Progress on the Chorlton Cycleway: Chorlton Road, December 2020

What better a time to go for a ride than a crisp Boxing Day morning? Today I found myself on the site of the future Chorlton Cycleway (“Area 1b”) where works have been ongoing since the summer. The route will eventually form a link between Manchester City Centre, and Chorlton Park, 3.5 miles to the south. This stretch runs along Chorlton Road and should be done around Spring 2021. I have linked detailed drawings, for those inclined.

Before the cycleway can go in (it will be carriageway level, demarked with kerbs, as seen above), there are some enabling works that must first be done. This includes a full resurface of the footways, and rebuilding the side road junctions to make them safer for walking and cycling.

Much of this work is now nearing completion. Footways have been re-kerbed with 45° kerbs to allow for a slightly wider cycleway, and resurfaced (although this is regrettably just black asphalt and not a more attractive material). Side roads have also had the footway built out to make for tighter corners for drivers, and shorter distances for pedestrians and cycles to cross.

The side roads will have a raised footway to act as a visual and physical speed bump for drivers. This design doesn’t quite comply with the recommended ones from the latest LTN1/20 statutory guidance, as it doesn’t protect the cycleway quite as well as the footway. However, it’s still a much safer design than currently, and I think most people will feel safe walking and riding across. Regrettably, there are no temporary plastic or asphalt ramps to allow pram/wheelchair users to cross the road before the raised table goes in, making the road unnecessarily inaccessible during construction.

Dropped kerb crossing at Bankwell Street, despite plans showing a raised table

One thing I have not been able to get an answer for, is why a number of roads (3 or 4) have been built with dropped kerbs rather than raised crossings as they are shown on the plans. Bankwell Street, above, clearly has new dropped kerbs, but the plans show it as a raised table. It is unclear whether this is contractor error, a temporary accessible solution, or a change in the plans.

On a more exciting note, the first bus stop is well underway! The previous lay-by (which served to delay buses and endanger cyclists for motorist convenience) has been filled in, with cyclists going round the back of a new bus island in the road. There do appear to be some differences from the plans: the “rain garden” planting areas have not been built: again it is unclear whether they are yet to go in, or have been removed from the plans. The bus shelter has also not been moved to the island (yet?)

Hopefully, now these prepatory works are nearly finished, the cycleway can start to be constructed in the new year! It’s still amazing to finally see progress on the construction of this route since my post way back in 2019 on the then radio silence!

Longford Park Low Traffic Neighbourhood: Transforming Stretford

Stretford is not an area that’s a stranger to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). There are already many existing “filter points”: closures of roads to cars that still let pedestrians and/or cyclists through. A map of all of the modal filters in Trafford has been compiled by Urmston Bee Network. Indeed, there are historic LTNs that are entirely access only for motor traffic, but permeable for active travel:

An existing Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Stretford, formed by the A56 dual carriageway, some “modal filters”, and the canal/railway lines.

However, using Emergency Active Travel funds, Trafford Council have now implemented the first new LTN for decades. It will be first delivered as a trial and, if successful, made permanent.

Implementation

Credit: Mark P on Longford Facebook Group.

The LTN has been implemented using heavy wooden planters and signage, backed up by legal orders that prohibit motoring. The image above shows the locations of said filters, as well as how traffic flows have changed. Note that the LTN is what’s known as “leaky” rather than perfectly filtered, which means that through access is possible. However, it also means that residents can easily drive to either main road rather than going the long way around.

The LTN has been very robustly installed. The signage is excellent, with signage on the main roads telling motorists not to turn left/right where there are filters, and showing diversion routes. The diversion routes have you follow repeated symbol signs, and they take you along Edge Lane and Kings Road, rather than cutting through.

Effects

It’s been immediately clear that these roads are now far quieter than they’ve been for decades, and much safer. This LTN is actually not very well positioned for cyclists. It doesn’t really lead into any cycle routes, and there are two well used routes on either side of it. However, it’s clear that there’s now far more people stopping to chat in the streets. The ambience was once one of noisy polluting motors, but now it’s the rustling of the leaves, birds chirping, and people having a doorstep chat.

Drivers think LTN’s are solely for cyclists. They arent. They improve safety, improve the lives of residents, pedestrians and children. Fantastic.

@StephenCatlow
Video showing the quietness of the filtered streets

There has been no noticable increase in traffic on the main roads, which were always busy. There does appear to be slightly more traffic (i.e. a couple of cars a minute) on the “leak” route on the map above, however it is not clear whether this is just residents driving through to enter/leave the area, or if it’s actually non-residents cutting through.

