Hyde Road: a council failing to engage and listen to the community.

The Hyde Road widening scheme is a fair few years old now. It was funded by a government “pinch point” funding scheme where local authorities can bid for schemes to alleviate congestion. The scheme has been pending for such a length of time that signs forewarning of “imminent” construction have been in place since around 2015-2016

A screenshot of Google Streetview from 2015 showing a sign warning of imminent construction

It is worth pointing out the plans originally shared in 2013 at the council’s cycle forum which showed segregated cycle lanes throughout the scheme, and a bypassed bus stop. While these look a little underwhelming in 2019/2020, back in 2013 they were positively ambitious and still represent a far higher level of service than on 99.5% of Greater Manchester’s roads.

Image
As such, everyone had assumed this was the layout that would eventually be built and quietly forgot about it.

That is, until August 2019 when the council website was update with new plans:

These plans show a straight across pedestrian crossing rather than a staggered one (good) and it is closer to the access steps for the Fallowfield Loop cycle path which passes on a bridge overhead (also good). However, they have removed any sort of safe space for cycling. Not only this, but the website stated that the Fallowfield Loop bridge would be demolished for the widening and a new one wouldn’t be added in until 12 months later, leaving the city’s second most popular cycleway split in two for a whole year.

The current historic old railway bridge would be removed and replaced with a longer new bridge which looks a lot less interesting but can span the 4 lanes of traffic. New access steps would be installed to access this path, however there would be no ramp, only a wheeling ramp on the stairs for cyclists to walk their bikes up.
Naturally this was met with negative reactions. Even if we ignore the wider issues with the whole scheme (i.e. that this section of Hyde Road doesn’t appear to be the pinch point, or that widening roads actually often induces extra traffic, and thus noise/pollution without significantly improving journey times), there were many legitimate objections. The lack of any space for cycling was an obvious one, the lack of an equality act compliant access point to the Fallowfield Loop was another. 
It was also identified that it would be difficult to cross the side roads along Hyde Road, and that continuous footways should be used where possible to re-enforce pedestrian priority.
There was a consultation event which I attended and have previously written up. At the time, a local councillor present at the event stated that she was unhappy with the negative feedback the plans had received and would be putting the scheme on hold until it could be redesigned to suit everyone. As we now know, this was not the case and I speculate that while this councillor intended to do just that, higher ups in MCC pushed back and pushed this scheme through as is.
All was quiet for a while, so I put in a Freedom of Information Request for the results of the consultation. Sure enough, just under 20 days later, we got an update. There are several inaccuracies in this response which I will go through now. 
While it is true the works do only run for 300 metres, this has not stopped the Stockport Road widening scheme, funded from a similar source, from including cycle facilities. It is obviously untrue that the road does not link to any other cycle networks as the Fallowfield Loop runs directly overhead, which links to the Ashton Canal, Wilmslow Road to Didsbury or the City Centre, and the upcoming Chorlton Cycleway and thus Stretford Cycleway. The road also categorically is a “Bee Line” (i.e. a route on the proposed Bee Network of cycling and walking).
The orange line denotes the proposed Beeline along Hyde Road, and the yellow is the Fallowfield Loop. TfGM intends that the whole of the A57 from the city centre to Derbyshire will have protected walking and cycling facilities in 10 years. Tameside are already progressing a section in Denton. So it would make perfect sense to do this section of Hyde Road now to avoid future disruption and cost. As it stands, with the proposed plans, there is no room to retrofit cycleways in, without removing traffic lanes. In an ideal world, the scheme would be made wide enough now to fit 4 lanes plus two cycleways, so two lanes can be converted to bus lanes and cycleways built in the future. This is extremely short sighted planning. The only space left for cycling is a 3.0 metre wide pavement on the North side which is too narrow, and shared pavements are awful provision on city streets which see little use.
