The next steps for the active travel neighbourhood in the Levenshulme and Burnage area of Manchester have been set out.
The scheme to use filters to block vehicle access to certain streets to prevent rat running and encourage more people to walk or cycle on a regular basis has been the subject of a trial in the area.
Manchester City Council says the majority of filters will now be made permanent, and a consultation shows a good level of public support for the project.
The news has received a broadly positive reaction from active travel campaigners in the area, though they say there is still a lot of work to do and it hopes the council will start moving faster on schemes to reduce car use.
However, one local group has questioned both the level of popularity of the active travel neighbourhood and what its impact will be.
What is happening with the active travel neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage?
In total 12 of the 14 filters that were proposed for the area in the initial phase of trying out the active travel neighbourhood are being retained for good, Manchester City Council has said.
The exceptions are the filters at Manor Road and Henderson Street, which following feedback from residents are going to be relocated, the council said.
Attention is now moving on to phase two of the active travel neighbourhood, which focuses more on Burnage.
Discussions with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) are ongoing about the final design of Phase 2, but the council is hoping work will begin on the ground later this year.
Although the final details are still being worked out, various proposals for changes to the road network in the area have already been floated by the council.
• Improved pedestrian crossing facilities across the A6 outside the leisure centre, at Alma Park primary school and on Broom Lane, Errwood Road and Matthew’s Lane, and at the junctions of Burnage Lane and Grangethorpe Drive, Moseley Road and Slade Lane and Matthew’s Lane and Mount Road.
• Revised traffic calming measures and improved crossing facilities on Grangethorpe Drive, Chapel Street, Cromwell Grove, Crayfield Road and Marley Road, Broom Lane and Matthew’s Lane.
• Widening of a footpath which is currently in a poor state on Broom Lane to allow better access for residents.
• Building cycle tracks on Errwood Road and Matthew’s Lane, and putting signs in place for quiet cycle routes through the areas with filters.
• Revising the filter location on Manor Road and reviewing the proposed additional filters on Linden Park and Milwain Road.
What has Manchester City Council’s consultation showed?
Manchester City Council says it asked the public for its views on the design and implementation of filters, extra infrastructure for pedestrians and traffic calming measures in the winter of 2021-22.
The town hall said it received 979 responses with 70% of those saying they felt the active travel neighbourhood was good for the area.
In addition, 74% of people who responded felt the scheme would be good for pedestrians, 74% felt it would be good for cyclists and just under half of those surveyed said they would be more likely to walk (46%) or cycle (42%) as a result of the project.
What has the impact of the active travel neighbourhood been?
The council said it asked the Manchester Urban Observatory, an organisation made up of academics based at The University of Manchester, to assess the impact of the trial of the modal filters in the Levenshulme area.
This suggested there were significant increases in walking and cycling on roads where there were filters as well as those that were inside the general filtered area.
It also found evidence that the filtered roads approached the 2040 Greater Manchester target for fewer than 50% of journeys to be by car.
While there were modest increases in traffic on the roads around the edge of the scheme, these were in line with broader regional trends in traffic levels between 2020 and 2021, the researchers found. The council says this suggests the scheme has not displaced large amounts of traffic onto these roads.
What has the council said about the active travel neighbourhood?
Coun Tracey Rawlins, executive member for environment and transport at Manchester City Council, said: “The development of the Active Travel Neighbourhood project has been a huge undertaking, so to see that the majority of residents are behind the scheme is a great encouragement as we look forward to the future.
“With an ambitious project like this it is vital that we take residents along with us on this journey and always make sure that we’re willing to adapt and make changes where necessary.
“Following last winter’s consultation that is what we’ve done and I’m glad that Phase 1 will be made permanent in the coming months.
“We are immensely proud of this project as it is an example of how ambitious thinking and working with communities can affect tangible, positive change for our neighbourhoods.”
What has the reaction been?
The group One Levenshulme has questioned the level of support for phase one of the active travel neighbourhood, saying the council had previously found the scheme to be “very polarizing”, with strong views in favour and against.
One Levenshulme member Adrian Broderick said: “The reality is that the scheme was ill-thought-out, ill-designed and based on fundamentally-flawed data. In addition, the scheme was poorly managed and involved wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
“The residents of Levenshulme had to fight hard with the council to be heard, and ultimately, were listened to, when the roadblocks were reduced from 25 to 14 in Phase 1, and the only additional roadblocks proposed in phase 2 were Milwain and Linden Park.
“We are relieved to see that the decision to place these roadblocks is now being reviewed, and we hope that common sense prevails.
“One Levenshulme does not support Phase 2 of the scheme, but generally doesn’t perceive there to be any benefit to objecting. We all want improvements to the area and apart from the ludicrous idea of the two additional roadblocks, I and most of our Levenshulme residents hope that the effect of the phase 2 scheme measures will be positive on the area, even if we all know in our hearts that the plan could be so much better.”
Streets for People - Levenshulme and Burnage, which supports the active travel neighbourhood, said there was some good news in the latest development but also criticised the council over questions which remain unanswered and how long the project is taking.
A spokesperson said: “We are pleased to learn that around 70% of nearly 1, 000 responses the council received supported more measures to improve walking and cycling in the area – a figure that is consistent with the many rounds of consultation that have taken place over the past four years.
“However, we are disappointed with the lack of extra information that the council has provided, which feels like a holding statement instead of something that will bring immediate action on the ground, after huge delays already.
“This project is a minor one, in the scheme of the council’s stated intent to vastly increase active travel infrastructure, and reduce car use, in the face of the terrible threat that climate change poses on all of our residents.
“The continued delays to this project not only prevent more benefits reaching residents sooner, but they also delay the many further measures that are needed in the Burnage and Levenshulme wards to truly make active travel the preferred choice for shorter journeys.
“We also note that the update lacks detail, and fails to address concerns that we have raised over a number of years that the scheme seems to fall short on measures in the Burnage ward.
“It also underlines that the council seem determined to not to consider the use of a handful of extra traffic filters throughout the scheme, which are necessary to create safe and joined-up active travel routes between residents’ houses and community amenities.
“With the cost of living crisis biting, and fuel prices rising, we need safe walking and cycling infrastructure now to ensure everyone has the ability to get around.
“More than anything, the council now needs to finally decide what it wants to do with the project and to start construction. No more delays. No more excuses.”