Manchester’s new Beelines network will bring together 1,000 miles of cycleway, 75 miles of which will be Dutch-style segregated lanes
The highlight of the conference, held in Manchester on 28-29 June, was the launch of the £500m proposal for a new joined-up network of walking and cycling infrastructure across Greater Manchester, where 75% of trips of 2-5km are currently made by car. As part of the scheme, 1,400 crossings will be made safer for cyclists and 24 cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly filtered neighbourhoods will be created.
Mayor Andy Burnham and Walking and Cycling Commissioner Chris Boardman were inspiring advocates for the scheme and said political will was the key to getting things done, and that they had worked closely with stakeholders from each part of the city to shape the project. Burnham was passionate about the impact the network would have on areas outside transport such as public health and air pollution. ‘How else could I spend the same money and benefit every man, woman and child in Greater Manchester?’
Evidence shows that cars are parked for 99% of the time
Storing them on the pavement is a particularly poor use of space. A new campaign to ‘Ban Pavement Parking’ was a key part of the ‘Moving the Nation’ manifesto, launched at the conference by an alliance of walking and cycling charities. Chris Boardman encouraged the campaign to send out more positive messages such as ‘more space for prams and wheelchairs’ and, elsewhere at the conference, traffic engineer Jess Read called for minimum 2.5m footways as a basic standard to enable sociable and accompanied walking.
In 2016, 550 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on Britain’s roads, making up a third of all fatalities
The need for higher levels of safety, and perceived safety, came up in several of the presentations. We learned that the LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design guide is being rewritten, building on the last 10 years of new guidance and including protected intersections and roundabouts with parallel crossings and cycle priority. Transport Minister Jesse Norman also announced £500,000 funding for a pilot scheme of bespoke training to improve driving instructors’ cycle safety awareness and additional resources for police to help crack down on close passing.
Urban mobility is all about space: 54% of the world’s population live in cities
‘Shared-use paths have been a default when it has been harder to fit in cycle infrastructure,’ said one of the speakers talking about walking infrastructure. But they are just not suitable when cyclist volumes get to any reasonable level and are especially hard for those with visual impairments. Gwenda Zurbier from the Dutch Cycling Embassy showed us the other end of the spectrum, using photos and diagrams from the Netherlands and Barcelona where selected ‘bike streets’ have been completely reclaimed from motor vehicles.
In the Netherlands, 48% of train travellers arrive by bike
Erik Tetterhoo from the Dutch Cycling Embassy demonstrated how developing urban environments along a Hybrid Bike-Train Oriented Development (HOD) system could allow 85% of residents in an urban area to access their destinations via active and public transport modes. Multi-modal travel also came up in discussions on promoting National Rail’s PlusBike scheme through social media influencers, and the potential of combining bus and bike hire schemes when both were council-owned and run.
A recent survey revealed that 73% of women in 7 major UK cities never ride a bike for local journeys
Yet, according to Sustrans’ Bike Life Report on inclusive city cycling entitled Women: Reducing the Gender Gap, almost a third of those would like to start riding. Feeling unsafe on the roads is the top barrier to cycling, but 79% of women interviewed supported building more protected cycle lanes even if this meant less space for other road traffic. Overall, when compared with men’s journeys, women travelled more with shopping or children, did more multi-stop trips (sometimes referred to as ‘trip-chaining’) and raised concerns about personal safety, especially at night. The importance of modelling behaviour to children was also raised. Philip Darnton, Chair of The Bicycle Association, said they found that ‘if a mother didn’t cycle she was less inclined to let her child cycle,’ and highlighted that children’s bike sales were dropping, particulary for the 11-15 age group.
In Northern Ireland, 81% of children want to walk or cycle to school
When only 12.7% of 11-16 year olds in the area are meeting the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of activity, active travel to school makes an excellent contribution. Caroline Bloomfield from Public Health Northern Ireland talked about their work with Sustrans to encourage walking and cycling to school and the impact it had on issues such as congestion, air quality, childhood obesity and academic performance. Across the 281 schools they have worked with, walking and cycling are up, driving to school is down and 44% of children now meet their recommended daily exercise level.
Cycle numbers on Manchester’s Wilmslow Road route have risen by 86% since the introduction of segregated cycle lanes
A tour of the route from the University area on Oxford Road down to the residential area of Fallowfield demonstrated several excellent examples of cycle infrastructure, from kerb-separated cycleways to floating bus stops with multiple, clear pedestrian crossings. We were told Oxford Road was the bus superhighway of Europe with over 100 buses an hour, but with motor traffic removed and several wide pedestrian spaces around the university it felt safe and easy to cycle through.
Following ‘Cycle Skills’ training in London boroughs, 69% of participants had increased their cycling activity a month later and 11% were now cycling over 4 times a week
The other 31% turned out to be people who already cycled a lot but were looking to develop their skills. However, other schemes, such as a commuter bike loan initiative in Bristol, had more mixed results. It takes a while to build habits and many of the Bristol cyclists still saw cycling to work as an ‘event’ that they did on occasion rather than something they would do regularly. It’s also worth noting that even in areas of high cycling, there is always room for improvement. Cambridge University wasn’t officially part of Love to Ride’s ‘UniCycle’ scheme, but its students still managed to win the prize for the biggest uptake in riders!
The value of volunteering to the Stockton Active Travel Hub is £52k per year
Volunteers are amazing. The Stockton scheme has 42 active volunteers who lead 400 walks and 500 cycle rides a year. They are trained and supported but empowered to shape programmes around their own local communities and create trips that are as much about the social side as the exercise. They have seen a 12% increase in those cycling to work, a 9% decrease in car commuting and 85% of participants agree that they are now more active in their daily lives.