While it is technically correct that a bid was made to the Mayor’s Challenge Fund (TfGM) for money to add the cycle improvements, it is not surprising it wasn’t accepted. Thanks to another FOI, I have the bid document and it is poorly written with plenty of typos, and little evidence to back anything up. They are also asking for £3m for 300 metres of cycleway, which is quite high, especially since the whole road widening scheme is costing £4.5m, including removing a bridge and digging up an entire road! I do not believe that it could cost £3m to add some segregation kerbs and green tarmac to a road that’s already dug up. While it is technically true that a bid was made and rejected, this seems to be entirely MCC’s fault.
This is simply a shocking decision. As people complained that the steps discriminated against disabled users, and those riding non standard cycles that cannot be easily wheeled (trikes, cargo bikes, tandems), MCC’s response was to simply remove all access from the plans, including the steps. This feels entirely like a punishment for those of us who chose to respond critically to a consultation rather than just agreeing. I have still not been given a reason as to why the ramp isn’t possible: the land is seemingly owned by Sustrans, a walking and cycling charity who maintains the Fallowfield Loop, so it seems odd that an arrangement couldn’t be made with them.
The only positive changes I can see in the new plans is that the lane widths have been narrowed slightly at the crossing as I suggested (which helps protect pedestrians and also those cyclists who are brave enough to use the road here), and an island has been added on one of the side roads to assist people crossing. No continuous footways, no cycle tracks, nothing. The image shows the lack of steps now too.
As such, I decided to make yet more Freedom of Information Requests. I asked for the equality impact assessment. Despite all of the flaws noted above in terms of accessibility, cycle safety, issues with crossing side roads etc, it only contains the marginally positive aspects and ignores the negative ones entirely. Using this new evaluation method that MCC are pioneering, I will be rating my washing up tonight. I smashed half the dishes and the rest have food still on. However, we will ignore those: two of them are as clean as you’d expect, so I give myself a perfect rating on washing up.
I also asked for traffic and emissions modelling. None could be provided.
I asked for the Road Safety Audit. Despite stating that there were eight vulnerable road user (pedestrian, cycle, motorcycle) collisions with three serious in only 5 years, it ignores all the dangerous parts: cyclists being asked to ride on a four lane road with buses and HGVs thundering along, or pedestrians having to cross side roads with no help. Instead it only mentions signage, guardrails, and parking. A grand total of four items for the entire scheme when I can think of double that off the top of my head. See the above innovative self-evaluation method.
Finally, I asked for the full consultation results, i.e. what everyone had commented. And these are the most interesting. As I asked for the comments made by any means (verbal, email, letter, website), we can assume this is the full data-set that decisions were made from.
I draw your attention to the above pie chart which was published with the original consultation result FOI, prior to me requesting the individual comments. This is how MCC categorised the comments, to make it seem like the dissenters were a minority. However, reading the comments in the above PDF, it is hard to see how these figures were reached. 
The PDF is colour coded. No key was given as to what the colours mean. I cannot tell what the difference is between the red (C) and blue (N) responses. Both red and blue are overwhelmingly negative, some very so. Yellow (Y) does appear to be positive. The minority of responses are truly neutral from my evaluation. Green appears to be official responses, noteworthy how the Tameside Cycling Development Officer who was critical of the plans was not graced with a response.

Plotting my evaluation on a similar pie chart, we can see a completely different story to what MCC claimed on their site. I am trying to work out why this can be. It appears the agree percentage is the same, but they have far more “neutral” than the data really shows (the vast majority of the data takes either a positive or negative stance, and the neutrals are spread between the colour classification MCC used, so I haven’t plotted “neutral”, see the data above to confirm for yourself). My FOI requested all responses, including ones made in person or by post, so we must assume that this data is included. Even being generous with assigning “neutral” stances to what are quite negative comments, I simply cannot come close to MCC’s numbers. The majority of comments disagreed, by my evaluation. Whether that’s a slight majority or a vast majority is debatable but I don’t think there can be any doubt that there was a majority.

As such it is shocking that the scheme is going ahead with effectively no positive changes, despite suggestions made in the responses. This is another case of MCC ignoring what people want from them, and doing everything they can to spin it in their favour, even though basic fact checking can debunk many of their claims.

