Forward thinking in Wigan for active travel
Wigan Council intends to set 20mph as the default speed limit and allow two-way cycling on all one-way streets in the town of Leigh. At the same time, the council will create low-traffic cycle routes and cycle paths to connect with the existing Leeds-Liverpool canal towpath. In case that doesn’t tempt people to leave their cars at home, a guided bus way will be completed in 2015.
With most of the town within a one mile radius of the centre, Leigh is “quite easily cyclable”, according to Senior Transport Strategy Officer Peter Wickett, who hopes to make the town a showcase for active travel.
Contraflow cycling throughout the extensive one way system will be implemented thanks to the DfT’s recent relaxation of restrictions on the use of ‘except cycles’ plates beneath one way signs.
When transport isn’t working, campaigners are the first to try and analyse what has gone wrong. But it’s useful to analyse what has ‘gone right’ in the few places that announce ambitious plans for walking and cycling. What has gone right at Wigan MBC is threefold, Peter says. First, the staff in charge of transport share an office, meaning they are able to communicate fully. Second, staff turnover is kept to a minimum – Peter has been in post since 2001 – meaning there is project continuity. Third, again in Peter’s words, they have “sympathetic senior managers”. They also seem to be very skilled at writing funding bids: the latest phase of ‘Active Leigh!’, as they have dubbed this initiative, attracted money from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) and other sources, equivalent to £11 per head of the population.
Peter spoke about the plans at the third regional seminar on active travel, organised by North West Active Travel Network, which GMCC attended in March 2013. The seminar also heard about Lancashire’s enforcement of 20mph limits, Trafford’s Bridgewater Way and Poynton’s new shared space junction.