Clegg’s traffic plans ‘could make Manchester roads MORE dangerous for cyclists’

Manchester’s biggest cycling club claim Nick Clegg’s £214million ‘strategic road network’ could end up making the city’s roads less safe.

The deputy Prime Minister announced that £214million will be invested in eight different cities – including Manchester – in order to develop local cycle networks, increase protection for cyclists at junctions and traffic hotspots to help prevent accidents, for the next three years.

However Ian Whittell, spokesman for Manchester Wheelers’ Club warned the scheme needs to be led by active members of the cycling community, after previous action had put others at risk.

Mr Whittell told MM: “Manchester, like most British cities, has had numerous examples of so-called ‘cycling-friendly traffic measures’ that actually create more danger for cyclists than had previously been the case.

“Our hope is that instead authorities listen to the advice of active members of the cycling community in developing their ‘Strategic Road Network’.”

Clegg has claimed that the rewards of the investment could be “massive”, arguing that billions of pounds will be saved for the NHS.

It has been put forward that the initiative will lead to “less pollution and congestion”, and hence a healthier public.

New initiatives have also been implemented, namely a new scheme which will recondition and donate bikes and helmets to primary school children in disadvantaged areas of the eight current cycling cities.

Clegg said: “I’m committed to helping our dream of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands, become a reality.

“In government, we’re putting the money down. Now we need the public and local authorities to jump on their bikes and get us to the finish line.”

Mr Whittell praised the thought behind Clegg’s cycling initiatives, arguing the government has overlooked Manchester as a national cycling hub in the past.

He said: “We are pleased to see Manchester on the list of cities in the plan.

“For too long cycling has been neglected as a mode of transport here, despite this being the home of cycling in Britain.”

There will also be a further £100 million funding set aside for improvements to conditions for cyclists and walkers travelling alongside and crossing Britain’s busiest roads.

Mr Whittell however, pointed out that more than two cyclists were killed per week in 2013, a number he expects to rise unless further preventative measures are taken.

He said: “In the past month, two of our members have been hospitalised after drivers exited stationary vehicles but failed to look and struck them with their car doors.

“They were completely avoidable accidents. Those drivers didn’t look over their shoulders and thought about cyclists possibly being in their vicinity.

“There needs to be a drastic improvement in road safety education and awareness.

“This initiative, therefore, is welcome but only as part of an on-going drive to make Britain’s roads safer.”

Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman MBE – also a former Manchester Wheelers’ – welcomed the investment, but felt that a long-term commitment is needed for a shift in transport dynamics.

He said: “This is a great stepping stone on the road to creating a safer environment and enabling more Brits to choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport.

“The benefits of cycling show how investing in cycling will pay dividends. If we want to see a cycling revolution we have to invest in it and commit to it long term.

“And it’s something I wholeheartedly think we can achieve.”

Image courtesy of the Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography, with thanks.

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