Stockport Council have just opened a new Bee Network walking and cycling consultation, for a route from Edgeley, bridging the mainline railway junction and the A6, into the town centre and marketplace.
The proposed links include new sections of “high quality” two-way segregated cycle tracks, several new crossings, quiet streets and yes, Stockport‘s favourite: several stretches of shared use cycle/footway.
A vital feature is not actually part of the consultation: a replacement for the outdated footbridge over the railway, being delivered separately by the council, Network Rail and Transport for Greater Manchester.
You can access the consultation here to see the full plans and give your thoughts about each section, until 2nd July 2021.
Two further consultations are also due from the council soon: part of the Heatons Cycle Link and a Romiley to Stockport link.
“Is it worth my time filling these in?” I hear you cry. Yes, it really is. There’s an example in this very scheme where things have changed substantially thanks to a previous consultation.
Last summer, the council ran a consultation just on the Railway Road part of this route (the main road leading into Stockport station). This was roundly criticised online for its bumbling route and use of shared space and that reflected in the feedback: 46% strongly disagreed or disagreed.
Now this scheme changes the proposal quite a bit, relocating the two-way cycle track to the south side of the road, uninterrupted, segregated for almost its whole length and with a much simpler crossing of the A6. So, yes — it’s worth providing feedback.
It’s still not perfect there, especially how it just ends across the A6 at John Street, but then even despite adding what looks on the surface like lots of lovely segregated cycle tracks, none of this scheme seems completely ideal in full.
Yet again, Stockport’s highways planners are skirting around the one central issue facing people who want to cycle into or through the town: the A6. This scheme is excessively over-designed just to keep people on bikes as far away from that road as possible (with its unnecessary five lanes of traffic in places), rather than simply giving them a safe, direct route on it.
A frustrating example of this is the bit of path proposed between the two huge car parks built and planned at Stockport Exchange, beside the station. Due to the narrow space available, this switches from a segregated path to a shared space.
Now given these are brand new car parks, planned with the authority of the council itself (and one of which not even built yet), isn’t it a bit of a joke they couldn’t have reserved an extra metre for pedestrians and cyclists? Are these links really that much of an afterthought? (Don’t answer that.)
And what will it be like to cycle through this narrow canyon between and behind multi-storey car parks in practice? Especially at night? The second car park will be up to 16 metres high according to planning documents. This is surely going to create a very unappealing route for people who are concerned about personal safety.
Ultimately, rather than directing people on bikes down back-alleys, why doesn’t the council just use some of the three-car-wide Greek Street to provide a highly visible cycle track, or even the existing link here, connecting into segregated lanes on the A6 itself, past the Town Hall? More expensive perhaps, but if the Bee Network is meant to be a world-class, safe network, done properly…
Special mention, also, to the council’s ongoing sticking plaster for cycling that is shared foot/cycleways, supposed to be almost outlawed under Bee Network guidelines but still slipping through everywhere in the south east.
Here they’re proposing to magically switch just a short length of existing pavement on the A6 near the Hat Works Museum to shared use, to provide a link between the rooftop park of the new bus interchange and St Petersgate. The new interchange will have a cycle hub and a lift big enough for bikes up to the park and A6 (not exactly Utrecht, but it’s something).
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A new crossing there will be a great improvement for pedestrians and wheelchair users, making a much more accessible, easy link from the bus station up to the popular marketplace. Yet expecting everyone to fight over shared space, even for a few metres, in a bustling place like this seems ridiculous when there are unprotected, painted cycle lanes right there on the A6 itself.
Why are those horrors not receiving protection? Why is Stockport Council, its highways officers and its current leadership determined to continue avoiding making the A6 fit for purpose in a climate emergency, when there are other perfectly good (and recently widened) arterial roads to take the strain?
If the town wants to truly shake off its past image problems, it needs to move on from this desperate attitude of seeing cycling as second-class traffic, something to be stuffed down a back alley between car parks. This new route may solve a few basic problems, but it turns out this isn’t the Bee Network we were promised.
- In filling in the consultation, it’s worth questioning the suitability of the narrow, hidden link between the multi-storey car parks, and why protected cycle lanes are not being provided on the main A6 between the Town Hall and Mersey Square instead, solving much of what the council appears to be trying to solve here in one blow.