All of this is very reminiscent of the Great Ancoats Street Swindle which went down in much the same way. Walking and Cycling campaigners were promised by MCC’s Executive Member for the Environment, Planning and Transport, that it would not happen again with Hyde Road. Well… it has.

With the climate crisis looming, extremely poor air quality and congestion in Manchester, the ever persistent threat of road danger, and people being forced into car ownership by unfair, unequal, outdated road design, it is astonishing that schemes like this are not only being proposed in 2019/2020 but actively pushed through against the wishes of the public, councillors, cycling commissioners, and even MPs/MEPs.

Let’s hope 2020 brings better…

Happy New Year all!
















A57 Widening Consultation

Update: One of the councillors has stated that the scheme has now been stopped due to feedback today and the council will be working with Chris Boardman’s team to develop a walking and cycling route along the length of Hyde Road! Fantastic news.

On the tables were plans of the road, as well as photos of the new bridge (below), and other schematics to do with the bridge and walls.

I think the new bridge is quite attractive but the people there were unable to give me a definite width. I was told it was about the same as the existing one but the pictures look nowhere near as wide. Perhaps the new one will be of the same design but wider? The current bridge is 7 metres wide. (Note I am talking about the width as you are cycling across it, not the length that it spans over the road which will obviously be longer as it’s spanning 4 lanes rather than 2).
Now for some history on the scheme, as it was told to me. The scheme is a central government pinch point scheme. The plans originally had segregated cycle lanes.
I was told that this was why the scheme was delayed for so long, they wanted to get extra funding for the cycleways (I’ve since heard that the delay was due to the land ownership). When the Bee Network came about, they applied for funding to build them but was declined as the scheme was “only 300 metres”. This seems a bit odd, as Princess Road roundabout is a similarly small and disconnected scheme yet has Bee Network funding because TfGM understand that it makes sense to spend a little now to get cycleways that can be tied into later, rather than spending a lot of money later ro dig it all up again. It would make total sense for a small bid to build the above now as it will not be possible later without completely ripping up the entire carriageway and footway again as the alignments are all wrong.
These are the current plans. These plans if built would completely lock out the potential of cycleways on either side of the road, instead forcing a bidirectional cycleway on one side of the road. The plans have 5.15m on the top, but 2.15m is given to a grass verge which is a large waste of space, and pedestrians and cyclists are squeezed into 3.0m which is far too narrow for a shared path. There really isn’t much room here to add a future cycle scheme without ripping up the whole road again, so getting this right now makes perfect sense and provides far better value for money.
As for suggestions I and others made (assuming that it was impossible to get proper cycleways):
  • Narrow the lanes to 3.25m and remove the central island. This not only frees up an additional 1.3m for the shared path which is space that can be used for a cycleway later, but also has the benefit of reducing traffic speeds which is vital around the crossing. 3.65m is the worst possible lane width for close passes on cyclists too, drivers think they can squeeze past without going into the other lane. Not only that, but a shorter crossing with no central island is better for pedestrians as they have less distance to cross, but also for traffic as the green man doesn’t need to be as long. This was what I was most adamant about and in fairness, MCC said this might be a possibility.
  • Remove the stairs and add a ramp. A ramp is realistically not much more than stairs. The land is owned by Sustrans as far as we know. The council said it wasn’t possible to have a ramp due to land ownership, but they did not know who Sustrans was.
  • Have continuous pavements over the side roads. The side roads are dead ends or low traffic. Continuous pavements would slow turning cars and give pedestrians priority over turning traffic. The MCC officers had never heard of continuous pavements and didn’t see the point. One said “why not have a zebra?” I said a zebra on each would be very welcome, but I didn’t see them spending the £20-40k for each one. Despite several of us explaining continuous footways and showing an example from as close to home as trafford, they were adamant that it’s not in the design manual and so can’t be done.
  • Ensure the diversion is accessible. If there are any barriers on the ramps and underpasses that would discriminate against people with trailers, nonstandard bicycles etc, then remove them and replace them with single bollards. On the ride home along the Fallowfield Loop there were several access points which were easily accessible to motorcycles, so motorcycles should not be an excuse to make the diversion inaccessible. It’s already bad enough that a bridge crossing that takes 5 seconds currently will now take several minutes. MCC said this might be a possibility too.

