Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Where Manchester leads, London follows ...only they seem to have forgotton about cycling!

Manchester prides itself on being the city that sets the pace. "Where Manchester leads, the rest follow" is a commonly heard phrase whether talking about the industrial revolution, computing, education, football, science or music.

Unfortunately at the Greater Manchester level this proud claim does not seem to include investment in cycling infrastructure and promotion.

Compared to other UK cities, cycling levels in Greater Manchester are very low. One reason for this may well be because of (no, not the rainfall) the low levels of investments in cycle infrastructure and cycle promotion. For the previous 3 years AGMA has invested the grand sum of £50K per year for marketing & promoting cycling across the 10 GM boroughs. Yep, thats right a whole £5K per district.  (This figure does not include officers salaries).

Contrast this with London. Earlier in January, Boris Johnson (London's cycling mayor) hosted a meeting in City Hall which brought together some of the UK’s leading bicycle manufacturers, distributors and retailers,  to discuss how the cycling industry could contribute to “London’s cycling revolution.” This meeting coincided with the announcement of an additional £300,000 of funding to a dozen local authorities in outer London to help them become “cycling boroughs.”
This followed his challenge to London in May 2009 "to get cycling" and announcement that in 2010 Transport for London (TfL) would be "investing a record £111m in cycling in London". The money would be spent on introducing the London Cycle Hire scheme, improving parking and road conditions for cyclists, education, training and promotion and the target is to increase cycling levels by 400% by 2025.

Please don't run away with the idea that I am a fan of Boris Johnson (I very much am not!) and in many ways he is only following through on earlier plans announced when Ken Livingston was Mayor. In February 2008, Livingstone had unveiled plans "to transform cycling and walking in London" which included measures that would ensure  "the needs of cyclists and pedestrians are given a higher priority on the Capital’s streets" and would make a significant contribution to tackling climate change, aiming to have "one in ten Londoners making a round trip by bike each day, and saving some 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to driving round the M25 55 million times) per year as Londoners increasingly choose to walk or cycle for short trips instead of taking their car."

But leaving aside my personal views of Boris Johnson at least he is actively promoting and funding cycling in London. So how is Greater Manchester planning to match this?  Well on 29th January the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) Executive will meet in Rochdale Town Hall (Committee Rooms 1 & 2). Amongst the items on the agenda is a report entitled "LTP Finance Review".

Decipher the "local authority speak" and if the AGMA Executive votes to accept this report then whilst the support for the staff posts has been continued the funding for promoting cycling, walking and active travel has not yet been provided. (Previous years budgets were £50K, £20K and £25K respectively).

AGMA has publicly stated that it wants to increase cycling levels across Greater Manchester to help local authorities meet the challenges of tackling road congestion levels, improving air quality, reducing C02 emissions and helping people become healthier. Unfortunately they have yet to commit any serious funding for cycling and walking projects.

Wherever you live in Greater Manchester, the leader of your local council is a member of the AGMA Executive. If you think that AGMA should be investing more to support and encourage people to cycle more regularly in Greater Manchester then please contact your Council leader and tell them.

Council leaders and emails:
Bolton:           Cliff Morris         (cliff.morris@bolton.gov.uk)
Bury:              Bob Bibby          (r.a.bibby@bury.gov.uk)
Manchester:  Richard Leese  (r.leese@manchester.gov.uk)
Oldham:         Howard Sykes  (howard.sykes@oldham.gov.uk)
Rochdale:      Alan Taylor        (alan.taylor1@rochdale.gov.uk)
Salford:          John Merry        (Councillor.Merry@salford.gov.uk)
Stockport:      Dave Goddard (leader@stockport.gov.uk)
Tameside:     S. Roy Oldham (c/o susan.williams@tameside.gov.uk)
Trafford:          Matt Collidge   (matthew.colledge@trafford.gov.uk)
Wigan:            Peter Smith      (P.Smith@wigan.gov.uk)

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