Response

The response has been a mostly positive one. Of course this wasn’t a surprise: residents had been asking for measures for well over a decade. A leaflet was also circulated to all the houses prior to installation and a majority of responses wanted the filters.

There has been a little pushback, in the form of a few residents expressing unhappiness on social media. There has been some (faux?) concern over emergency service access. Of course the North West Ambulance service, when directly asked, said it doesn’t affect their response times at all:

Usually the “concerns” some people raise about Emergency Services as a reason to not have LTNs or other walking and cycling facilities are quite selective, as explained in Mark Treasure’s excellent post. Often, when such facilities are removed and roads are clogged with 4 lanes of queuing traffic again, such concerns are never raised again by these people.

According to the council, the majority of the concern is from residents of Kenwood Road. Anecdotally, it does appear to be getting slightly more traffic than the other roads, but still relatively low.

Potential Changes

Following resident concerns mentioned above, the council have started another survey. In the survey there are three options. Keep the LTN how it is, re-arrange it to eliminate all through traffic, or remove it entirely.

Proposed new filter locations, again from Mark P

These new locations would involve moving two of the filters slightly, but would cut off all through traffic. This would make all roads similarly quiet.

As I see it, there are a number of pros and cons with these new proposals vs the current trial. The decision should take into account resident preferences as well as traffic count data. These proposals would mean that residents only have access to one main road: they’d have to drive round the block to reach the other. This might have the potential to convert some previously pro-residents to anti-residents. However, it would be much more likely to win over the residents on the roads with slightly increased traffic.

Another slight downside is the cost of getting a new legal order, and moving the filters, turn restriction signs, diversion signs etc. This is money that could be spent on nearby cycleways. However, if there’s not enough support for the filters in their current location, then it would be better to spend the money relocating them, rather than lose them.

My preference is for the filters to remain in place for the full 6 months (so until April 2021) for the changes to properly bed in, and then if people still want to move them, they can be trialled in the new locations for 6 months.

In Future

Traffic counts have been undertaken and, as previously mentioned, there is a survey currently going on. I will revisit this LTN in a future post, seeing how traffic counts changed on the official data, reporting if the filters have moved etc.

The filters have had a transformational effect on the area, very much for the better. It’s shown that LTNs don’t just work in London, but they work up here too, and that many more should be rolled out as soon as possible.

Shows two planters forming a modal filter in a low traffic neighbourhood in Longford Park, Stretford

Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood: When is an LTN not an LTN?

This week, Manchester council published updated plans and timelines for the Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood. The council’s own wording can be read here but to summarise:

