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Transport / Mass transit

Greater Manchester just unveiled plans for its 1,000 mile “Beelines” cycling network, so here are some maps

There are times, you know, when I wished I lived in Manchester. It has a combination of characteristics – a strong civic identity; a visibly ambitious city government; a complete disinterest in the existence of London – that is familiar from many continental European cities, but all too rare in British ones.

Normally it’s the trams, and the authorities’ obvious ambition to keep extending them, that makes me want to evangelise for Greater Manchester. This week, though, it’s Transport for Greater Manchester’s plans for a whole different transport network that are to blame.

The Beelines – named for the worker bee that’s the emblem of Manchester and its industrial history, and also for the concept of ‘lines’ – will be a new network of 1,000 miles of cycling routes across the conurbation. Of these, 75 miles will be Dutch-style segregated cycling lanes. (Something of this sort already exists on the Oxford Road, through Manchester’s university district.)

Besides that, the city plans to make around 1,400 crossings safer for cyclists, and create 24 cyclist-friendly “filtered” neighbourhoods: there’s an artist’s impression of one at the top of this page. The whole lot will cost £500m.

Chris Boardman, the Olympic gold medallist who’s now Greater Manchester’s walking & cycling tsar, told the Guardian he was “absolutely unapologetic” that his plans would take space from cars.

“If you want to make people change their habits you’ve got to give them a viable alternative and in some cases that’s reprioritising streets and that’s what we are doing. We’ve given way too much priority to the vociferous minority.”

Good for him.

Anyway, here are some more artist’s impressions. First off, here’s one of an improved crossing:

And here’s a segregated cycling lane:

Look closely at that and you can see a blue and yellow sign, telling cyclists where they are on the network. Zoom in and it’d probably look a bit like this:

Or maybe this.

But this is CityMetric, of course, so what you really want is maps. There is a proper interactive one on the Mapping Greater Manchester site. The only problem is it’s a bit slow – sorry, very slow – so I’m not entirely sure it’s loaded properly.

Nonetheless, here’s the Central Business District. Yellow routes already exist – that long one heading south south east is Oxford Road – while blue are proposed. The same colour scheme applies to the dots, which represent crossings, while the shaded area around Ordsall is a filtered neighbourhood.

The orange lines, meanwhile, are “corridors or crossing points on busier roads that will require a higher level of design intervention to improve cycling and walking” – whichh seems to mean the new segregated routes. Here’s the map.

They don’t quite cross the city centre, alas – but nonetheless, that’s a lot of new cycling routes.

This is the same map, zoomed out to show a much wider area. Not entirely sure if the gaps around Droylsden represent a gap in the plan, a gap in the data or a failure to load, but all the same, here it is:

On TfGM’s website you can find complete maps of each of the conurbation’s 10 boroughs, both before and after intervention. These are a bit hard to read to be honest, but since we’ve come this far, here’s the City of Manchester as it is now:

Red areas are defined as “closed off” neighbourhoods – that is, those which lack safe crossings, enabling people to cycle in and out of them; green areas are open. Orange are in between. Look at how much the Beelines network will improve things:

You can see the other 10 boroughs here.

This is the sort of ambition that would be taken as read in many European cities, but you almost never see in Britain. Hell, even London – which really shouldn’t whine about anything to do with transport, let’s be honest – has a fraction of this ambition when it comes to cycling.


Of course, there’s a big difference between making plans and delivering them. But nonetheless: good start, Greater Manchester. As a faintly incompetent cyclist, I am officially jealous.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as Jonn Elledge Writes.

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All images courtesy of Transport for Greater Manchester.
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