Who is the new Greater Manchester cycling movement – and will it keep it going after the lockdown?


Antje Timmermann is part of the new movement behind a 22% increase in the number of cyclists in Greater Manchester.

The mother of two, who does not own a car, bought a bike when the COVID-19 lockout started and started cycling in Manchester for the first time in eight years that she has lived here.

Before the pandemic, she had a monthly pass, but she no longer feels comfortable using public transportation.

Antje, 36, who runs a German school, bikes for shopping, shopping and exercise with her children, ages four and five.

Antje Timmermann started cycling on lockout

She comes from Chemnitz in German – a twin city of Manchester thanks to their common industrial past – but with an extensive network of cycle paths, which meant that Antje biked every day while she lived there.

Back in Manchester, and Antje admits that she still doesn’t know if she’ll continue cycling after the lockout – and that’s the challenge for Greater Manchester leaders as they think about how to prevent a Mass return of cars as lockdown decreases, but public transportation is potentially becoming less attractive proposition.

As the M.E.N said yesterday, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is investing £ 5 million in an “emergency plan” to help enable cycling and walking while socially distancing yourself.

As part of a campaign called Safe Streets Save Lives, the measures will include sidewalk extensions, one-way streets, elimination of traffic on the roads and the addition of cycle lanes.

Chris Boardman

They are looking to expand a loan program that has already provided 472 bikes to NHS workers.

While a bike rental program to replace Mobike is not possible this year, an extension of the work cycle program may also be on the horizon – with a push to somehow include the self-employed.

But it remains to be seen if this is enough to keep Antje, who lives in Blackley, on his bike.

She added: “I hope I will continue, but it depends on the development of traffic. I hesitate to enter the city center but I could perhaps take secondary roads.

“I think I would feel better if there were more protected bike paths. With those on the road, there are usually cars parked here. “

A CGI impression of Levenshulme transformed into an “active district”

It is therefore clear that Chris Boardman, who is responsible for managing Greater Manchester’s cycling plans, faces major safety concerns, as well as the cultural challenge of persuading drivers to share the roads sympathetically with cyclists.

Before the pandemic, he was already making progress with the £ 1.5 billion Bee Network project to populate the region with cycle paths and make two-wheelers safe for family travel.

Then came the lock.

With our wings cut off by strict orders to prevent all necessary travel and bus schedules from being cut, traffic fell by 60% and public transport use by 90%.

But there has been a cycling boom – with 1,004,000 bike trips made during the week ending April 26. This represents an increase of 22 pc compared to the same week last year.

This equates to 220,880 more bike trips, a gain that would have been nothing short of a miracle in the pre-COVID era.

Above all, in a city where there are generally more than 150 “hotspots” with pollution above EU legal levels, this has also led to cleaner air.

Map of the bee network for School Road in Sale

Advice from government allowed one hour of exercise per day, which many seem to have regarded as instruction rather than a possibility, which led to more walking and cycling – for leisure and travel such as food purchases and daily trips for key workers.

Mr Boardman, who described the British demand for people wanting to buy bikes as’ phenomenal ‘, said:’ We knew by entering that a third of households in Greater Manchester do not have access do not have access to a car and our average trip length is less than 5 km, so it shouldn’t really surprise us that people have turned to biking and walking for essential trips – especially key workers who tend to be paid less.

“We have a lot of cleaners in the hospital, a lot of people who depended a lot on public transportation and who couldn’t. “

He said it had led to more cycling, adding, “Many people have relied heavily on what has become a robust form of transportation. “

A desert Deansgate in Manchester

And for newcomers with a good supply of bikes, this may well remain a robust option.

Property manager Lucy Bennett, 26, who has purchased a locked-out bicycle for her daily commute to work, has a designated cycle route from her home in Didsbury to her office in Fallowfield.

She said, “I was taking the bus before but the lockout encouraged me to buy a bike, the buses were cut, the one I usually get was canceled and I had to buy another one that was really crowded.

“The cycle path begins at Palatine Road and runs along Wilmslow Road. I have my own designated route to get out of my apartment and go to work.

“I’m lucky – not everyone has that. My boyfriend lives in the green neighborhood and doesn’t have that. “

“It’s good for my mood because I exercise every day but I will keep doing it because I have a bike path.

“We really need more in Greater Manchester. I went to Denmark and I wish we were more like that. Everyone rides there. “

“Lockdown encouraged me to buy my bike, but the reason I’m going to stick with it is because I have these bike paths. Everyone must feel safe. “

Routes like Oxford Road have excellent provision for cyclists with separate lanes

Greater Manchester is behind the curve when it comes to mass cycling. In Copenhagen, a glaring example, about 62% of trips are by bicycle, compared to levels before the lockout of around 2pc here (this modal share more than doubled to 5pc during the lockdown).

Before the lockdown, a number of clean air plans were in place, including charging zones for highly polluting vehicles and more minor programs such as carsharing.

But Mr. Burnham has already said that many ideas will have to be reassessed in this unprecedented new landscape.

How remains to be seen – but Nick Hubble of the campaign group Walk Ride Greater Manchester is passionate that we don’t go back to the bad old days when it comes to traveling.

He added, “When I see families cycling, engaging in fun and healthy activity – it makes my heart sing.

“It had to be a dramatic and terrible scenario for this to be possible, but we have to make sure that these people who cycle want to continue to do so. “

Bonnie Hvillum lives in Copenhagen where cycling is a way of life. She and her partner cycle to and from work and that is how they bring their children to and from daycare. This meant that the lock had a less restrictive effect on their movements. Their children returned to the crèche last week when the lockout was eased.

“As we get out of it, I think there are a lot of trips we use to make what we now see as nonessential. “

Nick argues that few people will be attracted to public transportation after the lockout, adding, “If people turn to driving, what impact will it have on the network?”

“The climate emergency has not gone away, and the people who pedal now should continue to pedal.

“They must highlight the visionary network of cycle paths and walking routes connected in the Bee network.

“We need healthy, healthy recovery as our air quality stays as good as it can be. It is a respiratory disease so it is important. “

Nick Hubble in pre-lock traffic on his bike

He says there must be more physical barriers between cyclists and traffic, but there is also more to do apart from infrastructure changes.

We should, he said, seek inspiration from other countries, adding, “There are a lot of low-paid key workers, many unable to afford a car, we need programs so that people are using used bikes and sharing bikes to replace the faulty Mobike should be speeded up.

“To see families cycling together on our roads is unprecedented. We must do everything we can to maintain these gains and to ensure that people do not get back into their cars to drive the shortest of routes. “


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