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Boardman reveals revolutionary 1,000 mile cycling infrastructure project for Greater Manchester

Joe Robinson
27 Jun 2018

New Beeline network to cover 1,000 miles of road while transforming the city's approach to transport

Greater Manchester is set to receive a transport revolution as cycling and walking commissioner for the city Chris Boardman unveiled plans for the UK's largest cycling and walking network covering a staggering 1,000 miles.

Called Beelines, keeping the Mancunian connection with the worker bee, this grand project is setting out to target the issues of obesity, poor air quality and costly congestion by introducing a system that will transform Manchester into a city, as Boardman states himself, designed for people and not the vehicle.

At a cost of £150million per year for the next decade these plans 'will deliver an initial network spanning the main towns or extended urban areas of Greater Manchester.'

It is estimated that this change in infrastructure could benefit the city to the tune of £8.3billion in public benefits. 

Boardman also made it clear that these new plans are not for the sole benefit of those already cycling to work, 'rather the two thirds of people who currently use their car as their main mode of transport, to walk or cycle.' 

Beelines will introduce a connected network across the entirety of Manchester that reaches out to all 10 districts and central to this will be the 75 miles of proposed segregated cycleways that will help dissect some of Manchester's busiest roads.

To put the vastness of this in to perspective, since Mayor of London Sadiq Khan assumed office in the May of 2016 only 10km of segregated cycleways have been built despite the promise of a £770 million investment in to cycling in the city.

In order for these segregated lanes to work, Boardman has set out plans to tackle busy junctions throughout the city with the implementation of safer crossing points for walkers and cyclists while also allowing local bike traffic to feed into the fully-segregated routes.

Again, this is something that London's Khan has received criticism for with many black spots for cycling traffic incidents going unchanged in his tenure, with 21 cyclists unfortunately losing their lives in the past two years.

In order to revitalise the dying high streets of Greater Manchester, it has also been proposed that these new networks use local high streets in order to revitalise business in areas that have struggled with footfall.

A map of the proposals, which can be found online at the Transport for Greater Manchester website, shows the sheer number of proposed crossing points in the centre of the city and the focus of connecting the city's outskirts.

Another way in which Boardman's approach could be interpreted as more concerted than Khan's is that rather than finalising plans with transport bodies and construction experts, all 10 of Manchester's local authorities were consulted in the creation of the network. 

Boardman states that 'the networks were drawn collaboratively by council officers, local highway engineers, as well as local cycling, walking and community groups.

'And crucially, they held the pen.'

This will probably go some way in helping appease local opposition to the cycle lanes, something that is an ever-present issue when plans for improved cycle infrastructure are proposed in London. Often irrational opposition driven by the motor vehicle minority.

Beelines is part of bigger plan set out by Boardman under the title of Made to Move. This 15-step initiative was created after Mayor of Manchester, Labour's Andy Burnham, appointed Boardman as the city's first cycling and walking commissioner and is set to phased in across the next decade.

Among these 15 steps is £1.5billion ring-fenced infrastructure fund, partnership with local schools to wake cyclin. the first choice method of transport and the trial of city centre street closures to motor traffic.

The main goal for Boardman and Manchester is to make the city one of the top 10 places in the world to ride a bicycle aiming to mirror the successful model implemented across the Netherlands in the 1970s, a model that has seen over half of school children cycling to schools and some of the lowest city congestion in Europe.