The ‘safari’ cyclists striving to get people out of cars and onto bikes in Manchester

Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield is campaigning for better facilities locally for those making journeys on foot or on two wheels.

Cycling and walking enthusiasts in a Greater Manchester community have been working tirelessly to make the area a better place to get around on foot or on two wheels.

Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield was founded in early 2019 and wants to make it easier for local residents to leave their cars at home and walk or get on their bikes.

The group’s latest idea is an ‘infrastructure safari’, taking people on rides around Greater Manchester to see how good examples of active transport schemes work.

It said Bury Council needs to urgently up its game on issues such as making the borough greener, but the town hall has robustly defended the work of civil servants.

What is Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield and why was it founded?

Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield was founded by Nick Hubble, who had already been involved in a cycling campaign and had brought together a team of activists keen to work on the subject.

The group then became one of the first hyperlocal concerns to affiliate to Walk Ride GM.

The organisation promotes active transport for its contribution towards tackling climate change and its other benefits.

There are about eight members of its core group.

The ‘infrastructure safari’

The infrastructure safari was held last weekend and took a group of cyclists on a route of around 13 miles to see different cycling and walking schemes across Greater Manchester.

Nick said the idea is to show people first-hand what top-quality active transport infrastructure actually looks like, saying this is far more effective for helping them understand it.

He said: “The name safari comes from the idea of seeing cycling infrastructure in the wild.

“For a lot of people discussion of cycling infrastructure can be quite abstract. I could show pictures of good cycling infrastructure and painted white lines but the best way to know the difference between them is to go out and ride on them.

“You then get a real sense of how useful this infrastructure is.”

Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield scrutinising possible improvements to roads and crossings at a planning meeting

The route took riders through Salford, along protected cycling lanes in Broughton, through Manchester and into Chorlton where a new cycling route is being installed.

The ride also took in a remodelled roundabout which enables pedestrians and cyclists to cross a large junction while being completely separated from motor traffic.

Nick has also been involved in Bury Council’s consultation on its climate strategy and organised a ride along the Broughton protected lanes for a council officer last summer.

He now hopes to get more councillors and civil servants out on two wheels on future infrastructure safaris to give them a better understanding of what is possible and is already being done across the city-region.

The group is also planning a ride for a local MP.

He said: “I believe that once you have ridden on a bike on a decent piece of infrastructure it is transformational in how you think about this.

“You come across people who would love to ride but say it’s too dangerous and they are terrified. That just shouldn’t be a consideration for something as benign as riding a bicycle.

“We need to create an environment that feels safe, and that means building infrastructure.”

Lobbying in local politics

Nick says he is concerned that Bury is lagging behind other areas of Greater Manchester and contrasted a lack of developments in active transport compared to bolder measures taken in boroughs such as Salford, Manchester, Trafford and Stockport.

That means that lobbying politicians for change is a major part of Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield’s work.

He said: “Bury Council is quite old-fashioned and transport planning is still quite car-centric.

An example of poor cycling infrastructure of the sort the group campaigns against

“I understand that this is a big transition for them but at some point we want to see development, movement and progress.

“Over the pandemic we’ve had a lot of meetings on screen with various politicians, council leaders and portfolio holders. We want to make sure we have good relationships with decision makers.”

Campaigning in the community

As well as the infrastructure safari Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield has taken plenty of opportunities to get out into the community with its messages and hear from residents.

It had a stall at the Prestwich Clough Day and asked people for their views on the idea of a 20-minute neighbourhood, a spin-off from the concept of the 15-minute city which says things residents need in everyday life should be available with a short journey.

More than 150 comments are being analysed and will be put into a report.

The group also teamed up with Prestwich Arts Festival when it asked people to put artwork in their windows by devising a two-wheeled trail to visit the locations.

A cycling art trail event organised by Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield for the Prestwich Arts Festival

Walk Ride Prestwich and Whitefield also has within its ranks a mechanic who secured funding from the Big Bike Revival and goes around the community fixing bikes so people can start riding once more.

The group also comes up with ideas of its own for the authorities to consider, such as a safe cycling route with good traffic management and road surfaces connecting Heaton Park to Prestwich Clough.

Nick says its community work is largely based around “making cycling fun and accessible”.

What does Bury Council say?

Coun Alan Quinn, Bury Council’s cabinet member for the environment, climate change and operations, strongly defended the work of the town hall and in particular the civil servants working on green policies.

He said the council faced a difficult situation as a small local authority which has also lost more than £100m from its budget in recent years.

Coun Quinn said: “We are getting money to decarbonise from the Government but not getting a lot of time to do what they want.

“My team of officers are brilliant and they are working their socks off. We are trying our best with very limited resources.

“We’ve got a massive portfolio handling highways, transport, parking, street lighting, green spaces, parks - you name it, we’re in charge of it.”

Coun Quinn acknowledged the need to increase use of public transport and suggested the major Greater Manchester wide measures being suggested by the city-region’s mayor Andy Burnham would help.

He said: “There are too many cars on the road but Metrolink is not subsidised and the private bus experiment has failed.

“We need to get a London-style public transport system and then we can get people out of their cars. For me that’s how we have to start.”