Unfortunately this event gave me the impression that pretty much everything was set in stone. It wasn’t really a consultation at all. Despite the promise that lessons were learned from Great Ancoats Street and it would not happen again, the exact same thing is happening again. Cycling is being locked out because there isn’t the ambition to do it correctly now. I’d like to see the scheme put on hold, and Bee Network funding properly applied for so this section can be done. The people there did not know that Hyde Road is a future “busy bee” scheme and would need doing at some point, so it makes sense to do this section now.

I wonder when we’ll finally start to see all council schemes actually include cycling from the very start, and include locals too. The past few schemes (MSIRR, Princess Road, Great Ancoats Street) have not had consultations, they have had sessions telling us “we’re doing this”. I hope future schemes can be more inclusive.

Regent Road, “better for cycling?”

The news came out today that the council is about to finish works on Regent Road, which forms part of the Manchester and Salford Inner Ring Road (MSIRR) that encircles the city centre. These works have been ongoing for over a year now and will provide about 20% extra capacity for motor vehicles. Ignoring the effects of induced demand, where when you widen a road it just attracts more vehicles and congestion stays the same, or the effects we are already seeing where this junction is more efficient but the M602 roundabout is now busier, how do the plans fare for walking and cycling? The council insists that the crossings are better. But are they really?

Of course it’s worth noting that the junctions beforehand were not good for walking or cycling, but the comparison is still important. Surely a junction designed decades later, with all we know now, should have great active travel provision?

I will compare several cycle routes from before and after the changes. I will draw the route you must take in green, and use red lines for crossings where you might have to stop. Due to timings, you might not have to stop at every single one every time, but in a worst case scenario, you will have to stop at most if not all.

Regent Road to Hulme

On the before image we can see this is relatively stress free. Going towards Hulme, you leave the road into a segregated cycleway, and there’s a crossing over the left turn lane. Then you rejoin the road in a painted cycle lane and might have to stop again before you can go straight on with the cars. Being in a painted cycle lane is not pleasant, but as the left turn traffic was removed, you know no one will turn over you so this isn’t terribly unsafe, if not that enjoyable. Then you simply veer left onto the other painted cycle lane and you’re away to Hulme.
Min Stops: 1,  Max Stops: 2.

Away from Hulme is even simpler. You’re completely away from the road and there’s a crossing of Water Street. This crossing has give way lines rather than lights. As Water Street is a dead end and low traffic, you could often do this without stopping at all.
Min Stops: 0, Max Stops: 1.

The after image is rather sad. Across the board, cycle lanes and cycleways have been completely removed. Pedestrians and cyclists now share the same narrow paths and small islands, to the detriment of both modes. And to make any crossing, you must now do it in multiple stages. Towards Hulme, you now have to make FOUR crossings, zigzagging around on these tiny islands with guardrails which is downright difficult on a normal bike, impossible with a trailer. While the light phasing might be such that this can be done in less than the maximum of four stages, it seems impossible that it could be less than two or three.
Min Stops: 2?, Max Stops: 4.

The away is no better. What was a straight crossing over a small road is now two stage, with another staggered island shared with pedestrians. The only good thing about Toucan crossings (crossings shared by pedestrians and cycles) is that cyclists can legally treat the red man as advisory like pedestrians, so if there’s low traffic you can legally cross on red. But the stagger of the island means that what was a give way before with a potential zero stops, is now:
Min Stops: 1, Max Stops: 2.

