Greater Manchester plans UK’s largest walking and cycling network

By Emma Griffin, London Living Streets website manager

Small_Chapel StreetLondon Living Streets is thrilled to see Greater Manchester’s ambitious plans to create a city region for people, not vehicles.

The Beelines proposal, announced today by Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman, is welcome for its focus on crossings to create a joined-up, safe walking and cycling network across the region; and filtered, or low-traffic neighbourhoods. These priorities match many of our campaign interests.

Currently 30% of trips under 1km are still made by car in Greater Manchester, the equivalent of 15 minutes walking or five minutes cycling. A large proportion of these trips are school runs. In Netherlands, 50% of children cycle to school, compared to just 2% in Manchester.

Walking and cycling network

Beelines sets out to make walking and cycling the natural choice for these short journeys by creating a network, covering 1000 miles, that connects every neighbourhood and community.

The proposals include 75 miles of fully segregated cycle routes. But the majority of the network already exists, says Boardman. He points out that 80% of Manchester roads are already fairly quiet, with less than six cars per minute. The problem is that major roads act as severance points between them.


Phase one of the Beelines project will put in dedicated crossing points, such as parallel signalised crossings and parallel zebra crossings, to get people walking and cycling across these major roads. Overall, the plans propose 1,400 new crossings that also include zebra crossings at every side road to encourage people to cross roads with priority and without fear. Continuous crossings such as these are essential for improving  the safety and experience of those on foot.

Boardman is also lobbying Government to change crossing and waiting times to give cyclists and pedestrians priority.

Low traffic neighbourhoods

In addition, the plans include 25 ‘filtered neighbourhoods’ that will not allow through motor traffic, but allow the movement of people and create more public spaces to sit, play and socialise.

He told The Guardian he was ‘“absolutely unapologetic” that the plans would take space away from cars and could make motor journeys slower in what is already a traffic-snarled region’.



The scale of the investment and projected speed of delivery are also impressive. It is estimated the entire network could be completed as early as 2023. This demonstrates an understanding that changes can and should be made quickly. London has set itself longer timeframes – for all Londoners to do at least 20 minutes of active travel by 2041.

The plans published today have a combined budget of around £500 million and represent a first step in the planned £1.5 billion investment. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has already allocated £160 million of the government’s Transforming Cities Fund to kick-start the project. This brings the total spend on cycling and walking in Greater Manchester to around £15 per head per year, almost the same as cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Chris Boardman said: “It’s not really about people using bikes and walking – it’s about making better places to live and work by giving people a real choice about how they travel. In doing so, we’ll make the city -region healthier and more prosperous.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: