicycle champions of the world. Our country has a bicycle-friendly infrastructure that promotes a healthier, more active lifestyle. Without wishing to boast, we can genuinely say that our country is a veritable trendsetter when it comes to sustainable transport. The Netherlands is a wealthy country in which 1 in 2 people owns a car. Bicycle use, however, is higher than anywhere else in the world.

So how did we do it?

Cycling has always been popular in the Netherlands. Since the 1960s, however, car-ownership and car-usage have increased significantly and bicycle usage has fallen, reaching an all-time low in 1978. Cities began to struggle with congestion, air pollution, a poorer quality of life and many traffic accidents. As a result, the government decided to develop a large array of measures to promote cycling, walking and traffic calming, such as:

- Reducing car access to city-centres and create car-free areas;
- Making parking in city-centres more expensive;
- Constructing cycle paths and reducing road space for cars;
- Facilitating cycling through cycle network planning, road design, signalling, parking and enforcement;
- Reducing maximum speed on the majority of urban roads to 30 km/h or less;
- Promoting cycling to encourage the use of bikes and discourage car-use.

It worked!

Bicycle use in cities increased. In 1975, 25% of all non-walking journeys in Amsterdam involved a bicycle. By 1995, this had increased to 35%. We also managed to improve the safety of cycling and traffic fatalities fell from 3,200 in 1972 to 700 in 2010.

The advantages

- You travel 10% faster in cities by bike than by car
- The quality of life in cities improves
- Traffic congestion reduces
- Local, city economies improve

So the TfGM cycling strategy must include measures to constrain the motor vehicle in the area. The road network will continue to carry the vast majority of journeys by pedal cycle for the medium term, and measures which reduce traffic levels have the capacity for the greatest success. Example measures should include:-

A default 20mph speed limit for the whole region.

A ban on HGVs entering all Greater Manchester regional centres.

A review of the conditions for cycling on the entire road network.

The reallocation of road capacity from motor vehicles to cycling, particularly along major routes into the regional centres, such as the A5103 Princess Road in South Manchester and the A56 into Manchester and Bury which follow journey desire lines. This will enable low cost high capacity cycle routes to be built using existing car lanes.

A reduction in the level of all types of motor vehicle parking available in all the regional centres and the removal of all waste ground (zombie) car parks

Removal of through traffic (rat runs) from all residential and retail areas

Closure of all regional centres to all private motor vehicles during periods of high air pollution.

Increased enforcement of parking where illegal parking impacts on cycle routes and cycle parking. It is not enough to supply sufficient cycle facilities in urban areas if it is then blocked by illegally parked motor vehicles.

Transport for Greater Manchester must put in more funds and effort into cycling than went into building the tram network if it is to create a true cycling culture in Greater Manchester. The tram network shows what TfGM can achieve, but this over investment in public transport has held back cycling (see appendix).

Cycling must be TfGM's next major infrastructure project.


Appendix: “The Dutch Bicycle Master Plan” March 1999

Page 26

An extensive system of public transport already existed in Manchester (700,000 inhabitants) and Basle (160,000 inhabitants) before 1940, so that the modal share of the bicycle (in relation to the total bicycle, public transport and car trips) only reached a maximum of 25 per cent (Manchester) and 15 per cent (Basle). Why there was a significantly better and more extensive public transport system in Manchester and Basle in particular is difficult to establish. In Manchester it may have had to do with early suburbanization, while in Basle it may have been the result of its specific morphological and spatial structure, i.e. an elongated, densely constructed city in a narrow valley.

Page 32

Local policy: Dutch cities compared to other Western European cities

This pattern of limited attention to a decrease in bicycle use was also clearly seen at a local level, though with considerable variation - and even more so in other Western European cities (Figure 10). In Manchester and Antwerp, for example, the bicycle no longer played a role in conceptualization and policy after 1950 as the bicycle share plummeted to less than 20 per cent of the total number of bicycle, moped, public transport and car trips. In Copenhagen, on the other hand, the bicycle share fell "only" from 50 to 30 per cent.

Page 103

- The three cities with a low bicycle share (around ten per cent or less): Antwerp, Basle and Manchester:

In Antwerp and Manchester, the decline that set in due to the rise of the car continued without "restraint" because all relevant influential factors pointed in the same direction, i.e. a negative collective image, strong car-orientated policy, development of large-scale car infrastructure, strong suburbanization and diffuse transport relationships. The lower share of the bicycle in the 1930's in Manchester than in Basle is still making itself felt to this day.


  1. Well that's pretty damn thorough, which I'm sure will help. I've also responded, it's 'only' £20m but it needs to be spent well.

  2. Well said that man. Agree with most of what you say.
    To do it right, you will inevitably have to upset a lot of motorists. People in this country are inherently lazy though. Many do not see improvements in cycle infrastructure; just incursions on the "over taxed, over governed motorist". There are more motorists than cyclists. Politicians are at the mercy of the electorate, so will fail on some of the main points you have made due to fear of being voted out. Your point of a central figurehead is correct - they need to be non political as well so that they can do what is right, not what is popular.
    I work at one of the big NHS hospitals in the city - there are many who ride to work. No effort was made to engage with us for our opinions. Your point on 30% riding to work is ok, but we have thousands who work. This requires incentives offered by someone to build showers/lockers/bike sheds to make it a practical option too. There are capacity issues otherwise.
    I hear about integrated transport from TFGM a lot, but bikes MUST be allowed on metrolink at a minimum during off peak periods. Building bike stands in redundant locations is about as much use as my hospital declaring itself a "no smoking site". Bold statements have to have a basis. It's easy to build bike infrastructure where you can fit it, you need to build it where it is needed though or it will go unused. Exactly as you say regarding directness.
    We can only hope GM cycling take notice of your points.