  • Filters will start to be installed by Jan 4 and are due to be finished by Jan 8.
  • Of the 25 filters proposed on the initial plan, only 14 are to be installed in Jan.
  • A further five have potential to be included later in the trial.
  • The final six are not being proposed at all anymore.
First, we should look at the impact that these changes will have on how the active neighbourhood works. Thanks to “Streets for People“, there is an excellent image that neatly demonstrates the benefits of the proposed layout from earlier this year (click for a larger version):
As can be seen wonderfully from the image, the original plans were a “perfect” filtered neighbourhood that splits the area into a number of “cells”, each of which only has access from one main road. This means that “rat running” (cutting down residential streets in a car to avoid queues or traffic signals on main roads) is no longer possible.
In the last 10 years alone, traffic volumes on unclassified (read: residential) roads have increased by nearly 50% while traffic volumes on A Roads and B Roads have stayed at the same level. This is likely due to the A & B Roads being at full capacity, and the proliferation of sat nav apps which direct users down residential streets to save a minute or two.
In the old plan, the A and B roads in the area are already pretty much at capacity, so by reducing the overall traffic capacity of the area, less driving would inevitably take place, due to a phenomenon known as “traffic evaporation” where reducing the capacity of the road reduces the number of cars using it. This is because people either take a different route avoiding Levenshulme (i.e. the ring road), make journeys at different times, make them by different modes (walking, cycling, bus, aka “modal shift“), or don’t make the journey at all (perhaps they consolidate multiple into one). The old plan also allowed people walking and cycling to take the most direct route, making active travel more convenient than driving, discouraging car use for local trips. Evidence of this can be read here.
However, in the new plan, the area is no longer a “perfect” LTN (low traffic neighbourhood), but what is sometimes called a “leaky” one, where there are significant gaps in the filters that allow drivers to continue to cut through many residential streets. Indeed, it could be argued that the new plans for Levenshulme are so leaky as to not really be an LTN at all.
I have done my best to draw the impact of the new plans. An interactive map can be found here, or see the screenshot below:
In this new map, the black lines are the proposed 14 modal filters. I have marked the designated through routes (a.k.a. “main roads”) in red. Then, using the available evidence and some personal judgement, I have marked streets in either green, purple, or pink. Green streets represent filtered streets, or streets where the only motor traffic is likely to be residents and deliveries. Purple represents a possible through route for motor traffic, but not necessarily very busy, and pink represents roads where it is both possible and convenient for motorists to rat run. 
As you can see, there are still a number of green streets (some historic due to pre-existing filters and culdesacs) which represent good walking and cycling conditions, however they are now not well joined up, with plenty of rat runs between them. This means it will be much more difficult to find a quiet and pleasant walking and cycling route through the area, than if the original plans had been implemented. In particular, the Fallowfield Loop offroad cycle path that links to the rest of South Manchester, and the city centre via Wilmslow Road, is no longer accessible via quiet streets, with Crayfield Road being a major rat run between the A6 and B6178 Broom Lane.
There is also now little reason for drivers to give up their cars for short trips within the area, as they can still easily bypass the filters, so the modal shift benefits may not be so strongly felt.
This is a poor downgrade from the original plans, and it is extremely odd, since MCC themselves state that over 2/3 of the comments were in favour of an LTN. The original engagement site made no mention that there would be “referenda” on individual filters, with individual ones being removed if support was not high enough. Modal filters work in tandem to prevent through motoring in an entire area, simply removing one without repositioning others leaves an area exposed to rat running. Removing 11 can have a catastrophic effect on the usefulness of an LTN, as can be seen above.
It is good to hear that a further five may be reinstated later in the trial, and I hope that MCC can swiftly redesign and implement these ASAP. However, the cancelled modal filters must be reconsidered: the scheme simply cannot work with multiple rat runs left open. 
I thought I’d look a bit closer at the rationale for cancelling some of the filters. Atlas Place (purple on my above map) has been a culdesac for a while now due to construction. Manchester council says: “The proposal for a filter at Atlas Place received neither positive nor negative feedback, and so will not be progressed at this stage”. However, when looking into the publicly available data from the Commonplace Engagement (available here, in raw JSON form), I could not come to this conclusion myself. There were a total of 7 responses for Atlas Place. 4 of these were clearly positive, 1 was marked neutral (with a positive comment), and only 2 were negative.
Its worth nothing that all but one of the positive comments mentioned Atlas Place itself, and how the filter would help the local area. The two negative comments did not. Indeed, the top comment, which was too long to replicate here but can be found in the raw data, was an unrelated rant about the whole scheme, which was copy and pasted onto every filter.
Therefore, from this data, I don’t think there can be any doubt that there was overwhelming support for this filter. Indeed, one commenter was quite right in saying that this filter was needed for two others to work. And its removal now means that the area is completely open.
Manchester Council need to release how they analysed the data (as well as comments they received by email or physical media), because this discrepancy looks a little odd.
I am glad the trials are finally starting. I would like to see the removed filters reinstated as swiftly as possible, at least only for a trial, because otherwise I am not convinced the trial will have the positive effect desired and it may harm the business case for full funding to be released.
I would also like to see the promised trial crossings over main roads, and the promised school streets, to really help give people the option to leave the car at home and make that modal shift happen. 

Central Islands on cycle crossings: a Greater Manchester curiosity

You might have read the title and thought: that doesn’t sound very interesting or consequential! And perhaps you’re right, but I wanted to write a blog about an interesting design feature I’ve noticed on recent Greater Manchester walking and cycling junctions. Note, this only applies to those which use bi-directional cycle paths and crossings: many of the simpler “CYCLOPS” designs only have single-direction cycle paths and so don’t have this feature. I am talking about a peculiar central island at the start and end of each cycle crossing. Here is a photo of an existing one at Deansgate Interchange, Saddle Junction, and a plan of new ones being built at Princess Road Roundabout

Deansgate Interchange
Saddle Junction

New layout being built at Princess Road roundabout
All signal junction designs for the 10 Greater Manchester councils go through Transport for Greater Manchester’s Urban Traffic Control team for design input and other centralised resources such as modelling, staging etc. So I think it’s possible to suggest that the TfGM UTC team is suggesting/specifying this island, which could be why it’s showing up on every bi-directional crossing across all the councils. I am unsure of the rationale, obviously it provides a nice place to mount the second low level cycle signal as can be seen above, I wonder if there’s a fear of oncoming cycle collisions too?
As we can see from London examples, bidirectional crossings can be built without this island.

