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Greater Manchester has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise the way we all get around

The city region shares the same societal problems that are being felt across Britain—an obesity epidemic, air quality issues and streets that are often clogged with motor traffic during peak hours.

With congestion alone costing businesses in Greater Manchester £1.3 billion annually, we cannot afford to go on with business as usual.

My report for the Mayor, Made to Move, set out a 15-step plan to transform Greater Manchester and was adopted unanimously by the region’s ten district leaders. The first step was the publication of a detailed, Greater Manchester-wide walking and cycling infrastructure proposal, in collaboration with all ten local authorities.

The proposal is a vision for Greater Manchester to become the very first city region in the UK to have a fully joined up cycling and walking network; the most comprehensive in Britain covering 1,800 miles.

It sets out our vision to connect every neighbourhood and community in Greater Manchester, as well as a clear strategy for effective delivery of a network that will make cycling and walking a viable choice for those that don’t do so now.

Crucially, the proposed network is not for people who already cycle or walk for the majority of their journeys. Its focus is to enable the two thirds of people who currently use their car as their main mode of transport, to walk or cycle.

One of the keys to unlocking walking and cycling’s potential across Greater Manchester will be building major, fully segregated cycle ways on key routes. These must be safe, attractive spaces alongside high quality footways. But they are not the only requirement and not even the first.

We can unlock the potential of our local roads and communities by providing easy crossing points, thereby unlocking opportunities to walk and cycle. These strategically-placed crossing points will feed local bike traffic into the more costly, fully-segregated routes, enabling even longer journeys to be made actively.

To help ensure consistency across Greater Manchester’s network, we are proposing a single identity be applied across all ten local authorities. Synonymous with industry, and more recently with unity, the design of the network uses the symbol of the worker bee and once applied, will be a trusted symbol promising good quality. It will also be a crucial aspect of the proposed wayfinding system.

The Made to Move report highlighted that this mission has to be owned and driven by the local authorities. In line with that promise, this network has not been created in isolation by engineers. It has been created by all of Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities. The networks were drawn collaboratively by council officers, local highway engineers, as well as local cycling, walking and community groups. And crucially, they held the pen. Another UK first.

The cycling and walking network is truly an inspirational vision for how we can transform Greater Manchester for the better. Now, let’s get on with it.