A56 pop-up cycle lanes and beyond (Part 3)

This is part 3 of A56 pop-up cycle lanes and beyond, looking at Trafford Council’s response to walking and cycling during the 2020 pandemic and what it means for the future.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Photo gallery (Google Photos)

While the A56 pop-up lanes have been the single most visible and talked about piece of work carried out by Trafford Council during the pandemic, there’s other schemes that have been implemented as well.

Edge Lane pop-up cycle lane

There’s a small section of pop-up lane along Edge Lane, between the junction with the A56 and Longford Park. While this is in theory quite useful for access to the park, the execution is pretty poor, as it’s mostly only on the side towards the park and it’s pretty rough and narrow.

A narrow pop-up lane along Edge Lane, on the way to Longford Park

For a long while, I’ve said the route to Longford Park from the town centre needs to be made safe for cycling. Doing so would open up access to the park for a huge number of people, as it would also link to the Bridgewater Canal path. It also opens up the potential of a safe route to Chorlton, which was talked about when the Bee Network was first announced, but appears to have been quietly shelved.

Active Travel Fund

As part of Greater Manchester’s bids to the Active Travel Fund, Trafford included proposed upgrades to the pop-up lanes on the A56 and Edge Lane, as well as to deliver a number of modal filters. I’ll come onto the pop-up lane upgrades later, as these have yet to happen, but a small number of the modal filters have now been implemented.

I first heard about the modal filters through the Trafford Cycle Forum, who were being asked about potential locations. While the council were at least asking people in the cycle forum for suggestions, it was clear that they’d only be considering locations that wouldn’t be controversial (not the locations that’d have the most impact).

A number of proposed locations were drawn up and the council set about consulting people nearby. Though in typical Trafford Council fashion, the consultation on these filters was pretty woeful at best.

The details provided failed to make the case for why the filters were needed and what the purpose of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are. The plans were pretty unclear and probably only making sense to people from the council or those familiar with looking at such things. Unsurprisingly, there was opposition in some of the proposed locations, which were subsequently shelved.

One of the successful locations was on the streets between Kings Road and Longford Park. There has been a significant problem with rat-running traffic here for some time, with local residents asking the council to do something about it 10 years ago and saw no action taken.

Norwood Road filter, looking from Kings Road

Finally, something was to be be done as part of the Active Travel Fund. Though rather than filtering all the streets like a true LTN, the council have left a single through route open on Kenwood Road.

Hillingdon Road filter, looking onto Edge Lane

So while it’s certainly looking much better on the filtered roads, things have become worse for those on the single remaining rat-run, which isn’t great. That should have been picked up at the planning stage and addressed.

Given a complete lack of support for the scheme from the council, council exec or local councillors, people in the area have now had to take matters into their own hands to create and distribute materials promoting the filters.

These community-produced materials do a far better job of explaining the purpose of the filters and explode some of the myths. Some of these coming from, you’ve guessed it, Nathan Evans of the Trafford Tories. Why a councillor for Timperley is paying to promote a video criticising an LTN miles away from his own ward is anyone’s guess.

Why has this scheme been handled so badly by the council?
Why can’t they get even the basics right, like consulting with residents?
Why aren’t local councillors out promoting these schemes?

Someone from Salford City Council needs to show Trafford how it’s done.

A56 pop-up lane “upgrade” and return to 6 lanes of motor traffic

So, now back to that upgrade of what remains of the pop-up lanes on the A56. Well, when the council say upgrade, what they really mean is reinstating all 6 of the motor vehicle lanes, while what was the original narrow painted cycle lane along the A56 will be widened slightly and wands added (though wands will take space away from the cycle lane).

If you look at this purely from a cycling perspective and ignore what’s been in place since May this year, you might say it’s an improvement. But as a local resident, who worries about the impact that 6 lanes of motor traffic and associated illegal levels of air pollution has on me and my family, this is a significant step back from the current 4 motor traffic lanes.

If you add in the fact that the council’s own promotional material for the recent Future Stretford consultation (now closed and contents removed from the web, typical Trafford Council) showed the current A56 layout with cones and reduced number of lanes in place, and the proposed future layout with a permanent reduction in motor traffic lanes.