 The main issue I have with it, is that it narrows the cycleway. As you can see in the plan above, for a ~4m wide footprint, we only get 1.65m for each direction of cycles. This is barely wide enough for two abreast if riding very close together, but most people will go through this pinch point in single file. Since cycle stages are often quite short on large roundabouts like this (except when “hold the left” phasing is used), this means that the cycle capacity is often quite low.

In the summer, there was an A56 popup cycleway support ride, and a few of us went across Deansgate Interchange. Due to the low capacity of the crossing, and short green times, it took us 4 signal cycles, and several minutes, to get all 30 people across the junction.

The Dutch have known for a while, that not only is a large effective width at crossings vital for high capacity, but also a “chip cone” shape of crossings can improve capacity. As BicycleDutch’s brilliant article and video explains, the optimal shape for a cycle crossing is as below:

This so called “chip cone” means that many cyclists can queue abreast of each other, which increases the number who can go through the junction when the signal goes green. People naturally overtake each other and narrow out due to differences in riding speed, meaning the entrance to the cycle path on the other side can be much narrower. The same happens for cycles in the other direction. This allows a much higher capacity than if the crossings were painted straight, and certainly a higher capacity than if there was a central island.
I’d love to see some rationale for the central islands we are building in crossings like this in Greater Manchester, perhaps there’s something I’m missing!

Levenshulme LTN Leaflet: A Fact Check.

If you live in Levenshulme, you may have received a leaflet dropped off by a group known as “One Levenshulme & Co”. This is a group “Campaigning for an Equitable and Inclusive Low Traffic Neighbourhood” in the area, a goal I think everyone can get behind. I have previously written here about the planned Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage, and how the funding works. I’d recommend reading my previous article first to gain a better context for the fact checking below. As a summary, Manchester Council has received £700k to develop trials and a business case to unlock a further £1.8m (or more, for a particularly strong case) funding to improve the streets in the area. The initial £700k will be used to trial some “modal filters” which make streets access only for cars, while retaining through routes for those on foot/wheelchair, or cycles, as well as trialling a few crossings on busy roads. The remaining money, once unlocked, can be spent on school streets, nicer public realm, crossings, traffic calming, etc.

The following leaflet has been going around. Unfortunately it is a blurry picture, and “One Levenshulme & Co” has refrained from publishing a digital, accessible version, so I have taken it upon myself to type out the letter, which can be found in the Appendix below. I will also quote from it throughout this article.

A leaflet handed out by One Levenshulme & Co. Transcript available in article Appendix

The letter begins with the following:

STOP THE ROAD BLOCKS!!             

We are One Levenshulme & Co, a group of Levenshulme and Burnage Residents who need your help. The Council has proposed an Active Neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage by putting 25 ROAD BLOCKS! into the Levenshulme area in Phase 1. The plan is then to extend the Active Neighbourhood by performing the same disruptive measures throughout Burnage. We want a better scheme but we must act now to demand better roads for all and effective improvements for walking and cycling.

While I appreciate any choice of phrase is used to try to get across a specific point, the immediate use of the phrase “road blocks” without explaining that the road isn’t blocked as pedestrians and cycles can still proceed through, might make some residents unnecessarily worried. I will be using the phrase “modal filter” throughout this piece as it’s the generally accepted term for these interventions. I have explained its meaning in the first paragraph above to avoid any confusion. I think the leaflet could have used a sentence explaining that the “road blocks” are still open to pedestrians and cycles, and all homes will remain accessible to all vehicles, to avoid uncertainty.

This project claims to reduce traffic and make roads safer but will increase congestion and pollution on our busiest roads. This has happened in other places where these projects have been installed. It will make these roads more dangerous as traffic is forced to use “through roads” to get around.

This is the first series of claims that have been made as if they were fact. Of course (and this applies for all claims relating to exactly what will happen to Levenshulme in this article, both by One Levenshulme and myself), there is no possible way to know exactly what impact the scheme will have on the area. There are so many factors and there is no traffic modelling system in existence that can make predictions in a post-Covid world. This is why trials are important, to see exactly what happens, and why the council is using easily moved planters to allow for the trials to be tweaked as necessary if issues arise. I am happy to provide this disclaimer and will always change my stance based on new evidence.