The other routes fare similarly. The before situation was dire enough, but the after situation is actually a huge step backwards, embarassing for a city that’s declared a climate emergency, wants to cut down on illegal and lethal air pollution, and wants to limit car use in favour of walking and cycling. One might say that to remove cars from the city centre you need a working ring road, to which I agree, however you also need excellent crossings of said ring road if you don’t want your city centre to be completely cut off from the surrounding areas. As it stands, Deansgate Interchange and Oxford Road are pretty much the only two acceptable crossings of the ring road, all the others massively put people off from walking and cycling, and to make a mediocre one into a terrible one is going backwards.
For completeness, the works also took place on Deansgate Interchange. This had semi decent crossings already, which have been moderately improved. The waiting islands are bigger, and there’s a new crossing of Chorlton Road to remove a previously unsignalised dash across three lanes. However, it does have some boneheaded design decisions such as adding an extra lane into the city centre from Chester Road, and a Scalextric crossover for cyclists. Don’t believe me?
Yep! Cyclists going northbound are expected to use the existing cycle lane that merges with the northbound road. Cyclists going southbound are expected to use the shared pavement. And at the junction, the two tracks cross over each other scalextric style. If that’s not proof the designers don’t really care about cycling, I don’t know what is. When did they last crossover two car lanes like that?
These junctions will need digging up again in less than 5 years at huge expense to add the crossings they desperately need. No joined up thinking at Manchester Council!




Manchester: Cycling City? 2019 Report Card.

While it’s only coming up to the start of September, let’s take some time to reflect on how cycling has changed in Manchester since Septermber last year. Given that they signed up to the Made to Move manifesto in 2017, and have some of the UK’s most talented walking and cycling engineers and project managers at their disposal in TfGM, has Manchester progressed towards being a “byword for cycling” or one of the “best places to walk and cycle”? Lets see…

MSIRR: September 2018 – September 2019 (Ongoing)

The Manchester and Salford Inner Ring Road works began in September of 2018. About a month beforehand, signs went up saying works were to begin and to check the website for information. However, the website had only very vague descriptions and no actual schematics, something that remains true to this day. Even as the works are finishing, there hasn’t been a single publicly shared plan. The public was deliberately kept in the dark so we wouldn’t have a chance to object before it was too late.

A member of the community managed to get hold of the plans and sent them to me. The plans include removing all dedicated signalised cycleways at Regent Road in favour of multi stage crossings shared with pedestrians, and being stuck on tiny islands in the middle of the junction as traffic roars past.

Deansgate Interchange does see some minor upgrades to cycle infrastructure that was already there, but car capacity into the city centre has been increased, and the most dangerous spots including an unsignalised cycle crossing over a roundabout exit have not been addressed. The only benefits for cycling are larger islands to wait in, and a signalised crossing over Chorlton Road. Very welcome, but very minor.

So, the plans aren’t very good for cycling (or walking). But has the traffic management been any better?

In short, no. For over a year now, the cycleways across Deansgate Interchange have been mostly unusable. They have been unsurfaced with high kerbs to bounce over, cycle lights have been removed, pedestrians and cyclists have been corralled together into tiny temporary paths, and it’s sometimes been impossible to rejoin the road after you’ve been forced onto a pavement.

There has been exactly zero consideration for pedestrians and cyclists during these works and it has been so unpleasant that I have completely changed my route for the last year to avoid this junction entirely.

Chorlton Cycleway: December 2018 – September 2019 (Ongoing)

Back in December 2018, the plans for Chorlton Cycleway were unveiled. This is a very old scheme using government cycle grant money that has been in the works for a while. It was supposed to be built by now, but the decision was made to delay the scheme and use the new Bee Network money to improve the safety. This is very welcome. There was a consultation over Christmas. Many of the local traders were rather hostile towards the scheme as it would mean losing on street parking spaces to provide a safe space to walk and cycle. Some even published a response using falsehoods stating that Trafford’s Talbot Road cycleway had “increased congestion” despite them only protecting existing cycle lanes and not reducing car capacity at all.

