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Build Me a Perfect Cycling City- Event Debrief5th April 2018 Personal Injury
It was a delight to be able to host a very interesting evening that was facilitated by Barrister Nicholas Harrison. We heard from panellists Will Haynes, Infrastructure Director from Sustrans, Jonathan Fingland from the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign and Helen Pidd, Northern Editor of The Guardian.
Supported by tech (our live twitter feed) we captured key arguments and creative ideas and posted live questions and answers, and we found our audience really receptive to being involved in an arena where they were able to contribute to and shape the discussion.
Hot on the heels of the announcement that Manchester had signed up to the @NACTO global street design standards and the news of the possible £9m investment in a cycleway between South Manchester and the city centre, we heard that we need to monitor people movement and no longer focus on vehicle movement. We heard the suggestion of a congestion charge for vehicles entering the city centre and a workplace parking levy to encourage commuters to consider other options for travel. The idea of closing Deansgate in Manchester centre to traffic was also raised, which was very well received in the room. These are not new ideas but there is still support for them and they are not going away.
We agreed that there is a need to actively promote and market the health benefits of active travel which is simply not being met right now.
We saw images of brilliantly designed infrastructure from other countries like Copenhagen's Cycle Snake and discussed Helsinki's ambitious plans to make car ownership pointless.
Marketing and promotion of what we already have is key and establishing what the future holds for active travel. What is the modern day equivalent of the public information broadcasts in the 1970s and 1980s 'Charley Says'?
We asked 'What can employers do more of to encourage alternative modes of travel?' Showers was a popular reply. But what about unrushed travel? And other incentives. The need to give more than just a nod to the problem was apparent as stories were shared about a lack of real engagement with cycle commuters. Should every medium to large workplace have an active travel officer? And could those active travel officers support smaller businesses and share resources? And secure parking for bikes theft is a real issue, particularly when encouraging non-cyclists to get onto a bike having spent a chunk of money on two wheels, nobody wants to have to deal with a stolen bike and poor security may well serve to put some off.
'Build it and they will come.' We are on the cusp of change but the message is clear - we need to appeal to people who currently drive. We need to get people out of cars for everything other than objectively determined essential journeys. The way we are currently travelling is killing us. #ifnotcyclingthenwhat
We can agree that we need to aim high. Each GM borough is designating their cycle route priority and people need to know to get involved, what the priority is in their borough and have a voice.
Can we create a joyful cycling experience in Manchester, not just a functional one? We need to aim higher than functional if we are to attract and hold new adopters.
Doctors used to prescribe cycling does this still happen? We need to relieve the pressure in the NHS - can Manchester afford NOT to invest in active travel? The answer is surely no.
We need to direct spending to those areas where we will receive the most benefit and initially that may be where it is easiest, where there is already a cycling mass e.g. South Manchester to the city centre. But we need to work towards spreading this broader and wider and appealing to people across Greater Manchester to get out of their cars.
This feels like a moment in political history and we need to take hold of this now and make the changes to ensure that the vision of Chris Boardman that 'Greater Manchester is poised to lead the way in transport and set the standard for the rest of the UK to follow.' is achieved.
And why can't we just start today? Stop the discussion and move to action. We could make some temporary changes and roll them back if they don't work but better to do something than nothing
We need to change the preconceptions of cycling plenty of people want to do it, they just don't know it yet.
So what about a glittery, shimmery non-vehicular, well lit, smooth sky bridge with art work embedded in the pathway which plays soft background music as people walk and cycle over it? Aim High? Why not? After all, this is Manchester. We have a habit of doing things a little differently here.