The start of 2021 saw the publication of the update to Transport for Greater Manchester’s Transport Strategy 2040 and also the Five-Year Transport Delivery Plan 2021-2026. Temple and Pell Frischmann (two national transportation and environmental firms with key offices in Manchester) consider these new publications and specifically explore the role of active travel as part of the future transport mix.
The updated Transport Strategy document reflects recent developments and the new policy context since the original Strategy was published in 2017. It seeks to identify an evidence-based, long-term vision for the ‘right mix’ of transport modes on the network. Crucially, the Strategy identifies an ambitious vision for 50% of trips to be made by sustainable modes, with no net increase in motor vehicle traffic by 2040. Sustainable modes include public transport and active travel measures. This aligns with Greater Manchester’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038 and to consider the actions needed to protect people’s health, reduce air pollution and tackle the climate emergency. To read the strategy and delivery plans in full see https://tfgm.com/2040-transport-strategy and https://tfgm.com/our-five-year-transport-delivery-plan.
David Hourd is a Director in Temple’s Environment Infrastructure team and has over 19 years experience of delivering environmental and sustainability assessments in the transport sector. As a Greater Manchester resident, he is keen to promote active travel in the local area. Andy Oates is an Associate Director at Pell Frischmann and leads the Manchester Transport Planning team. He has over 20 years of experience in designing and improving sustainable transport connections, particularly in relation to new developments.
In this piece, David and Andy ask.
Active travel means walking or cycling as an alternative to motorised transport for the purpose of making everyday journeys. This has significant environmental and health benefits to local communities.
A fundamental benefit of active travel is in the improved health of travellers. It is well publicised that physical activity is associated with many improvements in health and wellbeing, including lower death rates and lower risk of heart problems and depression. However, over a quarter of adults in England report having less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. In Greater Manchester, on average six in ten children and young people (under 18) are not active enough – 35.8% of children and young people, on average, do less than 30 minutes of activity each day, with only 39.9% doing at least 60 minutes or more.
Active travel uptake can help to reduce the adverse health impacts of motorised road travel. These impacts include:
Figure 1 shows some of the effects (direct and indirect) that motorised road transport has on health and quality of life.
Motorised road transport also tends to better serve those who are already advantaged. The wealthiest members of the population effectively receive more public spending on their transport needs than the poorest due to their higher overall level of travelling and their greater use of cars and train services rather than buses.5 Furthermore, disadvantaged areas also often have a higher density of main roads, leading to poorer air quality, higher noise levels and higher collision rates.6 Half of Greater Manchester’s districts are in the worst 20 districts in England for the proportion of their neighbourhoods in the most deprived decile.7 Many of these are also located close to heavily congested roads and the wide network of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs).
Given that the transport sector is responsible for around a third of UK carbon emissions, a significant move to active travel modes will also have a major contribution to our path to net zero by 2050.
The lockdown and social distancing restrictions of 2020-21 have given us a clear indication of how travel patterns might evolve with higher levels of home working and a greater uptake of active travel measures.
In a national travel attitudes survey between May and July 2020, 39% of respondents reported to walking more and 38% reported to cycling more than before the outbreak of coronavirus8. Statistics in Greater Manchester support this with Metrolink and rail patronage being down 80 and 90% respectively in June 2020 compared to pre-lockdown data. This was replaced with a 20% increase in cycling9. Greater Manchester’s cycling commissioner, Chris Boardman, says this has gone further with cycling levels having increased by more than 70% on some days since the lockdown in the region.10
It is not possible to accurately say how long such changes will continue post-pandemic, although the national travel attitudes study suggested that, of those that reported to walk or cycle more, 94% thought it likely that they would continue to cycle and walk more once travel restrictions were removed. Nearly two-thirds of respondents say it is very likely (38%) or fairly likely (27%) that they will avoid using public transport if it is crowded, once travel restrictions have been removed.
The opportunities for active travel growth in Greater Manchester are strong. According to Sustrans, around a third of people in Greater Manchester don’t have access to a car and could be interested in trying cycling or walking for some or all of their journeys.
The average journey length in Greater Manchester is 5km, which is just a 20-minute bike ride so there is huge potential for positive behaviour change to benefit our health, environment and economy. Prue Wales is Temple’s social value expert, “Delivering active travel schemes can play a crucial role in generating wider social value opportunities for communities across Greater Manchester and provides an excellent opportunity to generate multiple cross-cutting benefits if a holistic approach is taken at the outset.
Whilst expansive flagship cycling schemes have historically been limited to the London and the South East, Greater Manchester’s aspirational plans for the region are an excellent example of how metro-authorities can drive and deliver real change at a local level. In 2017, Chris Boardman unveiled a ground-breaking plan to transform the region by changing the way we move. The ‘Made to Move’ report featured ambitious targets to improve cycling and walking rates in a bid to improve air quality as part of Mayor Andy Burnham’s green city agenda, as well as tackling congestion and improving public health and wellbeing. This was followed in 2018 by the launch of the Bee Network, a vision to make Greater Manchester an easier place for people to get around on foot or by bike. The plan aims to deliver more than 1,800 miles of routes and will be the largest joined-up system of walking and cycling networks in the UK. In 2019, further significant plans were announced to invest £137m in cycling and walking initiatives.
Crucially, Greater Manchester’s proposed network is not designed with people who already cycle or walk for the majority of their journeys in mind. The focus of these plans is to enable and empower the two-thirds of people who currently use their car as their main mode of transport, to choose to walk or cycle.