After the consultation ended in Jan, we have heard very little about the scheme since. The consultation report was supposed to have been published on the council website in “June/July”, however this never materialised despite my countless requests throughout July and August.

Today I thought progress might finally be being made, however instead of publishing the promised consultation report, the website was simply quietly updated to read “September”.
A Freedom of Information Request I made last month was responded to, saying that the consultation report would be published “in the coming months” and that the scheme would be built in stages, starting from the City Centre/Hulme end. It appears that much of the Chorlton section will go back to consultation with revised plans. We can only hope that the council didn’t kowtow to the unreasonable requests of some traders and compromise safety of pedestrians and cyclists through Chorlton at the expense of motor vehicles. It seems Chorlton might not be a safe place to travel actively for a while yet.

Sackville Street: Feb 2019 – September 2019 (Ongoing)

One day in February, I attempted to cycle southbound on Sackville Street (it’s a one way northbound road with a cycle contraflow lane) to discover the contraflow lane had been dug up. A few weeks later, a new road layout had been installed. The hotel development had taken over one footway and some of the road. Manchester Council deemed it necessary to maintain two lanes on what should be a quiet pleasant road in the middle of the gay village, so they dug up the contraflow cycle lane to make room for the second lane. I complained about this, and another week later, a cycle lane had been painted on the pavement that made both the cycle lane and pavement far too narrow. This then rejoined the road at exactly the worst part, where the oncoming right turn lane began. 
Drivers were driving down the whole length of the contraflow lane to get to the right turn lane earlier, which was a clear safety risk.

A Zebra Crossing was then installed to help people cross from the closed footway to the other one. This had severe design flaws and did not comply with the design regulations at all. Drivers often do not stop for people here, even people halfway across the road. After more complaining to the council where I suggested wand orcas to stop people driving in the cycle lane, however orcas were installed. These did absolutely nothing and were driven over with ease by taxi drivers and even buses. You can see the damage on them from only a week or two here. Finally, after much more complaining and sending multiple videos every week to the council of buses driving down the contraflow cycle lane, the wand orcas I originally suggested were installed. However, only two of them were installed. These stopped the driving in the cycle lane at this one specific point, but it is still a massive problem on the whole rest of the road, including the lethal section where the contraflow cycle lane leaves the pavement into the right turn lane, which remains as bad as ever.
After six months of constant tweets and emails to the council, countless photographic and video evidence of clear safety issues, and practical suggestions as to how to fix it, these two wand orcas are the only mitigation measures that have been installed, and their effectiveness is extremely limited to the section they occupy. The rest of the road is still as bad as in March.
It leaves a bit of a sour taste when the council can remove an existing cycle lane overnight with no warning and it takes 6 months and significant amounts of mine (and other campaigners) time to get some incredibly minor and largely ineffective mitigation measures put in. I expect it will take someone dying here before it’s taken remotely seriously.
This is still ongoing. Will it ever be safe?

Chorlton School Schemes: Summer 2019

As part of the council’s school crossing safety programme, some new infrastructure was built around Chorlton High school, Chorlton Park Primary, and Loreto High. The former two schools got Manchester’s first “tiger crossing”, a zebra crossing with provision for cyclists too.
This is very welcome and has been implemented quite decently, although I find that the cycle section is not particularly visible and some drivers are hesitant to stop for waiting cyclists as they (presumably) don’t feel they have to. This is part of a larger issue in the area where these roads are used as rat runs. They are wide, smooth surfaced, the 20 limit is ignored, and everyone parks their cars entirely on the pavement to allow drivers to zoom past. A better solution would have been to make these roads access only with a few bollards, or even “School Streets”: motor traffic free at dropping off/kicking out time.

