We’ve gone a little bit Danish this week in Greater Manchester. People across the city arrived on bikes at Media City for a breakfast of Danish pastries, served from a bicycle coffee cart to celebrate the launch of Bike Life, the UK’s largest ever survey of attitudes to cycling.
Greater Manchester is one of seven UK cities to work with us, to carry out independent research into what people think about travelling by bicycle.
Like all the cities surveyed, most Mancunians said they wanted to see a lot more money spent on cycling - £25 per head (£26 nationally), to be precise.
The results said they understand the health and environmental benefits of cycling and walking, and they want to change the way they travel, but at the moment they feel they can’t make that choice.
In Greater Manchester 74% of people think cycling is not yet safe enough.
The Danish city of cyclists seems a distant dream when you’re competing for space with buses and cars on the busy and polluted Oxford Road.
But actually the big difference between the two cities, when it comes to cycling conditions, is levels of investment in cycling. Copenhageners, like Mancunians, are used to rain and inclement weather, as the fantastic photos in the Copenhagen Bicycle Account show. Like Manchester, the city is also relatively flat.
But, nearly 20 years ago, Copenhagen started randomly surveying its residents to find out what they wanted, and when they got the results they consistently put money into the things people asked for: separate bike lanes, secure bike parking, training.
They’re still doing the biennial reports now, and they’re still spending. Cycling is just as integral to their transport budget as road, rail and buses. The result: Nearly half (45%) of Copenhageners cycle to work or study, and the city is consistently rated as one of the happiest and healthiest places to live in the world.
The launch of Bike Life in Greater Manchester is an exciting step on the road to Copenhagen levels of cycling in our city region.
By agreeing to partner with us for reports in 2015 and 2017, Transport for Greater Manchester have demonstrated a long term commitment to listening to what people need to get on their bikes.
The city has already attracted around £60million in funding to improve conditions for cycling, and in the next few years we will see several new, improved cycle routes into the city centre and better facilities for two-wheeled travellers.
But for the first time Bike Life gives the Government clear evidence that people who live in city regions like Greater Manchester want them to spend much more on cycling provision, and take it a lot more seriously.
It’s not just a feel-good add-on to appease a small minority of people.
Most Mancunians recognise that getting more people out of their cars and on to their bikes will help to tackle some of the city’s big health problems, as well as air pollution and chaotic levels of traffic congestion.
The government has already made a commitment to spend more in the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, agreed earlier this year as part of the Infrastructure Act. The new research demonstrates the level of public demand for cycling provision, and it’s time to make a long term plan to help cities achieve their goals on the ground.
Denmark just got a little closer.