Manchester goes Dutch with huge cycling plan


Manchester is planning to go Dutch with a new £500 million scheme to build the UK's biggest cycling and walking network.

The plan would create more than 1,000 miles of routes across the Greater Manchester region, including 75 miles of segregated cycling lanes and cycling-friendly "filtered" neighbourhoods, widely used in the Netherlands.

Named Beelines invoking the bee symbol of Manchester, it would be the largest joined-up network in the UK with the aim to make cycling and walking real alternatives to using the car, tackle congestion, promote healthier living and combat the region's poor air quality.

Work is planned to begin by the end of the year, with the entire scheme finished by 2023 if agreement is reached between the 10 local authorities in the region.

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.

A large proportion are school runs but whereas in the Netherlands, 50% of children bike to school every day, in Greater Manchester the number is less than 2%, according to the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) travel survey.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: "This proposal is bold and I make no apology for that. If we are to cut congestion and clean up our air, decisive action is needed.

"I want to make Greater Manchester one of the top 10 places in the world to live and it is action of this sort which will help to deliver that promise."

Central government earlier this year awarded Greater Manchester £250 million of taxpayers' cash from the Transforming Cities Fund, with £160 million of that award being used to kick-start the project.

This brings the total spend on cycling and walking in Greater Manchester to around £15 per head, comparable to Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

How the rest of the £500 million scheme will be paid for is still to be agreed.

Chris Boardman
Chris Boardman

Olympic gold medal winning cyclist, Chris Boardman, who is Greater Manchester's Cycling and Walking Commissioner, said: "We have seen from other global cities that these methods work and the benefits are there for all to see, we simply can't afford to be left behind.

"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.

Visualisation of how 'Beelines' scheme will look in Salford
Visualisation of how 'Beelines' scheme will look in Salford

"That's why we've taken the decision to create a first draft then immediately make it available to the public.

"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."

The proposals are expected to be approved by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on Friday.

Cycling Minister, Jesse Norman, added: "This is a really exciting plan to encourage more people to cycle and walk."

Roger Geffen, policy director at national charity Cycling UK, said: "It's great to see Greater Manchester setting out a bold ambition to deliver a comprehensive 'beeline' network of quality cycle routes.

"Cycling UK hopes other cities will set out similar visions, and that Government and Local Enterprise Partnerships will support them with the necessary funding."

Maps showing the proposed plans are available at and