Greater Manchester is set to be home to the biggest walking and cycling network in the United Kingdom in the next 10 years.
The network, dubbed Beelines, a nod to Manchester’s best-known representative symbol of the worker bee, will include 1,000 miles of cycling and walking routes, 121 kilometres (75 miles) of segregated cycle lanes, and 1,400 safe crossings.
It is part of a 10-year, £1.5 billion plan to transform the way residents of Greater Manchester move, proposed by Manchester’s first commissioner for walking and cycling, Chris Boardman, a former cycling gold medallist, world record holder and Tour de France veteran.
“If you look at what roads cost this is good value for money. It’s the only kind of infrastructure that pays off properly. If you invest in cycling infrastructure it pays back at £5.50 for every £1 you spend,” he told the media.
“How many people are dying prematurely due to air pollution? The cost of doing nothing needs to be addressed,” he said.
“If you want to make people change their habits you’ve got to give them a viable alternative.”
“The doctor might say this person just needs to start moving more and that might be walking to the shops every day or cycling to work. If we create the space to do that, link with local bike hire, there’s potential there,” he said.
“The health service can’t buy tarmac and nor should it but once it enables doctors to socially prescribe that has a value.”
Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham has already allocated £160m of the government’s Transforming Cities fund to the project’s first four years.
“Greater Manchester has a long history of doing innovative things and our approach to Beelines is no different. This proposal is bold and I make no apology for that. If we are to cut congestion and clean up our air, decisive action is needed. I want to make Greater Manchester one of the top 10 places in the world to live and it is action of this sort which will help to deliver that promise,” Burnham said.
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More on Beelines, artists’ visualisations and maps of the proposals at Transport for Greater Manchester’s Made To Move website.