On how Great Ancoats Street could look if it were done properly, or: there is plenty of scope for bike lanes if you actually wanted them.

Over recent weeks there’s been a lot of activity around Manchester City Council’s plans for a “green transformation” of Great Ancoats Street, which propose to change it from a dual carriageway into a dual carriageway with exactly the same amount of vehicles and some trees and slightly prettier pedestrian crossings at a cost of over £9 million. A glaring omission to the proposed scheme are cycle lanes along this key route, which the Council is seeking to excuse with vague promises to build some “parallel” cycle routes on winding back streets at some undefined point in the future.

We’ve had a near-spontaneous protest ride and stride about these plans, along with quite respectable media coverage both on the BBC and ITV.

But the question remains: could the Council put bike lanes on Great Ancoats Street if it really wanted to? Well, the answer is a resounding YES! according to highways engineer Bryn K Buck MIHE, who has gone to extraordinary lengths to produce the following proposal and design drawings of how Great Ancoats Street would look if Manchester City Council were serious about its commitment to active travel, clean air and broader environmental issues.

The rest of this post consists of Bryn’s words, for which we should express deep gratitude. Thank you Bryn!!

One final point before we hand over to Bryn: the more technically-minded among you might like to read the following in conjunction with these engineering drawings: ANCOATS BOULEVARD MODEL.

applause audience band celebration

Thanks Bryn!! Photo by anna-m. w. on Pexels.com


The proposed re-design of Manchester City Council’s frankly unambitious scheme for Great Ancoats Street is intended to properly strike a balance between the competing needs of road users on this critical urban corridor.

It is important to note that over the previous few years, traffic volumes have generally followed a downward trend on Great Ancoats Street. Recent spikes in flow have been a result of roadworks elsewhere in the city causing diversions and general avoidance. This therefore suggests that increasing motor vehicle capacity would be counter-productive due to induced demand. It also is against the stated aims of Transport for Greater Manchester to increase motor vehicle capacity at the expense of active travel!

Re-defining Great Ancoats Street as an ‘urban boulevard’ is a laudable aim. The corridor is presently hostile to active travel and not an attractive thoroughfare in the continually changing context of Ancoats and the Northern Quarter. It forms a major barrier between the two.

Whilst more radical ideas include removing the ring road entirely, this would not be a viable proposition as the city centre has been designed over the past two decades since the IRA bombing in 1996 to function with a ring; removing it means returning undesirable through movements to other streets. Whilst the concept of traffic evaporation is sound, the actual reality of attempting it could at this stage prove catastrophic. Therefore it is believed to be more acceptable to create a boulevard feel that still caters for essential motorised traffic but does not overall negatively affect cycling and walking.


It is proposed to provide a continuous bi-directional cycle route between New Cross (the junction of Oldham Road and the ring road) and Pollard Street. This corridor will be four metres wide to allow larger cargo-bikes access. At both ends, temporary tie-ins to the existing road layouts will be provided to allow future continuation. This corridor will have signal control at major junctions and priority over side roads through the use of continuous footways, or where space is restricted, the use of clearly defined road markings supported by upright signage.

Several amendments at junctions are proposed to accommodate the cycle corridor and to reduce rat-running into unsuitable side streets:

  • A reconfigured New Cross junction to create parallel cycle routes and a safer conflict free route into Oldham Street.
  • Restricting Oldham Street to public transport and cyclists only; at present general traffic has access as far as Dale Street before being dumped into a narrow and unsuitable network on narrow streets in the Northern Quarter. Any traffic access arrangements should prioritise moving motor vehicles to the Red Lion Street MSCP. It is believed the Stevenson Square scheme should take this into account.
  • Spear Street will become a one-way exit from the Northern Quarter onto the northbound ring road only.
  • Conversion of Lever Street and George Leigh Street to walking and cycling corridors to allow a safe active travel route between Ancoats and the city centre. This will boost footfall on Lever Street and regenerate this part of the Northern Quarter.
  • Re-definiton of Newton Street as the motor vehicle route into the Northern Quarter, allowing access to Piccadilly. This would be a low capacity route to deter rat-running but prioritise deliveries and other essential city centre traffic. Blossom Street will remain a one-way access into Ancoats, limited to vehicles not exceeding 3 tonnes.
  • Jersey Street will become a one-way exit from Ancoats with access onto the southbound ring road only.
  • Conversion of Port Street to a modal filter allowing for a safe cycling route from the proposed former Manchester Central Retail Park residential development.
  • A junction will be retained at Redhill Street to allow motor vehicle access to Ancoats. No signals will be provided to deter rat-running.
  • A new signal controlled junction to provide access to the Urban Exchange development in order to protect the cycle corridor from ‘left hook’ turns.
  • A reconfigured junction to allow motor vehicle and cycling access to the former Manchester Central Retail Park site.
  • Lomax Street will be closed where it meets Great Ancoats Street in order to protect the cycle corridor.
  • A continuous footway will be provided at the junction with Ducie Street. This movement into the city centre should be discouraged for motor traffic.
  • A new mid-block crossing to allow additional pedestrian movements from the former Manchester Central Retail Park site.
  • A revised signal junction at Old Mill Street to improve cycling safety including early start signals for cyclists travelling north-south and vice versa.
  • Cycle crossings to bring cyclists back into with-flow cycling beyond Pollard Street heading southbound. Temporary tie-ins are to be provided pending future improvements to the remainder of Great Ancoats Street.
  • Where bus stops interact with the cycle corridor, full bypasses are proposed to reduce pedestrian and cycling conflicts.


