MPs take to the streets of Manchester for cycling fact-finding mission

MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group took to the roads of Greater Manchester on Friday 23 September to see for themselves what the city region is doing to get more people on bikes.

They were greeted by Manchester’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Carl Austin-Behan, who led the delegation by bicycle to the Town Hall.

Jeff Smith MP, Ruth Cadbury MP, Alex Chalk MP and Baroness Barker from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group meet Lord Mayor Carl Austin-Behan, Sir Richard Leese and Lucy Powell MP outside Manchester Central Library before touring Manchester as part of a cycling fact-finding mission.

With the Group’s aim to promote cycling across the UK, the MPs used the visit to understand how one of the major conurbations outside London is investing in cycling to make it a more convenient and attractive way to travel for commuters, shoppers, family days out and more.

Co-Chair of the Group, Ruth Cadbury MP,said “It was great to see at first hand what Manchester is offering cyclists and hear about exciting plans for the future.”

Her co-Chair, Alex Chalk MP, added:“London gets a lot of attention when it comes to cycling, but I’m really pleased that we have got a cross-party group of MPs and Peers looking at how Manchester is striving to become a first rate cycling city.”

Greater Manchester has seen unprecedented investment in cycling in recent years, including more than £42million committed to cycling infrastructure improvements funded by the Department for Transport’s (DFT’s) Cycle City Ambition Grant and 17,000 schoolchildren receiving Bikeability training in 2015-16.

The first phase of the Cycle City project saw £20 million of investment in the creation of six new high-quality cycle ways linking communities with key centres of employment,education and training; new facilities, bikes and training for 11 ‘Cycle Schools and Colleges’; and nearly 800 cycle parking spaces and improved cycle links at nine Cycle and Ride Metrolink stops and railway stations.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We want to build on the strong foundations of the Cycle City initiative, to make cycling an even more attractive mode of transport in Manchester, benefiting not just the environment and our local economy, but also the health and well-being of our residents.

“In order to make further progress, we will continue to work with the Government and our partners across Greater Manchester to ensure that the necessary funding is made available to support further improvements to our existing cycling infrastructure.”

The second phase of the programme will involve an additional £22 million investment in new cycle routes, four new cycle-friendly district centres, 10 new Cycle Schools and Colleges and further cycle parking improvements.

By 2021 more than £90 million will have been invested in cycling, equivalent to around £10 million per year. Martin Key, Campaigns Manager at British Cycling said “Whilst London spends around£100 million on cycling per year, Greater Manchester’s budget is ten times smaller and is still the largest outside the capital. This follows recently published figures by the DfT which shows that the Government spends six times more per person on transport in London than the North.”

The visit also coincides with cuts of 30% to Bikeability child cycle training in the region announced recently by the DfT.  Liz Clarke, Managing Director of BikeRight! and a director of The Association of Bikeability Schemes, said: “The Northwest is creating cyclists of the future, with the highest number of children in the country learning to become on-road cyclists.  It is essential that this vital investment into future cycle commuting is continued.”

MPs met leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, and representatives from Transport for Greater Manchester, to find out about the successes and issues encountered in developing and implementing the Greater Manchester Cycling Strategy.

The visitors experienced a Bikeability training course with Year 6 children at St Margaret’s C of E Primary School in Whalley Range, followed by a ride on Wilmslow Road Cycleway, Manchester’s longest segregated cycle route (5km) along the busiest bus corridor in the city.

Councillor Chris Paul, TfGM Committee Cycling Champion, said: “TfGM took on strategic responsibility for cycling in 2011 and since then has managed a significant investment to make travelling by bike easier for as many people as possible across Greater Manchester.

“Demonstrating our long-term commitment, cycling is an integral part of the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040, which is currently under public consultation.

“We appreciate we still have a long way to go in meeting our ambition for 10% of journeys in Greater Manchester being made by bike by 2025, compared to around 3% today, but we’ve made good progress so far in making cycling a realistic and appealing choice for many people, with investment through the Cycle City programme just the beginning.”

Bikeability level 2 session underway with Year 6 children at St Margaret’s C of E Primary School in Whalley Range

APPCG riders on Wilmslow Road Cycleway, Manchester’s longest segregated cycle route (5km) along the busiest bus corridor in the city.