The Chorlton High route runs along the newly shared pavement to the alleyway that runs parallel to Sandy Lane. Again, this is far from ideal and I would have preferred to see Sandy Lane fixed, but this is probably out of the scope of this scheme. The unacceptable part is that the alleyway has anti cycling barriers on it, despite being a new cycle route. These make it almost impossible to get through with non standard bicycles, such as a trailer. A route to schools should really allow for child trailers…

The Loreto route is equally poor. It’s little more than painted lines on a bumpy pavement. You must give way at every side road, even to cul de sacs and private car parks. 
Cycles should really have priority over these side roads. Of course if you stay in the road you do have priority, but this has a similar issue where it’s a major rat run. There is a parallel main road, there is no reason to have through traffic on this road. The parking bays should have been put on the pavement, the whole road double yellow line’d and the road made access only or even a School Street so people can happily cycle on the lovely smooth road surface and what little traffic there is can easily give plenty of space.
These schemes are stated as still ongoing on the council’s website, so there will potentially be further improvements. I have requested the plans but no response as of yet.

Great Ancoats Street – Summer 2019

This one was well documented, and a more detailed explanation can be found here: https://greatancoats2020.weebly.com/
In short, the council published renders of a “redesign” of Great Ancoats Street, stating that work would soon be starting. There had been a consultation a while back but it was not publicised at all and the consultation materials were misleading, saying the street would see “no overall change”. However, the new plans show that the existing (subpar) cycle lanes were being removed, and there would be no safe space for cycling.
This generated a huge backlash as this is a vital route. It has housing, offices, shops on it. The council’s proposed alternative route that runs down the back streets does not access any of these: people will still want and need to access these places by bike and will be put directly at risk by the new scheme that prioritises motor traffic first, pedestrians second, and cyclists under a lorry.

There was a protest ride broadcast on ITV and the BBC. There was a 1000 strong petition. The council’s own scrutiny committee all agreed that the consultation had not been sufficient and recommended that the plan must go back to consultation. Residents came up with alternative plans, including a fantastic detailed schematic by engineer Bryn Buck, definitively proving that safe cycling could be installed without affecting motor traffic (it would actually improve flow), or pedestrians. 

Further digging revealed that TfGM had produced a design with segregated cycleways but this was refused by the council and additional taxpayers money was spent on a plan omitting these.
Despite all the strong opposition from residents, the universal recommendation of the scrutiny committee that the plan goes back to consultation, the executive is going on with the plan regardless, so we must ask serious questions about how democratic Manchester City Council really is. They have been doubling down on easily disproven falsehoods like “cycle lanes cause pollution” and have been ignoring valid points in emails and saying “we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one”.

A6 Widening: June 2019

In June 2019, plans surfaced for a widening of the A6. Unlike other similar schemes, this one actually included a segregated cycle track and bus stop bypass that was much welcomed, however the rest was actively dangerous.
The cycle track emerges into a 1.1m (assuming the drawing is to scale, it is not measured, probably because they know it’s not acceptable) cycle lane. Even the oldest and most outdated government road design guidelines state that 1.1m is not only unacceptably narrow, but actively more dangerous than including no cycle lane at all. The cycle lane emerges into the carriageway as vehicles are moving left towards the junction, creating a nasty pinch point. Vehicles in the leftmost lane will be encouraged to perform an extremely dangerously close pass.
Nothing much more to say about this. Hopefully the plans will be improved, but it’s a long way off being remotely safe for cycling.

Princess Road Roundabout: July 2019

Another MSIRR scheme popped up halfway through the year, this time to redevelop the roundabout at Princess Road/Mancunian Way. Once again this is a motor traffic central scheme, but thankfully some Bee Network money was added at the last minute to try and improve things for walking and cycling.
There isn’t much to say on this as there has not been any final design approved yet, but there have been three sample designs. On all of the designs, the existing subways (dark and scary) have been filled in and replaced with surface crossings. This worries me a bit as this happened at the A56/Edge Lane junction in Stretford two years ago and the surface crossings now take 3-5 minutes and make you stand in the middle of an 8 lane dual carriageway inhaling fumes as cars zoom past on both sides. There is also one surface crossing currently existing at the roundabout. It takes an absolute age to cross and sadly has a ghost bike where someone was run over a while back.
I understand the subways are not fit for purpose and are too scary for most people, but I would have liked to see them remain as an option, or upgraded to Dutch standards, in addition to surface crossings. Currently, all of the concept designs have three to four stage crossings for those walking and cycling, or huge detours.
The council has been unable to tell us the affect on congestion or emissions. The council has been unable to confirm whether a privately owned community garden will be paved over for the scheme. The council has been unable to say whether the crossings will be convenient, or whether the light signalling will be purely for motor traffic with pedestrians and cyclists only allowed to cross when cars are already stopped for other cars, as is the case with all other similar junctions in Manchester.
I do hope the final plans that are due to be posted soon are acceptable, but there will be very little time to object since construction is also due to start very soon. I do hope it isn’t another scheme like the rest of this list where a car centric scheme is pushed through because construction starts too soon after the release of the plans for any meaningful objection.

