A joined-up cycling and walking network in Greater Manchester could provide a national blueprint for reducing congestion and air pollution and improving health, a report says.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and Chris Boardman, the region’s cycling and walking commissioner, are calling on the government to back plans for an 1,800-mile network of protected routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
They claim the Bee Network initiative could increase journeys on foot or by bike by 2.5m a day, cut some journey times by 50% and save the NHS £6.73bn by improving people’s health.
A report, Change a region to change a nation, contains projections of a 350% increase in daily cycling trips over the next 10 years, from 100,000 to 450,000, a one-third increase in daily walking trips, from 1.48m to 2.05m, and up to 130,000 fewer daily private car and taxi trips.
Boardman said one in three car journeys in Greater Manchester were less than a kilometre, which could be covered in 15 minutes on foot, and change was clearly needed to encourage more people to travel actively.
The report was commissioned by Transport for Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the mayor. It sets out plans for 17 “filtered neighbourhoods” – areas that prioritise the movement of people over the movement of motor vehicles. Alongside infrastructure plans, it outlines the changes in legislation needed to ensure that the investment provides value for money.
Burnham said the plans were a national blueprint for promoting real change in the way people travel, and government backing was paramount.
“Our city region’s 10 districts have been working on these plans since 2017 and, crucially, residents have helped to develop them, based on what they want their neighbourhoods to look like,” he said.
“Now we have a world-class plan and we know how to deliver it, but we cannot do it alone. We need the government to back us with sustained funding over the next 10 years to enable us to complete the Bee Network. If they do so, they will be helping create a model that can be replicated across the rest of the country.”
The report will be delivered to Westminster next month. Boardman said: “All 10 Greater Manchester councils have taken on this challenge and they’ve already started transforming ambition into action. But without guaranteed government investment, we are hamstrung.
“To revolutionise travel across a whole city region, we’re asking for the same financial backing over a 10-year period as it’s costing for a single junction improvement scheme in Bedford. I know which will return the best investment – not only for our city-region but the nation as a whole.”