The transformation of Manchester’s Oxford Road into a safe space for cyclists and pedestrians is nearing completion, with a dramatic drop in cars using the road.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has introduced new ‘Dutch-style’ cycle lanes along with changed traffic priorities – taking drivers onto alternative routes – so that buses can operate more efficiently and punctually.
A new ‘bus gate’ starting at Hathersage Road means that general traffic heading into the city via Oxford Road has fallen from 5,000 cars to fewer than 250 paving the way for quicker bus services, better cycle facilities and cleaner and safer public spaces.
The bus gate came into force in September and although a new concept for Greater Manchester another one has been in operation on Portland Street since March.
Along with the 95% drop in general traffic on Oxford Road, recently completed work between Hathersage Road and Booth Street has seen a whole new road surface laid, pedestrian improvements made, more cycle lanes added and the reconfiguration of several key junctions meaning additional changes for general traffic.
While the majority of drivers are now using alternative routes like Upper Brook Street, transport bosses are urging everyone to start to familiarise themselves with the final scheme now – before it’s all finished.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “There have been a lot of changes to city centre road layouts for people to get used to and I want to thank everyone for how well they have adapted and contributed to the success of the transformation so far. Anyone around this section of Oxford Road can’t fail to have noticed how different it is now.
“We’ve designed new routes in and out of the city via the parallel Upper Brook Street and late last year we made a section of Princess Street two-way to make it easy for drivers to still get to where they need to go.
“There’s never been a better time to get to know new routes and we’re now encouraging drivers to start to familiarise themselves with how the final scheme will work so that they’re prepared before the full change kicks in.”
Working closely with key partners along the Oxford Road corridor will not only result in a scheme that benefits thousands of bus passengers but also provide improved access to key health, education and leisure facilities such as the Central Manchester Hospital sites, the University Of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Diana Hampson, Director of Estates and Facilities at the University of Manchester, said: “Oxford Road is home to some of the best higher education facilities in the country and we want our students, staff and visitors to enjoy the best possible experience when they come to the campus.
“The University of Manchester has been working with TfGM for over four years and has been involved in the scheme’s design from the beginning.
“It’s enabled us to influence the proposals and to shape the scheme into something that also benefits us so I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react to it when it’s complete.
“Many of our staff and students cycle to the campus and many others travel by bus, and there are obvious benefits for them. We welcome a boulevard that’s quieter, more attractive and generally a lot cleaner.”
As we reported this summer, the first section of the Oxford Road bike lane, part of a £1bn bus priority scheme to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, began in February, and sections of the partially kerb-protected route are now complete.
The latest phase will see Oxford Road between Hathersage Road and Booth Street closed to two-way traffic while cycle lanes, including “Dutch-style” bus stop bypasses, pictured above, are built.
However, campaigners have raised concerns plans are being “watered down” with new designs showing a section of cycle lane placed on the outside of parked cars, another disappearing beside a loading bay and a third forcing cyclists to re-join the carriageway potentially obscured by buses.
Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign (GMCC) has voiced concerns about scheme “redesigns”, which were presented to the city’s Cycle Forum in June. GMCC says the changes to designs, which were consulted on last year, are a backwards step, and it urges supporters to sign a petition calling for original designs to be reinstated.
“Instead of providing protected cycleways throughout, TfGM and [Manchester City Council] are now considering designs that would make the cycling route less safe and attractive,” wrote GMCC.
“Designs from September 2015, as published on TfGM’s website following extensive consultations, show that safe cycleways can be accommodated throughout the route. The Oxford Road corridor is Manchester’s busiest cycling route so it deserves a flagship scheme, with continuous dedicated cycleways to minimise the potential for conflict with pedestrians and motorised traffic.
It adds: “We welcome the scheme as a whole but its value risks being compromised by its weakest link(s), which must be addressed so that people who don’t currently cycle are able to consider cycling as a viable transport option in the future.
“These re-designs are backwards steps that are not appropriate for a cycling scheme that intends to be of a high quality and suitable for people of all ages and abilities.”