This proposal retains two lanes of motor traffic in each direction. By rationalising the number of turns signal stages can be optimised and the time gained can be used for the cycle corridor meaning that overall motor journey times should remain relatively constant. However, large numbers of cycling trips are enabled by the changes and this in turn should create the ideal conditions for modal shift as journeys from the wider city that require use of Great Ancoats Street by bicycle are now catered for. This is the first piece in the jigsaw that will unlock Cheetham Hill, Bradford, Miles Platting, New Islington, and districts beyond to safe cycling.

The proposed central reservations could be designed to become urban wildflower sites along with tree planting. In turn this will attract urban bee populations, provide a greener and more attractive corridor, and provide the city centre with a green strip in an area that is heavily dominated by ‘hard’ landscaping.

Improved lighting, signing, lining, and the active travel corridor will additionally reduce road casualties through provision of a simpler road layout and removal of numerous modal conflicts. To further improve safety the imposition a 20mph speed limit between New Cross and Pollard Street may be considered.



2 Responses

  1. When I look closely at the drawings I can’t help noticing the amount of pavement commandeered (you know those bits where pedestrians are usually found?). In amongst the hyperbole there are proposals for various road closures and restrictions that I doubt will have the support of businesses and residents wanting deliveries or pick-ups in either the NQ or Ancoats. Quite a lot of the alignment for the cycle lane is where there is existing drainage – so unless you want grids along the cycle path major work to rectify this will be needed.

    Bryn has answered the exam question of how cycle lanes could be in place. I’m not saying it wouldn’t work, but it is only a starting point. However, the real question to answer is how to make the whole NQ, Ancoats, Islington area pedestrian and cycle friendly.

    I cannot see where the demand or reasoning for a full-length cycle lane on Great Ancoats St arises – it does not seem documented anywhere. It is a ring road route not an arterial, the idea that ‘build it and they will come’ is flawed here – comparison with, say Oxford Road, cannot be made – there is a completely different trip pattern at play. Even if quality cycle lanes were implemented they would still be in a poor air quality environment because of the stop-start motor traffic. Constricting GAS would lead to slower motor traffic (emissions are highest at speeds below 10mph) and consequent relocation of queues elsewhere on the network.
    I contend that the cross-city journeys that motorised traffic make on the route will very rarely be duplicated by cyclists, there are more direct, safer, quieter routes they can take. Furthermore, there is obvious demand for safe ped and cycle crossing of GAS – something borne out by personal observation a few days ago.

    The opportunity of the media coverage of the initial protest and of getting the attention of what appears to be a wrong-footed MCC should be exploited. Widen the campaign but quietly drop the ‘must have cycle lanes throughout’ argument in favour of a general betterment of the design from what is basically a resurfacing scheme with a few extras to a proper neighbourhood treatment plan.

    What would I do?
    • Make the crossings of GAS Toucans (i.e. bikes and peds)
    • Plan for a bi-directional cycleway down Oldham St to Hilton St, put it in as far as Houldsworth St to start (bus stops need to be sorted before it is continued)
    • Houldsworth St to become a bi-directional cycle street through to Port St with access only for motor traffic. Priority across Spear St, with new signals on Newton St and Lever St giving priority to the cross flow nominally in parallel to GAS.
    • With flow segregated cycle lanes on Newton St and Lever St to meet up with George Leigh St and Blossom St opposite after they cross GAS
    • At Port St work out a temporary route to Tariff St (Urban Exchange end), but in the longer term this should be a direct link
    • Port St to Redhill St route for peds and cycles across GAS which would include segregated cycle lanes on GAS – this would then link into new routes through whatever happens on the old retail park
    • Explicitly link it all into Bee Network plans and add Bee Network signage

    Why is this better than full-length cycle lanes?
    • Segregated, quieter, more attractive walking and cycling environments created
    • More concentrated on the ped and cycle movements people want to make
    • Avoids only championing a solution that has great potential to be a white elephant damaging to the desire to implement more high quality cycling infrastructure
    • Not much change to the MCC plan, but clearly taking into account peds and cyclists, a win-win for both sides and a positive basis created for future engagement
    • Keeps the wide pavements on GAS, because after all pedestrians are the top of the list!

  1. October 29, 2019

    […] As the disquiet grew, a couple of us decided to take the matter offline and organise some old-fashioned, real-world protest. A petition was launched, securing over 1,000 signatures to date, and we organised a cycling go-slow along GAS, dubbed “The Great Ancoats Street Swindle”, which was attended by hundreds of riders and attracted widespread coverage in press and broadcast media (such as the Manchester Evening News and ITV Granada News). Public opinion was broadly in favour of installing bike lanes when a road is redone, whether the person asked cycles or not. Indeed, shortly after the protest, early drawings of the scheme by TfGM emerged that included safe cycle lanes with minimal impact on motor flows. As part of our initiatives, a dedicated band of urban planners, highways engineers etc. sympathetic to the cause drew up their own version of GAS with safe cycle lanes, which were the subject of the blog post On how Great Ancoats Street could look if it were done properly, or: there is plenty of scope for bi… […]

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