Visualisation from the recent Future Stretford consultation

Returning to 6 motor traffic lanes is a huge step backwards for Stretford. This urban motorway has plagued the town for decades and continues to hold it back. The fact that the “upgrade” is being carried out by one of the local Stretford councillors who lives close to the A56, acting as Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Climate Change is mind blowing.

The newly painted narrow lanes along the A56, yet to receive the wands, compared to the current width of the pop-up lanes with the cones

Yes, that’s right folks, environment, air quality and climate change, and he’s using government funds earmarked for active travel to reinstate 6 lanes of motor traffic, in a town that already has illegal levels of air pollution. You really couldn’t make it up.

Natalie Levy with Cllr Tom Ross and Cllr Steve Adshead
UPDATED: Call for crossing at “terrifying” Stretford junction
Messenger – 23 February 2018

Though this is also the councillor who campaigned to get the “terrifying” Park Road/Derbyshire Lane junction made safe by providing an actual crossing for pedestrians, but then has done zero about it since he got the ability to do something. With access to Bee Network funding, the money would have been available too, but he’s done absolutely nothing. So I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.

He was also a big supporter of the removal of the subways on the A56/Edge Lane junction and regularly arranges for free parking in our already heavily polluted town centres. Environment, air quality and climate change you say?

That Messenger article also says “Cllr Ross said the issue had been raised over a number of years but the council was sticking to its policy of measuring need for a crossing by the number of incidents.”. You’re are now in control of the council now and have the powers to make the change, and yet you’ve done nothing.

It’s also worth saying that all of this is overseen by council leader Andrew Western, who is the GMCA Lead for the Green City-Region. As the Green City-Region Lead, shouldn’t you be leading by example? Reinstating 6 lanes of motor traffic on a road with illegal levels of air pollution doesn’t really sound like the actions of a Green City-Region Lead to me.

Future High Streets Fund and Stretford town centre plans

Back to the plans for Stretford town centre. There’s been some great news in the press about Stretford being one of the recipients of the government’s Future High Streets Fund and has been awarded Β£17.6m funding to proceed with plans to “totally transform the town”.

This really is fantastic news and credit where it’s due to the Labour exec for stepping in to buy Stretford Mall and putting in a submission to the Future High Streets Fund, full details of the submission and business case.

Seeing what was in the recent Future Stretford consultation and looking at the business case, it’s clear there’s overlap with my proposed 10 steps to revitalising Stretford town centre. Whether there was any influence here or it’s just coincidental, it’s good to see things like the proposals to lengthen King Street and remove of some of the indoor mall area.

It’s also good to see that improving walking and cycling links to the town centre feature strongly. My view is that this is essential to delivering a successful redevelopment of the town centre and creating a thriving place people want to be. It’s critical that the A56 is tamed and the number of lanes are reduced as part of this.

Some key points from the business case, in regards to walking and cycling:

“Interventions such as pedestrian/cycle improvements to enable better access across the Town Centre do not generate return directly but can enhance the commercial appeal of Stretford Town Centre as a place to do business.”

MHCLG intervention – pg8

“Through changes to the existing infrastructure and potential re-engineering of traffic flows, the Council intends to support better accessibility to the main Town Centre area for pedestrians and cyclists from all sides and in turn enable better access to the town’s Metrolink stop, providing public transport links across GM, and the Bridgewater Canal.”

Objectives – pg9

“Pedestrian/cyclist upgrade measures to Chester Road Junction. Β£1.28m”

Financial Summary – pg11

That all sounds like what we want to hear. Though while Β£1.28m might seem like a lot, it doesn’t get you much when you start to look at highway improvements. If I remember correctly, the work to remove the subways cost around Β£2m.

The question is, are Trafford Council capable of delivering the change needed for walking and cycling to really make a difference and is there the political will in this executive to drive it? Judging by their form since taking control of the council, it seems doubtful.

Why do I say that?

Well, what lasting tangible improvements has this executive actually delivered for walking and cycling? Half a junction improvement at the Westpoint junction on the Stretford Cycleway (a scheme originally delivered by the previous executive), some temporary measures that there’s no political support for and are slowly being ripped out, plus lots of stalled Bee Network schemes that appear to be going nowhere.

I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, but it doesn’t shout track record to me. If the council aren’t able to consult properly on adding a few modal filters and getting sufficient local support, what hope is there for making the kind of big changes Stretford really needs?

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