A57 Widening: September 2019

Today plans dropped for a widening of the A57 in Gorton. The road goes from four lanes down to two as it passes under an old railway bridge that now houses the Fallowfield Loop walking and Cycling Route and the council wish to widen this bridge so they can fit four lanes in. Their website states: As this is only a 300 metre section of the road, no specific cycle lanes are included in this scheme.”

This goes entirely against the made to move manifesto that states that walking and cycling will be at the heart of all new schemes. The plans are also to add a flight of stairs to the Fallowfield Loop which is discriminatory towards disabled users, or people with cycle trailers, heavy bikes they cannot easily wheel up etc. The cycle forum was informed a while back that there was scope for an accessible ramp here but it seems the easy way has been taken.

During the works (which will last a year), the existing bridge carrying the Floop will be demolished. A councillor on Twitter has assured that the Floop will still be continuous, however it is not clear what route this will take, what safety measures will be put in, and how much delay there will be in crossing the A57 that used to take 5 seconds on the bridge. Once again, existing cycle infrastructure is being ripped up and compromised for the convenience of motorists.

In true Manchester City Council fashion, plans emerged from 2013 showing this section of road with 4 lanes AND segregated cycleways.

The council has as of yet been unable to justify why they spent additional taxpayers money on new plans that deliberately exclude cycling when these already existed and were pretty good. They seem to expect cyclists to use the 3.65m traffic lanes, a width used on motorways that will encourage speeds far in excess of the 30mph limit, and a width proven to be the exact sweet spot for encouraging as many close passes on cyclists as possible.
Their proposal seems to be for a 3.0m wide shared path on the north side of the road, but this is simply not acceptable. 3.0m is very narrow for a shared path and puts pedestrians and cycles in direct conflict when they don’t have to be. Cyclists must give way at every side road which they do not have to do in the road. It also encourages road rage from drivers towards cyclists who understandably do not use the shared path, with dangerous driving and shouting “GET IN THE CYCLE LANE!”. The path is also completely inaccessible to westbound cyclists. 
It is unclear why the council wishes this conflict on people who simply want to ride to work. Workable plans with safe cycling infrastructure were already made, I have no explanation as to why they were scrapped and nor does the council.

Conclusion

The past year has been extremely poor for cycling in Manchester, actively going backwards. The council seems to think they only have to provide for cycling on certain routes that are being funded by the mayor, and they are free to keep all other routes hostile for cycling. And those few mayors fund routes we do have, are facing delay after delay. It seems dubious that we’ll see construction on any of them in 2019. Cycling and walking must have a holistic strategy that encompasses every new development on the highway. If we are to take the climate emergency, air pollution crisis, congestion crisis, and road death problem seriously, that is the only solution. Manchester’s current attitude is extremely damaging and will not go far enough, pursuing some utopia where traffic flows freely and people can drive everywhere. In reality of course, we know that due to induced demand and further pinch points up the road, these road widening schemes will do almost nothing for congestion, just like all the ones before them.

A successful city is not one where the poor (are forced to) drive, but one where the rich get the bus or a bike. MCC spearheaded by Sir Richard Leese is frankly chasing the former right now.

Let’s hope for a better report card this time next year.