MAG was the only riders’ rights body to attend an event in central Manchester to consider the proposals for transport in Manchester from now to 2040. Lembit Öpik, MAG’s Director of Comms & Public Affairs attended on MAG’s behalf, at the suggestion of Tony Cox.
‘Mayor Tony Lloyd and all the key officers and Councillors involved in planning transport strategies for Greater Manchester were there,’ reports Lembit. ‘The summit included presentations, discussions and breakout sessions to assess the draft proposals.’
Lembit asked for the inclusion of motorcycles in considerations of road and parking provision. ‘I felt it important to raise the case for what’s called modal shift towards motorcycles which, amongst other things, are more eco-friendly than alternatives like cars.’ He also spoke briefly to the Mayor, whom he knows from his Parliamentary days.
Various recurring themes were discussed in workshops that formed a part of the day. Examples included: ‘hard segregation’ for cycles are a trip hazard for pedestrians and for riders: emissions can reduce through a shift towards motorcycling as the average powered two wheeler has one sixth the footprint of a car: there are congestion benefits with a 10% shift from cars to bikes creating a 40% drop in congestion: electric bicycles blur the line between cycles and motorbikes/scooters. The group Lembit was in also talked about the need for a city wide approach to opening bus lane access – in order to avoid the confusions which occur in places like London where the decision is made on a borough by borough basis.
A number of other areas were also covered, indicating the complexity of ensuring that whatever is decided in the process of consultation, the result is integrated and consistent.
‘The lessons from TfL must be heeded,’ says Tony Cox, who is pleased with the contribution MAG was able to make to the consultation session. ‘Trying to force people off motorbikes, and for that matter out of cars, is anti-choice. And we know cycle lanes have caused bad congestion in London. MAG can make all of this clear in a way that helps the Council achieve its objectives. That will take some time and effort but it’s worth it, especially given the status of Manchester as Britain’s second city. I hope that, by doing this, we can avoid some of the bad mistakes made in London.
So, what happens next? MAG is planning a return to Manchester to have a working session with the key decision-makers. That will be the forum for the organisation to put the key points formally to the consultation. ‘We need to keep it clear and concise,’ says Lembit, ‘a precise and actionable list of proposals. We must avoid a vague wish list. I’m speaking with Dr Leon Mannings to make sure we get this absolutely right. We want the local authority to see MAG are a free, on-going resource as these policies take shape.’
This was a highly effective session with clear benefits in terms of projecting MAG’s policy positions and raising influence upon the strategy for riders, especially given no other motorcycle organisations were present. It is a credit to Tony Cox for seeing the opportunity, and a sign of MAG’s increasing political agility that we were able to respond with such speed and clarity.’
The next step is to turn the words into action within the strategy document that sets the direction for the city across the next two decades and beyond. ‘Getting this right is vital,’ adds Tony, ‘because it means we’ll still be able to ride our machines in twenty years’ time.’
The current Greater Manchester Transport Stratergy 2040 Vision document can be viewed by following the link HERE