People won’t drive into Manchester city centre in future, Mayor Andy Burnham tells radio travel phone-in

David, a taxi driver from Harpurhey, asked whether Andy Burnham was worried about the impact of increased congestion in the city centre on businesses, in a BBC radio phone-in.
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Andy Burnham has said cars and vans are prioritised too much in Greater Manchester, arguing that more pedestrianisation is better for businesses.

The mayor said the ‘mentality’ for many is that ‘the road is what matters’, but we should be protecting the rights of everyone to use roads and pavements. He predicted people will not be driving right into the city centre in future.

The comments came during his weekly phone-in on BBC Radio Manchester during which two callers raised the concerns about traffic and car parking.

David, a taxi driver from Harpurhey, asked whether the mayor was worried about the impact of increased congestion in the city centre on businesses. He said: “People won’t get out of their cars – I don’t care what you say. I ride my bike a lot, but people won’t get out of their cars.

“It seems to me people realise it’s trying to be done by stealth to make driving uncomfortable. But you’ve got to come up with something more innovative than saying, just get on the bus.”

Mr Burnham blamed the increased congestion in part on the rail network, saying people ‘lost trust in the trains’, meaning more cars are on the road. However, he argued that greater pedestrianisation in shopping areas is actually better for businesses than busy roads which are hard to cross. He referred to ‘evidence’ of this from cities in the UK and across the world.

But he admitted Greater Manchester should be managing congestion much better and said he is talking to transport bosses and council leaders about it.

Another caller, Paul from Castleton, raised concerns about new cycle lanes replacing parking spaces and people being expected to walk to the shops.

Mr Burnham said he did not know the details of the specific scheme the caller was referring to, but he said the move could make the shops more attractive.

He said: “I think we prioritise cars and vans too much. I go out running and sometimes I see vans parked over the whole of the pavement, the logic being, ‘Oh I’m not going to detriment anyone by parking on the road’. That’s the mentality – that the road is what matters.

“But actually, surely we should be thinking of protecting the rights of everybody to use the highways and the pavements. We can’t have a situation where cars and vans dominate communities because in the end that doesn’t create an attractive environment for everybody.

“What about people who haven’t got cars and who might have pushchairs or wheelchairs? What do they do in those situations?”

The Labour mayor said new cycle lanes being installed in the city-region will also be used by scooters and electric bikes which are increasingly common. But Mr Burnham said this is a ‘transitional’ time for public transport in Greater Manchester with buses set to be brought back under public control next year.

He explained that trams would be integrated under the London-style Bee Network and said that he is prepared to include taxis within that system.

He added: “We are going to be very clear with people that as a city, the idea that you can get in the car from home and drive right into the very city centre, I think that’s probably something that’s not going to be what is done going forward.

“More park and ride, more ability for people to shift to public transport is definitely the way to go.”