Nevertheless, it’s worth exploring whether similar schemes have increased congestion and pollution on the busiest roads, or made them more dangerous. A similar scheme often raised, is Waltham Forest in London. Immediately after implementation of the scheme, it is indeed true that boundary roads saw an increase in vehicles of 3 – 28%, although it is worth noting that these numbers are still very low compared to the numbers these roads saw just 10 years prior, and in subsequent years, these figures appeared to have dropped again

Table showing the traffic counts on boundary roads in Waltham Forest before and after the low traffic neighbourhood. Boundary roads saw increases of between 3 to 28%
For example, while Lea Bridge Road saw an 11% increase to 16,674 immediately after the scheme, this is still lower than the road was in the early 2000s, and since then, this location has fallen to just over 14k daily vehicles. 
Traffic count data from the DfT for Lea Bridge Road, as linked above. Shows Lea Bridge Road counts appear to have fallen again to pre-LTN levels.

Similar stories can be told for all three roads in the above “Table 3”. The post-LTN numbers are still lower than the roads had seen 10-15 years ago, and numbers have dropped again between 2016 and 2019. Traffic counts in the whole of the LTN area (including boundary roads) have dropped by half, which means not just lower pollution for those on the quieter roads, but for those on boundary roads too.

Maps showing the relative pollution in Waltham Forest before and after the LTN. Before shows a high concentration on the main roads and residential roads. After shows a lower concentration on the main roads, and nearly none on the residential roads.
This is consistent with Manchester Council’s own predictions for Levenshulme and Burnage, taken from their FAQs on the project site:
What happens to all the traffic? Have you done any traffic modelling? Will it not just make the main roads worse? Streets within the Active neighbourhood cells should experience reductions in volume of 50-70% compared to pre-covid levels. As they will only be used for vehicle trips starting and ending in the area (residents, deliveries and school traffic) speeds should also significantly reduce. In the short term, the boundary roads might experience a slight increase in traffic compared to current levels. It’s difficult to compare to pre-covid but we will monitor. Evidence shows a short-term increase (3-6 months) before it drops back to pre-Active Neighbourhood levels. Covid-19 has transformed our mobility patterns, with many fewer trips, schools closed etc. The impact will continue for the rest of the year and potentially beyond, with many people working from home more often, school start times staggered and reduced public transport capacity. As such, any traffic modelling exercise would be unable to accurately predict how people will travel, when and by what mode. We collected traffic before the pandemic and will be monitoring traffic volumes after the trial has gone in, checking whether it meets its stated objectives of reducing traffic volumes and speeds on residential streets.
The council states that it expects traffic levels on boundary roads to rise slightly for 3-6 months while the scheme “beds in”, and then as peoples travel habits shift, (a widely recognised phenomenon known as “modal shift”), these roads will return to pre-LTN levels.
A number of new similar schemes have recently been installed in London and across the country. Unfortunately, due to them not being in place for that long yet, public quantitative data on their efficacy and traffic levels is not yet available. However, this has not stopped folk using them as anecdotal “evidence” that LTNs increase main road traffic, with people taking photographs of boundary roads with long traffic queues on. I don’t think this is useful data either way. Due to the pandemic and fewer people using public transport, road traffic levels in outer London have increased to 150% of 2019 levels. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are an easy scapegoat for these traffic queues but they aren’t necessarily causing them. In fact they could be helping by ensuring some streets get a relief from the queues, allowing people to walk and cycle in safety and not need to take the car, as well as reducing the total traffic capacity in the area, which through a process known as “induced demand”, ensures that fewer people will attempt to drive. Indeed, Wandsworth removed LTNs after public pressure and still regularly sees queues on all main roads, but now also on residential streets.
In terms of the increased danger claims on the boundary roads, initial data from Waltham Forest indicated that the roads within the filtered area saw a decrease in traffic collisions, and the boundary roads saw similar levels to previously. I couldn’t find evidence to suggest that LTNs increase road danger on the boundary roads.
The leaflet continues:

Getting to and from your home will take longer. Emergency services will take longer to respond. Bin collections will be harder to maintain. Deliveries will take longer. Getting around the area will be harder for care workers, taxi drivers, and vehicles servicing businesses. The Burnage plans in Phase 2 will severely impact the A34, Crossley Road, and Grangethorpe Drive amongst others.

