On Salford’s inaugural Walking and Cycling Forum

A phrase that resonated at the Salford network planning meeting held back in March was that “the world has changed”: the formerly sidelined acts of walking and cycling are becoming increasingly mainstream in the urban travel context; Chris Boardman is banging the drum and banging heads together to make it happen in Greater Manchester; and we’re verily awash with cash to get walking and cycling schemes off the ground.

Of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, Salford appears one of the keenest to be striding ahead into this brave new world of human-powered transport, and Tuesday’s relaunch of the Salford Cycle Forum as the Salford Walking and Cycling Forum certainly reflected a renewed vigour around non-motorised travel in the borough and beyond. The organisers expected, and planned seating for, around 25 attendees, but by the time I arrived ~12 minutes late I had to squeeze myself into a distant pew as the introductions of the some 65 (yes, sixty-five) guests were still ongoing.

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Some of the throng that attended the Forum. Picture credit: @CatrionaSwanson

Attendees came from a wide range of backgrounds. Alongside the usual cycle-advocacy suspects, there were Salford Council officers, residents, folk from walking organisations and even a scooter advocate (hurrah)!

The meeting kicked off with the announcement of Councillor Laura Edwards (sadly absent on this occasion) as Salford’s new cycling and walking champion. As someone who currently doesn’t currently cycle, Laura is an ideal champion for the Beelines era: if a scheme isn’t safe and attractive enough to tempt her on to a bike, it’s simply not good enough. This is the new benchmark.

Catriona Swanson, Salford City Council’s Lead on Cycling and Walking, continued by briefly rehearsing the Beelines vision, highlighting that:

  • Beelines is primarily about short trips on foot or by bike;
  • £33 million of the first tranche of £160 million has already been allocated for projects;
  • the initial map that was open for consultation until the end of September is currently being reviewed;
  • Chris Boardman is very keen for communities to take ownership of the schemes, which is why forums such as the Salford one are crucial to Beelines’ success.

Catriona continued by stating that Salford had managed to have an entire six projects approved in the first two rounds of Beelines bidding, these being proposed for:

  • Chapel Street
  • Broad St./Salford Uni
  • Swinton/Walkden junctions
  • Monton Beelines
  • Swinton Greenway
  • Trinity Way/Springfield Lane crossings

There was some lively discussion around certain areas of Salford that are particularly poor for walking and cycling, with one young father exasperatedly explaining that the traffic-light phases by his place on Trinity Way change at the weekend, meaning that he sometimes has to wait up to eight (8) minutes to cross the road with his child in a pram.

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Visualisation of proposed Dutch-style walking and cycling infrastructure around the Sacred Trinity Church, where this Forum meeting was held.

Nick Brelsford from Sustrans then took the floor. He spoke first about school street design projects, where a street design kit is used to temporarily reimagine road-space, with the ultimate aim being to close such streets permanently to traffic and reclaim the space for the communities that they belong to. He went on to introduce the Active Travel Alliance, an joint initiative of the Bicycle Association, Cycling UK, the Ramblers, British Cycling, Living Streets and Sustrans for action on the reduction of road danger and enhancing active travel and liveable places.

We then heard Peter Haymes from the Sustainable Journeys Team at TfGM, who showed a video of his team’s work and explained how they for instance award business travel grants to enable businesses to foster sustainable behaviour change among their employees.

The next speaker was Nancy Waine who represents Pedal Away, who organise community cycle rides, and Wheels for All, an organisation that makes cycling accessible to all, who are setting up new hubs in the Salford area at Cadishead and Irlam.

We were then invited to participate in a brainstorming session to express what we want from the forum, where we would like it to be held, who we would like to attend and so on.

There were two items of any other business: first we heard from a representative from GM Moving, a GM-wide initiative to increase participation in physical activity across the region.

Last but not least, Helen Pidd of Fallowfield Loop protest fame announced the formation of a new walking and cycling campaign group which will seek to support and hold to account TfGM, the boroughs and the Beelines team, to advocate cycling and walking in local media, and to galvanise local, grass-roots support for walking and cycling within the GM boroughs.

In sum, what this meeting showed was that there is phenomenal energy and keenness among people to get involved in shaping walking and cycling in their local area. By expanding the remit to active travel – taking in cycling, walking and other forms of human-powered transport – the relevance of the issues increases vastly: while few (currently) cycle, most of us walk or otherwise use pedestrian infrastructure at least once during our daily routine. This stuff matters to people: we showed that recently in Prestwich, we’ve seen that again here in Salford. We’ve started a conversation that people eagerly want to be part of, so let’s keep talking – and not just in Salford.

The new cycling and walking movement discussed at the Forum will officially launch on Tuesday 4 December 2018. You can register to attend by clicking here.

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