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Manchester could make 40 years of cycling progress in a decade says Dutch cycling campaigner

Andy Burnham says he is committed to making local travel easier and more sustainable

A Dutch cycling campaigner says that Manchester is 40 years behind other cities when it comes to cycling, but believes that this could be turned around quickly if lessons are learnt from what has been done elsewhere.

This week it was announced that Chinese firm Mobike is about to launch its dockless bike-sharing service in Manchester and Salford. While local cycle campaigners welcomed the news, they were quick to point to shortcomings in infrastructure, suggesting that this might still deter people from cycling.

Martiyn van Es of the Cyclists Union of Holland told the Manchester Evening News that cities like Amsterdam were in a similar position to Manchester 40 years ago, but said there was no need for it to take that long to catch up.

“Change is possible. When we formed 40 years ago we were where Manchester is now – but you don’t need 40 years to get there. With some well-chosen things like the bike-share and with good designs of cycle paths in the busiest areas you’re making a flying start.

“There is also now so much knowledge in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany. It took us 40 years because we were the first ones, maybe it will take you 10 or 20. I would invite Mayor Andy Burnham to the Netherlands, ask him to learn from us and reshape Manchester into a cycling paradise.”

Burnham said: “We do need to invest in cycling across Greater Manchester to help improve our health, our air quality and reduce congestion – it makes sense on every level. We need to learn from London, which has shown that you get a shift in behaviour if you give people separate, safer cycling facilities.

“I’m committed to working with our local councils and TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester) to improve and promote cycling across our city-region, making travel easier and more sustainable.”

Van Es said a change in thinking would be key.

“We have former industrial cities like Manchester in the Netherlands. They are choosing now to make more space for cyclists and less space for cars. It’s not just a question of money – it’s a new way of thinking you need to explore and make your own.

“If you change your way of thinking towards pedestrians and cycling, the city centre will eventually will be more friendly and people will cycle and walk more. Choose to do that.

“People often don’t think it’s a choice – they say they need their car because it’s too dangerous to cycle. But if you also change infrastructure to make it easy then people will choose it.

“But it really is a mindset you have to get into. It’s really important to change the perception of people about cycling. That it’s safe and the easy thing to do.”

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