Manchester Council has submitted a package of bids worth £600,000 to the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, seeking support for a wide range of schemes to quickly make more space for people travelling across the city on foot or by bike.
The proposals include a plan to temporarily create pedestrian and cycle-only zones in the Northern Quarter and support for interventions, including the purchase and installation of cycle stands, which will kickstart a new vision for a future city centre “Triangle” of connections linking Manchester’s Piccadilly, Victoria and Deansgate rail stations for people travelling on foot or by bike – which it is envisaged would ultimately extend to connect with major bus hubs at Piccadilly Gardens, Shudehill and Chorlton Street.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis and the need for more space for people to socially distance in some of the city’s busiest areas, the Council has designated part of Deansgate as a pedestrian and cycle zone, while also extending an existing traffic-free scheme on Thomas Street to apply seven days a week. Footways have been widened at a series of busy city centre and district centre locations across Manchester, which will help people to return to shops and businesses more safely and confidently as the lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
Councillor for Deansgate, Marcus Johns, said: “We have been working on our vision of a safe, green, and pleasant city centre. This has always included re-allocating road space for pedestrians and people on bikes. In the face of the Covid-19 crisis and the need for social distancing, providing space for active travel is critical for the functioning of our city centre.
“I am happy that our call for the Deansgate pedestrian and cycle zone to join up with other interventions across the city centre has been heard by the Council and feature in these funding proposals. This includes new cycle stands to park bikes, which I have long advocated for in the city centre.
“I’m also pleased that the Council’s exploration of creating a filtered neighbourhood in St Mary’s Parsonage in light of the Deansgate closure is making quick progress. We have been advocating for lessons to be learnt from this on better consultation and communication with residents as we implement emergency measures. I believe that this has been heard too.
“Alongside this package, the Council is now looking at how city centre streets and squares can be opened up as outdoor space for bars and restaurants, helping them re-open as viable businesses while implementing social distancing. We see this in cities like Copenhagen all year round – with weather much worse than ours – and it is hugely successful. Not only will this help our struggling hospitality industry during the Covid-19 crisis, but also it will create a better city centre.
“Taken together, all these measures and plans are another step in the right direction for a safer, greener, and better city centre that we are all working to see as your local Labour councillors.”
The Council has also proposed starting a process of making permanent improvements for the city’s cycle network at 20 different locations, plus the creation of new low-traffic ‘filtered neighbourhoods’ in the north and south of the city.
The Council’s programme has been drawn up so that its full list of proposed interventions could be completed within weeks of receiving funding confirmation.
Funding is being sought for work to begin to permanently fill a list of existing gaps in the city’s cycle network, creating a more coherent and attractive connected set of routes. The first phase of works would provide new cycle infrastructure for Lower Mosley Street and Princess Road in the city centre, plus Stretford Road in Hulme, Albert Street in Beswick and Parsonage Road in Withington.
The council is currently constructing two major permanent schemes – the Manchester to Chorlton cycling and walking route and the Princess Road and Medlock Street junction improvement scheme – which will provide improvements to the city’s cycling and walking infrastructure. A pipeline of major infrastructure projects, totalling £79m of investment, is being progressed in Manchester.
Where neighbouring local authorities are planning to create temporary pop-up cycle lanes which approach Manchester, the Council has committed to working with partners in each case.
Councillor Angeliki Stogia, who is the Executive Member with responsibility for the Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “Encouraging residents to travel on foot and by bike has long been a key priority for us, in order to help create a healthier, cleaner city.
“In response to the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, we have already carried out significant amounts of work, including footway widening to support pedestrians to socially distance and the creation of a new pedestrian and cycle zone on Deansgate, but we want to do much more to improve the city’s cycling and walking infrastructure as quickly as possible.
“Through this funding bid, we are seeking support for additional work which can be delivered in the short-term, but which also has the potential to secure longer-term benefits for people travelling across the city by bike or on foot.
“We are hopeful of a speedy and positive response to our bid from the government, so that we can get moving urgently with schemes which will complement our significant existing investment in building a safer, greener transport network for Manchester.”