This is quite a long list of “citation needed”. Of course, it is a design aim of the LTN to make motor vehicle trips slightly less convenient, by making walking or cycling faster and more direct for local journeys. A 5 minute car journey might become a 10-15 minute one, or a 5 minute cycle. The hope is that people who are able, will switch their short journeys, where possible, to active travel. However, as a percentage of total journey time, the extra distance for longer, more vital car journeys, is negligible. Delivery drivers will not be affected as all properties are still accessible by van or lorry, and delivery routing satnavs will take the filters into account and find the quickest route.

Of course, the claim that getting around will take longer completely ignores that journey times for people walking and cycling will be unaffected, or even improved: about 40% of Levenshulme households don’t have access to a car.

Regarding the emergency services, there is also no evidence for the claim that response times will increase. In Waltham Forest, both the fire service and ambulance service saw decreases in journey times after the LTN was implemented:

There is also not any evidence that bin collections will be disrupted. Biffa already collects from many cul-de-sacs, and even existing “low traffic neighbourhoods” in Manchester such as Chorltonville. They do not have significant issues.

Finally, the leaflet says:

We support the Active Neighbourhood project’s aims to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle around our area and reduce car use, but we want something better than this plan. Practical improvements to benefit everyone including:

New and improved crossings, repaired pavements with dropped kerbs, better lighting, more seating, one-way streets (to reduce pavement parking), traffic calming and safer junctions, more pedestrian controls at traffic lights, school streets for drop-off and collection times, cycle lane infrastructure, and play streets to reclaim our streets for people.

Again, I think this is a (wilful or not) misunderstanding of the funding stream. The final scheme has always included many – if not most – of these elements. Manchester Council must submit a business case to TfGM that demonstrates that their scheme will reduce motoring and increase walking and cycling. Otherwise there is no further cash. Spending the trial money on resurfacing pavements, or reconfiguring junctions (except where necessary to make the trial work), would not be a cost effective use of the limited funds. The trial will demonstrate that the proposed filter locations work (or not), which will allow the council to develop a business case and final scheme that works for everyone, including traffic calming and crossings on the boundary roads where necessary.

I think everyone in the area agrees that no road should experience a detriment for the improvement of others. Which is why it’s very important that people respond to the Commonplace engagement with details of where they think crossings, traffic calming, etc need to be installed in the final scheme. But I don’t think opposing the trials entirely is productive. The money must be spent by 2022, and TfGM and Chris Boardman have been clear that councils dragging their feet on spending it could see it reallocated to other areas who are more willing. We need to help MCC form a robust business case to unlock as much money as possible. This involves being realistic about what can be delivered in a trial, and what can be delivered by 2022 with the available funds. 

I think anyone hoping for a complete redesign of the scheme will probably be disappointed, it seems unlikely there’s time for a redesign, a trial, a business case, and a full scheme installation by 2022 now. So make sure you get onto Commonplace and suggest improvements/tweaks to ensure the scheme is as good as possible and the money remains in Levenshulme and Burnage!

Appendix: Full “One Levenshulme & Co” leaflet transcript.

STOP THE ROAD BLOCKS!!             

We are One Levenshulme & Co, a group of Levenshulme and Burnage Residents who need your help. The Council has proposed an Active Neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage by putting 25 ROAD BLOCKS! into the Levenshulme area in Phase 1. The plan is then to extend the Active Neighbourhood by performing the same disruptive measures throughout Burnage. We want a better scheme but we must act now to demand better roads for all and effective improvements for walking and cycling.

This project claims to reduce traffic and make roads safer but will increase congestion and pollution on our busiest roads. This has happened in other places where these projects have been installed. It will make these roads more dangerous as traffic is forced to use “through roads” to get around.

All Traffic going through the area will be forced to use ONLY these roads:
Stockport Road, Barlow Road, Matthews Lane, Mount Road, Cromwell Grove, Broom Lane, Slade Lane, Albert Road, and Moseley Road

Getting to and from your home will take longer. Emergency services will take longer to respond. Bin collections will be harder to maintain. Deliveries will take longer. Getting around the area will be harder for care workers, taxi drivers, and vehicles servicing businesses. The Burnage plans in Phase 2 will severely impact the A34, Crossley Road, and Grangethorpe Drive amongst others.

We support the Active Neighbourhood project’s aims to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle around our area and reduce car use, but we want something better than this plan. Practical improvements to benefit everyone including:

New and improved crossings, repaired pavements with dropped kerbs, better lighting, more seating, one-way streets (to reduce pavement parking), traffic calming and safer junctions, more pedestrian controls at traffic lights, school streets for drop-off and collection times, cycle lane infrastructure, and play streets to reclaim our streets for people.

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!