Coronavirus: Greater Manchester mayor's £5m boost for cyclists and pedestrians

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image captionMany more people have turned to cycling during the coronavirus shutdown as traffic volume falls

A £5m scheme to make Greater Manchester safer for cyclists and pedestrians by removing street furniture and making some streets one-way has been revealed.

Mayor Andy Burnham said the money would help make more room for social distancing and improve safety as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The region has seen a 22% rise in cycle journeys since the lockdown began.

The mayor also warned the area's tram network could still be mothballed, despite a government bailout of £11.6m.

In April, Mr Burnham announced the Metrolink system could be taken out of service as it was "losing millions of pounds a month" with passenger numbers down 95% since the outbreak began.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the government money only covered 73% of the network's losses, meaning it was still under threat once the funding ran out in June.

Speaking at his weekly coronavirus press conference, he said he welcomed "the funding provided but we do have to ask the question - where are we meant to find the rest from?"

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously said the "package of support will help ensure light rail services continue to operate at this difficult time".

'Bold approach'

The mayor's comments came as he revealed the new cycle and pedestrian scheme, which will feature temporary measures such as footway extensions, one-way streets, extra cycle lanes and the removal of street furniture.

The project forms part of the Build Back Better scheme, which is setting out ways to improve the region as the lockdown eventually eases.

It will focus on specific locations including outside shops, transport hubs and on routes to hospitals, with the money made available through the mayor's Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund and will be in addition to the proposed Beeline network of 15 new routes.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionGreater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham announced the scheme on Wednesday

Mr Burnham said it was a "bold approach" but "peoples' travel behaviour has transformed during lockdown".

"As more people turn to walking and cycling, we want that to continue as we move into life beyond lockdown.

"These choices are contributing to cleaning up our city's air and causing less congestion on our roads, and that's something we must sustain."

Former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, the regions's cycling and walking commissioner, said without the steps, "we risk a huge spike in car use as measures are eased".

"It's vital to meet our clean air goals and protect our NHS long term," he added.

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