Greater Manchester just unveiled plans for its 1,000 mile “Beelines” cycling network, so here are some maps

An artist’s impression of a new filtered area of Greater Manchester. Image: TfGM.

There are times, you know, when I wished I lived in Manchester. It has a combination of characteristics – a strong civic identity; a visibly ambitious city government; a complete disinterest in the existence of London – that is familiar from many continental European cities, but all too rare in British ones.

Normally it’s the trams, and the authorities’ obvious ambition to keep extending them, that makes me want to evangelise for Greater Manchester. This week, though, it’s Transport for Greater Manchester’s plans for a whole different transport network that are to blame.

The Beelines – named for the worker bee that’s the emblem of Manchester and its industrial history, and also for the concept of ‘lines’ – will be a new network of 1,000 miles of cycling routes across the conurbation. Of these, 75 miles will be Dutch-style segregated cycling lanes. (Something of this sort already exists on the Oxford Road, through Manchester’s university district.)

Besides that, the city plans to make around 1,400 crossings safer for cyclists, and create 24 cyclist-friendly “filtered” neighbourhoods: there’s an artist’s impression of one at the top of this page. The whole lot will cost £500m.

Chris Boardman, the Olympic gold medallist who’s now Greater Manchester’s walking & cycling tsar, told the Guardian he was “absolutely unapologetic” that his plans would take space from cars.

“If you want to make people change their habits you’ve got to give them a viable alternative and in some cases that’s reprioritising streets and that’s what we are doing. We’ve given way too much priority to the vociferous minority.”

Good for him.

Anyway, here are some more artist’s impressions. First off, here’s one of an improved crossing:

And here’s a segregated cycling lane:

Look closely at that and you can see a blue and yellow sign, telling cyclists where they are on the network. Zoom in and it’d probably look a bit like this:

Or maybe this.

But this is CityMetric, of course, so what you really want is maps. There is a proper interactive one on the Mapping Greater Manchester site. The only problem is it’s a bit slow – sorry, very slow – so I’m not entirely sure it’s loaded properly.

Nonetheless, here’s the Central Business District. Yellow routes already exist – that long one heading south south east is Oxford Road – while blue are proposed. The same colour scheme applies to the dots, which represent crossings, while the shaded area around Ordsall is a filtered neighbourhood.

The orange lines, meanwhile, are “corridors or crossing points on busier roads that will require a higher level of design intervention to improve cycling and walking” – whichh seems to mean the new segregated routes. Here’s the map.

They don’t quite cross the city centre, alas – but nonetheless, that’s a lot of new cycling routes.

This is the same map, zoomed out to show a much wider area. Not entirely sure if the gaps around Droylsden represent a gap in the plan, a gap in the data or a failure to load, but all the same, here it is:

On TfGM’s website you can find complete maps of each of the conurbation’s 10 boroughs, both before and after intervention. These are a bit hard to read to be honest, but since we’ve come this far, here’s the City of Manchester as it is now:

Red areas are defined as “closed off” neighbourhoods - that is, those which lack safe crossings, enabling people to cycle in and out of them; green areas are open. Orange are in between. Look at how much the Beelines network will improve things:

You can see the other 10 boroughs here.

This is the sort of ambition that would be taken as read in many European cities, but you almost never see in Britain. Hell, even London – which really shouldn’t whine about anything to do with transport, let’s be honest – has a fraction of this ambition when it comes to cycling.


Of course, there’s a big difference between making plans and delivering them. But nonetheless: good start, Greater Manchester. As a faintly incompetent cyclist, I am officially jealous.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as Jonn Elledge Writes.

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All images courtesy of Transport for Greater Manchester.

 
 
 
 

To make electric vehicles happen, the government must devolve energy policy to councils

The future. Image: Getty.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that at least a quarter of councils have halted the roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure with no plans to resume its installation. This is a fully charged battery-worth of miles short of ideal, given the ambitious decarbonisation targets to which the UK is rightly working.

It’s even more startling given the current focus on inclusive growth, for the switch to EVs is an economic advancement, on an individual and societal level. Decarbonisation will free up resources and push growth, but the way in which we go about it will have impacts for generations after the task is complete.

If there is one lesson that has been not so much taught to us as screamed at us by recent history, it is that the market does not deliver inclusivity by itself. Left to its own devices, the market tends to leave people behind. And people left behind make all kinds of rational decisions, in polling stations and elsewhere that can seem wholly irrational to those charged with keeping pace – as illuminted in Jeremy Harding’s despatch from the ‘periphery’ which has incubated France’s ‘gilet jaunes’ in the London Review of Books.

But what in the name of Nikola Tesla has any of this to do with charging stations? The Localis argument is simple: local government must work strategically with energy network providers to ensure that EV charging stations are rolled out equally across areas, to ensure deprived areas do not face further disadvantage in the switch to EVs. To do so, Ofgem must first devolve certain regulations around energy supply and management to our combined authorities and city regions.


Although it might make sense now to invest in wealthier areas where EVs are already present, if there isn’t infrastructure in place ahead of demand elsewhere, then we risk a ‘tale of two cities’, where decarbonisation is two-speed and its benefits are two-tier.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Monday that urban mobility will be an issue for overarching and intelligent strategy moving forward. The issue of fairness must be central to any such strategy, lest it just become a case of more nice things in nice places and a further widening of the social gap in our cities.

This is where the local state comes in. To achieve clean transport across a city, more is needed than just the installation of charging points.  Collaboration must be coordinated between many of a place’s moving parts.

The DfT announcement makes much of open data, which is undoubtedly crucial to realising the goal of a smart city. This awareness of digital infrastructure must also be matched by upgrades to physical infrastructure, if we are going to realise the full network effects of an integrated city, and as we argue in detail in our recent report, it is here that inclusivity can be stitched firmly into the fabric.

Councils know the ins and outs of deprivation within their boundaries and are uniquely placed to bring together stakeholders from across sectors to devise and implement inclusive transport strategy. In the switch to EVs and in the wider Future of Mobility, they must stay a major player in the game.

As transport minister and biographer of Edmund Burke, Jesse Norman has been keen to stress the founding Conservative philosopher’s belief in the duty of those living in the present to respect the traditions of the past and keep this legacy alive for their own successors.

If this is to be a Burkean moment in making the leap to the transformative transport systems of the future, Mr Norman should give due attention to local government’s role as “little platoons” in this process: as committed agents of change whose civic responsibility and knowledge of place can make this mobility revolution happen.

Joe Fyans is head of research at the think tank Localis.