It’s hard to say yet exactly how our world, our country or our communities will change as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. My hope – one that I’m sure many of you share – is for a fairer, greener and happier society. One area that looks set to change in a positive direction is transport.
One of the many funds that have been created during this period is the Department for Transport’s emergency active travel fund for local authorities to put in place schemes to encourage active travel during the crisis. Stockport Council have submitted six bids for schemes, including an “Active Neighbourhood” in Heaton Norris.
Whilst there’s much to be welcomed in these schemes, I still think we need to aim higher and be even more ambitious. The new parallel cycle route, a cycle loan scheme and traffic calming measures around Heaton Norris are a start but the important thing for me, though, is that none of these schemes are standalone and need to be plugged into a strategy to improve safe local walking and cycling routes across Stockport and, more widely, across Greater Manchester.
Our transport planners need to start properly integrating these schemes to change our habits and behaviours so public transport, walking and cycling become viable alternatives to the car.
Our reliance on cars is a very difficult habit to break, but it is something that we desperately need to do. It will make our communities greener, healthier and more sustainable. These schemes are just a very small part of what needs to be done, but are certainly a step in the right direction.
The scale of change that we need though, will require really big thinking – and funding to match. Just as importantly, we need as many people as possible – from right across the community – to be involved in the discussion. Transport for Greater Manchester and the Department for Transport will soon confirm whether funding has been approved for these schemes. At this point, there will be a consultation period (probably opening in September) and I’d encourage you all to take a look and submit feedback.