Pell Frischmann has been extensively involved in assisting in the planning, design and delivery of the schemes that collectively form the Bee Network, having most recently been involved with a feasibility design of the scheme along Oldham Road (A62) – a 1.7km stretch of cycle priority measures, whilst maintaining wide pedestrian footways and two lanes of vehicular traffic in each direction in order to make the route more attractive to potential cyclists. Pell Frischmann has also recently delivered, in collaboration with Bury Council and TfGM, a new generation cycling and walking package, producing detail designs for 12 major junctions in Bury and have delivered a complete consultancy service to progress the bi-directional parallel crossing design on Gilbent Road for Stockport Council and TfGM.
A measure of how successful these and the wider Greater Manchester proposals have been can be seen in a number of other UK cities, including Cambridge – a city synonymous with cycling, looking to adopt similar measures and initiatives to those used on the Bee Network.
Initial analysis of the Bee network has identified that journeys by foot or bike now account for approximately 33% of all travel, with cycling up 42% compared to pre-Lockdown data. Temple worked with the Greater Cambridge Partnership to analyse the social and environmental impacts of their transport policies on different segments of the population, including older people and children, disabled people, people on lower incomes, and young mothers.
Temple undertakes environmental and social analysis of transportation projects across the UK. We, alongside partner consultancy SRA, are investigating Transport Related Social Exclusion for Transport for the North (TfN). This includes, for example, development of new cycle networks which take into account inclusivity and accessibility as a key step to encouraging active travel. However, a deeper understanding of issues affecting why people are unable or reluctant to use these networks is needed. This project includes an in-depth analysis across demographic groups, as well as different geographical areas in the north of England, to establish how different transport modes can be more inclusive. The results of this will enable TfN to understand how to improve travel accessibility and meet key environmental targets.
Best practice from across north-western Europe shows a demonstrable benefit where active travel planning is undertaken in conjunction with land-use planning. Historically, this is a benefit that many larger UK authorities have struggled to realise.
Greater Manchester’s aspirations to deliver a ‘gear change’ in provision for cycling and walking represents a unique opportunity to deliver a region-wide, coordinated network that offers real alternatives to travelling by car.
A key element in ensuring the success of the scheme and meeting the target of a 50% active user / public transport mode share by 2040, will be the interface between the scheme and land-use planning, to ensure that key development areas are served by the network and that development complements the network (and vice versa) to provide the means for people to travel to / from the development areas by active modes.
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), the mechanism that was to be used to identify how land across Greater Manchester up to 2037, would be shaped at a coordinated Greater Manchester wide level, was to be the ideal complement to the planning of the Bee network. However, Stockport’s decision to step away from the regional plan to pursue their own individual local plan, means that the GMSF is no longer being progressed. Following the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities meeting on 12th February 2021, Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan Councils will be asked to agree to form a joint committee to prepare Places for Everyone – a joint development plan for jobs, new homes and sustainable growth across their boroughs. This document now looks to be the best opportunity to promote active travel in conjunction with land-use planning at the sub-regional scale.
This represents a potential challenge not only to the future delivery and roll out of the GM active travel network, but also the long-term effectiveness of the region wide routes, should the member authorities decide not to progress a joint coordinated land-use development plan. Coordinated planning of development needs to go hand in hand with the planning of active travel networks if Greater Manchester’s ambitious targets are to be met, but also supported by other concepts, such as the 15-minute neighbourhood (where residents’ main needs are all catered for within 15 minutes’ travel, by foot or bike, reducing the reliance on trip making by car) another key concept that will offer greater benefits where it is coordinated with land-use planning.
In December 2020 Temple hosted a webinar discussing the benefits of 15-minute neighbourhoods including contributors from France who discussed transferable experience from Paris. A recording of the webinar can be accessed here.
Post COVID challenge – During the COVID pandemic, a number of lifestyle changes have seen a significant modal shift in travel. These include: working from home, online shopping, localising and altering travel choice patterns. The question is, will people continue to make these choices post COVID? Will people return to previous usual habits, or will there be a middle ground?
The general consensus of opinion is that these movement choices will continue to be made post COVID and with the benefit of the walking and cycling network of safe, direct and useable infrastructure that is being provided across Greater Manchester, the continued steady increase in modal shift will be realised.
We recommend a considered scheme of monitoring is undertaken to determine and track the behavioural patterns. Additionally, delivered in parallel to the infrastructure must be the roll out of a Greater Manchester-wide comms piece, bikeability training opportunities for all adults/children that need it and delivering accessibility to bicycles for all. This will ensure that deprived groups have access to bicycles and that the opportunities provided are inclusive.
The Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 includes a series of neighbourhood-focused policies, including Streets for All and the Bee Network, which should both increase the attractiveness of living in connected neighbourhoods, and increase the mode-share of active travel. TfGM will need to know how successful these measures are in the future and have thus proposed a series of ‘key performance indicators’ to monitor against, which reflect the core principles of the strategy. This will be reported in the annual update of the Delivery Plan.
Collectively, Temple and Pell Frischmann offer a range of environmental, engineering and socio-economic assessment services for the transport sector and we are committed to help the growth of active and sustainable travel modes in the region. We have specific skills in designing and assessing new active travel proposals drawing upon our wide range of in-house specialisms including, for example: air quality, climate change, social value and green infrastructure assessments, together with detailed design capabilities, business case development, assisting developers improve sustainable transport connectivity and digital data management and presentation capabilities.
David Hourd – Temple Group – firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Oates – Pell Frischmann – email@example.com