A £160 million initiative to create the UK’s biggest cycling and walking network – called Beelines – has been launched by British cycling legend Sir Chris Boardman.
Boardman’s masterplan covers Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs including Oldham which is earmarked for 65 miles of new cycling and walking routes.
The full details have yet to be announced but it is hoped the entire 1,000-mile network will be linked up by 2023.
As well as the new routes, 80 new or upgraded crossing points are being proposed to better connect every community in the district and to make cycling and walking a real alternative to the car.
Part of the scheme will target parents using cars for the daily school run which contributes to rush hour congestion.
One ‘filtered’ neighbourhood is also being proposed in Oldham town centre, where the movement of people is prioritised with places to sit, play and socialise.
Around 250 million car journeys of less than one kilometre are made per year in Greater Manchester; the equivalent of a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride.
In Holland, 50 per-cent of children bike to school every day.
In Greater Manchester the number is less than two per-cent.
Beelines aims to make walking and cycling the natural choice for short journeys.
Boardman, Olympic individual pursuit champion at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, is now Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner.
He said: “It’s not really about people using bikes and walking; it’s about making better places to live and work by giving normal people a real choice about how they travel.
“In doing so, we will make the city region healthier and more prosperous.
“Planners, engineers and most importantly, local people in each district led on creating the first draft of these plans, which will evolve in the months and years ahead.
“By involving local people from the very first stage and enabling them to inform the details of each proposed route and crossing, we will get the outcome they need, not what we think they need.
“This will be Greater Manchester’s network and it’s important that residents’ voices are the loudest, that they own it from start to finish.”
Councillor Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “As a council we want all of our residents to be fit and healthy.
“Not everybody has the time, or inclination, to go to the gym or exercise classes.
“But cycling and walking can fit easily around most people’s daily routine as a mode of travel.
“For these to be an option for more people it’s essential that we make it as easy as possible for our residents to make their journeys on foot or by bike, which is why Beelines is such a good idea.
“We’re doing our bit by improving and upgrading routes and opening cycle hubs across the borough.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “This (Beelines) will help to tackle congestion and it will help to tackle poor air quality, as well as boosting people’s health and fitness levels.
“We have £160m to get us started and we have a plan that has something in it for every single person in Greater Manchester.”
Oldham Council can now make a bid for their plans from the £160m of the government’s Transforming Cities fund.
Further information on Beelines is available on TfGM’s website: www.tfgm.com/made-to-move