Change a region to change a nation

31st January 2020

Segregated cycle lane, Manchester
Segregated bike lane, Manchester

Greater Manchester this week published its walking & cycling investment plan, Change a Region to Change a Nation.

The plan has a foreword from Mayor Andy Burnham and a word from Walking & Cycling commissioner Chris Boardman. The sections which follow are comprehensive plan, community engagement, delivery, the economic case for investement, and unlocking potential.

Andy Burnham

The Mayor says the Bee Network will be 1,800 miles of walking and cycling routes, and will ensure children can make safe journeys independently. It will give people a 'genuine choice about the way they make short journeys.' He calls for sustained government funding over the next ten years.

Chris Boardman

Boardman makes several points including these:


The introduction sets out the problems caused by 200 million trips of under 1km made by car in Greater Manchester every year. They contribute to climate change, poor air quality and congestion, result in diseases stemming from inactivity, and lead to 700 people being seriously injured or killed on the roads.

Greater Manchester's research shows that there is a desire to cycle and walk more. 47% of the population would cycle more if the conditions were better. 77% support building more protected cycle lanes.

Comprehensive plan

A coordinated approach to helping people walk and ride more includes these elements:

Greater Manchester's Bee Network will include 435 miles of Protected Space; 2,400 crossings of busy roads will be added; and there will be filtered neighbourhoods, 17 of which have been identified so far.

There are to be 'extremely high design standards' (something a 12-year-old would choose to use, and their parents would let them). The standards will be tested via a Streets for All Check. The proposed comprehensive wayfinding system is based on the Dutch Knooppunten system.

A Streets for All Design Guide is currently in development, and a comprehensive training programme for local authority officers has been developed. Councillors have taken part in the training too.

Greater Manchester is looking to embed 'a culture of walking and cycling'. Activities that may help achieve this include community street events, school streets, skills training, and mass-participation rides. As a guide, TfL's budget for such activities is about £1.60 per person.

Community engagement

Here, the principle of community engagement is explained. It helps ensure schemes are more popular, and deliver them faster, compared with top-down approaches.

The report reveals that TfGM has produced a best-practice consultation guide.


The full 1,800 miles of the Bee Network will take 10 years and cost £1.5 billion. So far, the pipeline of schemes in development amounts to £500 million (420 miles of the Network), but there is a funding gap of £215 million.

The report identifies the cost of certain elements:

Economic case for investment

The report notes that walking and cycling result in improved health outcomes, decarbonisation, cleaner air, and reduced congestion. That's why investing in cycling and walking gives the highest possible value for money rating, 'a fact widely recognised and then equally widely ignored'.

The monetary benefits of the Bee Network from health and productivity improvements are potentially £6 billion from £1.5 billion spent.

Unlocking potential

Pedestrian crossing of side street
Zebra crossing of side street

Here, the report identifies practical changes that would allow the Bee Network to be delivered at lower cost. They include:

Design standards

The report notes: 'Across Britain, hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent and continue to be spent on road "improvement" projects which involve only painted cycle lanes to cater for cycling. Evidence now confirms this type of provision is often insufficient to make people feel safer. Recent studies show that in many cases, the white line approach can actually make people less safe.'

Greater Manchester doesn't intend to repeat these mistakes.