Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has defended plans for a new segregated cycle path on the A56 — already victim to multiple bouts of attacks by vandals stealing the cones, now described as a "systematic theft" — saying that we can't live in a world where "drivers dominate" and cars "have got all the road".
Appearing on the BBC Radio Manchester show In the Hotseat, host Mike Sweeney read out a question to the mayor from a resident: "Andy's invested a lot of time into the Bee Network, which relies on the buses being on time and reliable.
"So, what does he think of Trafford Council’s plans to install permanent cycle lanes across the A56 from Sale to Stretford which will cause congestion at all times, and major congestion at peak times, and when cricket or football is on?"
The mayor responded, saying: "The first thing to say is that the Bee Network won’t be in Trafford until early 2025, this is just preparatory at this stage, we’ve already got the Bee Network in the west of Greater Manchester at the moment but it is heading towards Trafford.
"What I would say is, we’ve got to get to a position where we create space for all road users. People raise concerns about people on e-bikes or on e-scooters potentially posing a risk to pedestrians, so we’ve got to create segregated space for them.
"We’ve got to create more bus lanes to make the Bee Network work better. So, the world where drivers dominate and cars have got all the road – we just can’t be in that world anymore because life is changing. We need to encourage more people on to public transport.
"The Bee Network will work because of some of those bus priority measures that we’re going to put in place."
Host Mike Sweeney then commented that the A56 is of a "finite width" and asked the mayor if he would be able to fit a cycle lane and bus lane on the A56, while retaining room for drivers.
The mayor added: "It depends where, doesn’t it? I’d have to look at the precise design that the Trafford Council are considering because the A56 can get very wide, actually, in certain parts of it.
"If you get towards the Stretford side of it, you’re talking four lanes aren’t you, at least on one side of the carriageway. It depends on how it’s done and where it’s done, but should it be done? Yes. We’ve got to create safe space for all road users."
Police data from 2019 showed the A56 was the most dangerous route for cyclists, with 67 incidents on the road between 2015 and 2017.
Plans to improve the layout of temporary cycle infrastructure on the section of the route, termed "Phase 2", in Stretford were consulted on earlier this year.
Temporary cycle lanes were installed on Chester Road and Edge Lane in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 using traffic cones, sparking anger from some road users, with the cones getting stolen, leading to a police investigation.
The anger outburst came to heads this year when Mancunian cyclists called out the bike lane vandalism, as photos shared on social media showed the A56 in Trafford reopened to three lanes again, the lane that was a dedicated cycle lane, formerly separated from traffic with cones, once again filled with queueing vehicles, and the removed cones stacked at the side of the road.
Hi @OneTrafford. This is what happens when you don't keep on top of minor vandalism. Now large sections of the cycleway are missing and we have three lanes of queuing traffic instead of two @StretfordJane @LongfordSarah1 @mik pic.twitter.com/mVlnPAzIJU
— JBizzle (@jbizzleymcbizzl) July 3, 2023
"Is this how we do democracy in Trafford?" one local cyclist asked. "Why is this being allowed to happen? We have been complaining for weeks about cones being removed and now large sections are missing. Maybe I should go back to driving."
Another said they had now raised an official complaint against Trafford Council as the "complete silence" on the matter is "very frustrating".
Speaking to WalkRideAlty, a campaign group hoping "to make Altrincham, Timperley and Broadheath better places to walk and ride" road.cc was told the council is "painfully slow" at dealing with such instances.
A spokesperson for the campaign said: "It seems as if the outsourced service provider Amey ('One Trafford') are struggling to keep up with vigilantes who are removing and stealing the temporary road cones from the A56 through Stretford. There are a series of tweeted photos of sections going missing overnight, and complaints that they're not being replaced.
Trafford Council responded to a road.cc request for comment, a spokesperson for the One Trafford Partnership saying: "We understand the importance of safe travel provision, which is why our traffic team regularly check the lanes to replace any missing cones. However continual theft and vandalism of cones means we’re unable to replace them as quickly as they are removed.
"We are proposing to replace the cones on this section of the highway with an interim cycling scheme and have invested heavily in active travel schemes across the borough of Trafford."
However, a week later, vandals hit the A56 cycle lane again, this time stealing cones segregating the bike route from the whole stretch of the infrastructure, with One Trafford confirming a "systematic theft".
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.