It has been 6 months since my last post on Hyde Road, it’s time for an update, as there has been new information.
My last post explained some serious issues that had been found with the consultation, where the council had deliberately misclassified comments who profoundly disagreed with the scheme as “neutral” to make the scheme seem more popular than it really was. This was explored further by Andrea Sandor in her excellent post for Manchester Confidentials, including an attempt at justification from the council:
Comments criticising the lack of a cycleway were categorised as neutral, reflecting the fact that it was impossible to satisfy those who wanted the inclusion of a cycleway, because funding is not available to deliver this element.
So it seems that if a scheme doesn’t have funding to implement basic pedestrian/cycle safety features, the council thinks that all comments even mentioning anything of the sort should be classified as “Neutral” even if they had significant issues with the rest of the scheme. Quite how this aligns with MCC delaying schemes such as Chorlton Cycleway and Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood due to complaints from motorists, I don’t know, since the funding for these schemes is purely for walking and cycling and so motorists comments should have been categorised as “neutral” by this logic.
Let’s ignore that, and focus on WHY funding was not available to deliver basic pedestrian and cycle safety. A quote from the same response reads: “We applied to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Challenge Fund for funding to include a cycleway in this project, but unfortunately, this bid was declined”
This is a line the council has used a lot for this scheme, and we touched on this in my last post, linked above. It seems the wording of this is carefully written to shift the blame to GMCA/TfGM for not providing the funding, rather than to MCC for not producing a good enough bid to secure the funding. As I mentioned in my previous post, I got hold of the bid document and it was rather poorly written with typos and missing/incorrect information. Therefore I decided to FOI Request more info from TfGM as to why the bid failed, the response to which can be seen here.
TfGM sent over several documents regarding MCC’s bid for funding from the Mayors Challenge Fund to implement basic walking and cycling safety features alongside the widening scheme. The first of which can be seen below, an excerpt from an email from TfGM to MCC advising that the bid would not succeed in its current form due to a lack of integration into the wider network, and very poor value for money, asking ten times as much per kilometre as the Wilmslow Road cycleways.
New Bridge Design
On Tuesday, I formally opened the new bridge over Hyde Road, re-completing the Fallowfield Loop. The off-road path covers 14 km of our great City of Manchester from Chorlton, through Fallowfield & Levenshulme to Gorton & Fairfield 🚶♀️🧑🦼🚴 pic.twitter.com/PLoL8NLKPO
— Councillor Abid Latif Chohan (@LordMayorOfMcr) July 24, 2020
What is never mentioned however is that the old bridge was 7m+ wide, and the new one is 4m. Considering that there is an open consultation for the Fallowfield Loop and one of the most popular suggestions is to separate pedestrians and cycles, which needs at least 5.5m width to be done properly (3.0m cycle path, 0.5m separator, 2.0m footway), it’s ironic that the Hyde Road scheme removed a “pinch point” on the road, and added a new one on the Fallowfield Loop.
Something also mentioned beforehand, both online and directly to officers and councillors at the consultation event, was concern that the more open bridge design would allow for people to throw stuff off the bridge onto vehicles below.
More worried about local troublemakers throwing stuff over the bridge onto the cars below. Both bridges you’ve shown are over rivers!
— Savage Houtkop (@SavageHoutkop) September 16, 2019
And indeed recently, due to a problem with kids throwing stuff off the bridge onto the road below, and I hear even climbing on the outside of the bridge, “temporary” scaffolding barriers have had to be installed. I do wonder what the long term plan is, as these barriers are further reducing the already low effective width of the bridge, as well as removing any subjective aesthetic advantage the new bridge had over the old one, but this is just another case of the council not listening to legitimate comments at the consultation and ploughing ahead regardless.