Kate Waterhouse and Tim White went to the first meeting of Bury Council’s Cycling and Walking Forum, intended to promote those activities in the borough and to co-ordinate with what’s going on in Greater Manchester (GM).
Tim has written a report of what happened:
In addition to me and Kate there were two representatives from local walking groups, Nick Hubble (a local cycling campaigner some of you know) and four officers from the Council. It seems that the meeting came about from pressure Nick has put on councillors and officers.
It was notable that two of the four officers there said that they had tried to commute to work by bike but had been forced to give up by fear, mainly blamed on poor roads and bad drivers. They understand many of the issues from our side though that doesn’t mean they have the power to put them right!
We had an interesting and wide-ranging discussion. Points raised included:
• Officers gave an update on work in Bury on the GM-wide Bee Network strategy which is about everyday travel (not sport or fitness). There are several proposals in Bury but all seem to be still in the funding and approval process. The Bee Network is fronted by Chris Boardman, we asked if it would be possible to invite him to a meeting in the future and the officers will work on that. See https://tfgm.com/made-to-move/bee-network
• Bury and GM have committed to put cycling and walking at the heart of all projects (though it’s not clear what this actually means!). Bury plans to be carbon-neutral by 2030 so clean air is a major priority. The council is looking at appointing a councillor as cycling and walking “champion” to push the issues within the borough.
• Safe cycling and walking and behaviour change for all road users. Logistics and warehousing is the biggest growth industry in Bury, with an associated growth in the number of large vehicles on the road. One of the officers at the meeting has a role to promote the benefits of health and wellness to businesses and the business benefits that can bring.
• Importance of promoting safe cycling in schools with children and parents. Car exclusion zones around schools are being investigated to reduce pollution. We promoted the great work we are doing with the Bullets.
• The importance of maintaining roads, cycle paths and pavements. Yes, we talked about potholes!
• Supporting initiatives from within communities as well as top-down strategies.
• Note the different issues in urban and rural areas in the borough. Do most of the resources go to urban areas? The representatives of walking groups mentioned the damage being done to Holcombe Moor by MTB riders who don’t stick to bridleways and asked for proper provision for MTB on Holcombe Moor.
• Obviously funding is a big problem. There are resources linked to the various strategies and initiatives but these tend to be for the initial capital costs, not continuing support – for building but not for cleaning and maintaining cycle paths, for example. Bury needs to claim its share of GM funding, the Forum can help officers to write funding bids that reflect the needs of people in Bury.
• Involve other groups – pedestrians, disabled people, people who are not represented by any formal group but still cycle and walk in the borough. How do we do this? It is important that advertising and promotional work reaches the people it needs to reach.
The council officers will develop an agenda for future meetings based on what we discussed. The next meeting will be sometime in September depending on the availability of officers. The meetings will probably be quarterly, and may move to different areas in the borough and meet at different times with the intention of reaching as many interested people as possible. We agreed that the meetings should be focused and productive but also open and accessible to all. It is also important to keep open communication between meetings.
My main conclusion from the meeting is that there are several different strategies, initiatives, projects, funding streams and so on in the borough and in GM, each has its own set of initials and it’s all rather confusing! On the one hand I think it is up to the council officers to make sense of all that and for the Forum to guide them in what we think is the best way to use the resources available to develop cycling and walking in Bury. On the other hand it will help if we have some knowledge of how these resources work to prompt the officers, see opportunities and understand how the Clarion can benefit. I think it’s worth continuing with the meetings to develop this knowledge.