Greater Manchester to create UK’s biggest cycling and walking network

Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman.

Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman has unveiled plans for 1,000 miles of interlinked bike and walking lanes across Greater Manchester.

The ‘Beelines’ network will see £1.5bn invested over ten years and will include 75 miles of segregated cycle lanes like those found in Holland and Denmark

Beelines will be the largest joined-up system of walking and cycling routes in the UK and has been developed with all ten Greater Manchester local authorities. Once built, the network will better connect every community in Greater Manchester, benefitting 2.7 million people and making cycling and walking a real alternative to the car. 

The proposals also include plans for 1,400 safer road crossings on the majority of routes and 25 ‘filtered neighbourhoods’, where priority will be given to the movement of people and where more public spaces to sit, play and socialise will be created. 

People in Greater Manchester make around 250 million car journeys of less than one kilometre each year – the equivalent of a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride. A large proportion of these trips are school runs. In the Netherlands, 50% of children cycle to school every day, while in Greater Manchester the number is less than 2%. Beelines aims to make walking and cycling the natural choice for short journeys.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Greater Manchester has a long history of doing innovative things and our approach to Beelines is no different. This proposal is bold and I make no apology for that. If we’re to cut congestion and clean up our air, decisive action is needed. I want to make Greater Manchester one of the top ten places in the world to live and it’s action of this sort which will help to deliver that promise.

“I’ve no doubt that Chris Boardman and the ten local authorities which make up Greater Manchester will do us proud and make journeys on foot or by bike the first choice for local trips. This will help to tackle congestion and it will help to tackle poor air quality, as well as boosting people's health and fitness levels. We have £160m to get us started and we have a plan that has something in it for every single person in Greater Manchester.”

Segregated cycling lane in Holland.

Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman, said: “I’ve been massively impressed by the political will of all of Greater Manchester’s ten authorities to come together to make this plan a reality. It’s not really about people using bikes and walking – it’s about making better places to live and work by giving people a real choice about how they travel. In doing so, we’ll make the city region healthier and more prosperous.

“We’ve seen from other global cities that these methods work and the benefits are there for all to see – we simply can't afford to be left behind. So now the hard work begins and we’ll be working closely with all local authorities and partners to deliver this plan as urgently as possible.”

One of the leaders of the ten Greater Manchester authorities that will benefit from the Beelines network, Rishi Shori, leader of Bury Council, said: “Our region suffers from some of the worst levels of air pollution in the country, which has serious consequences for people’s health. We need to create a modern, green and sustainable conurbation where residents are encouraged and enabled to make more short journeys by foot and on their bikes.” 

Welcoming the initiative, head of smart cities at the Environmental Industries Commission, Sam Ibbott, said: “The benefits of active travel are self-evident, from better physical and mental wellbeing, to a reduction in pollution and improvements in air quality. The biggest barrier to a greater uptake in cycling and walking for shorter journeys is a lack of the physical infrastructure which makes it a safer, more attractive proposition than relying on private cars. 

“Analysis by the Department for Transport shows that investment in active travel sees a 4:1 return, and as global trends see cities become ever more populous in both citizen number and density, the need for efficient transport options becomes increasingly acute. With this latest investment, Greater Manchester has shown the one thing that can make or break these projects - leadership. They have laid down a strong challenge to other cities across the UK to match their ambition.”

Maps showing the proposed plans for each local council area in Greater Manchester have been published as part of the Beelines proposal and can be downloaded here from the Transport for Greater Manchester website.  

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