We all know that Manchester has a lot going for it. Culture, sport, history and a bright future – we have it all.
But one way in which the city could improve further is by encouraging further pedestrianisation of the city centre and more bike lanes. By doing so, Manchester can meet its environmental targets, improve public health and simply make the city a more pleasant place to live by
Why should we welcome pedestrianisation in Manchester? And what are the city’s plans for the immediate future? Read on to find out more…
What benefits does pedestrianisation bring?
Cities around the world are reclaiming their streets from cars and giving them back to the people. This shift in urban planning is a response to air pollution that is relatively simple to implement, and it is hoped that reducing this by closing sections of Manchester city centre to cars will bring may social and health benefits to the people who live here.
As the Rapid Transition Alliance states: “Air pollution is at crisis levels in urban centres around the world – and pedestrianisation is one of the most effective tools local governments have to tackle it. When Paris went car free for the day in September 2015, exhaust emissions were reduced by 40%. Similarly, during the London marathon route in 2018, estimates put the reduction in local air pollution at 89% in some parts of the city. Transport is the fastest growing source of fossil fuel CO2 emissions, so in addition to driving down local contamination, pedestrianisation cuts a city’s carbon emissions and contributes to tackling global warming.”
Manchester has a particular problem with air pollution – which makes any and all pedestrianisation in the city extremely welcome. According to Clean Air Greater Manchester (CAGM), air pollution is linked to a range of illnesses including heart disease and asthma, and contributes to 1,200 early deaths in our region every year.
To get our level of air pollution back to legal levels, the organisation is working with the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities to create a Clean Air Zone in the city. Though progress on that has been slow, what might pedestrianisation measures for Manchester look like in the short term?
£5m emergency plan
Thanks to unprecedented restrictions to our movements as we continue to deal with the Coronavirus situation, the use of both cars and public transport has been cut back. However, people still need to get places, and an emergency £5m budget has been released by the Mayor’s cycling and walking fund to promote walking and cycling as alternatives.
This will go towards extending pavements, lengthening cycle routes, removing through traffic roads and adding new cycle lanes. The effect of all this will be to reduce the number of cars coming into Manchester in the first place, and thereby giving more people the space to walk.
Chris Boardman, Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said people needed the space to keep themselves safe, adding: "If we don’t take steps to enable people to keep travelling actively, we risk a huge spike in car use as measures are eased.
"Not only is it the right thing to do to protect people now, but it’s vital to meet our clean air goals and protect our NHS long term."
Transforming the city centre
As you might expect, the city centre is the part of Manchester most desperately in need of cleaner air – and the second major project underway aims to help solve that issue.
Manchester City Council has applied for £600,000 of funding to from the Department of Transport to help residents travel about the city on foot more easily. If successful in this application, the changes will transform the city centre for good, and for the benefit of everyone.
Temporary pedestrian- and cycling-only zones are to be created in Stevenson Square, Ducie Street and London Road, to go with the sections of Deansgate and Thomas Street which have already been pedestrianised. It is likely that, once converted, these changes will be made permanent in the future.
Additionally, this funding is designed to fill gaps in Manchester’s existing cycling network, for instance around Lower Mosley Street and Princess Road in the city centre – both close to AXIS and Manhattan.