Bee Network Cycling Infrastructure Walking

Active Travel Policy in Greater Manchester

How it works and what to do about it


  1. “The Big Three” key design standards
  2. Local Authorities
  3. The Mayor, GMCA and TfGM
  4. National Government

The Big Three

If you take nothing else away from this, the three documents most useful for our campaigners to familiarise themselves with are:

  1. The Streets For All Design Guide published by TfGM. Any new highways scheme, anywhere in the city region, should be planned in line with this guidance which all ten GM boroughs have approved at committee.
  2. LTN 1/20 published by the Department for Transport. This guidance sets standards for cycling infrastructure.
  3. Inclusive Mobility published by the Department for Transport. This is about accessible transport, particularly for disabled pedestrians.

Some authorities will say these documents are “just guidance” and they aren’t legally obliged to comply with them. This is essentially true, but if someone is injured, or discriminated against under the Equality Act, as a result of an authority not following the guidance, the authority may find it very difficult to defend themselves against legal action.

Who builds and maintains walking & cycling routes?

Most walking, wheeling and cycling happens on Highways i.e. publicly maintained roads.  The term “Highway” usually means the entire width of the road including cycle lanes and pavements.

Pretty much everything on our Highways (except “Strategic Roads” like motorways, managed by Highways England) is planned and controlled by councils, also known as Local Authorities (LAs).  In Greater Manchester this means the ten borough councils: Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford & Wigan.

The day-to-day work of planning, maintaining and designing infrastructure is done by officers employed in each council’s Highways team. The council’s elected members – your local councillors – don’t design anything themselves but they can influence what parts of the network are prioritised. Significant projects generally have to be approved by a committee of councillors before going ahead; committees are usually led by councillors from the party holding the most elected seats.

This means one of the best things you can do as a campaigner – apart from directly encouraging family and friends to try walking, wheeling and cycling their short journeys – is speak to your elected local councillors. Meet with them in person if possible, and try to be friendly & positive about working together to enable better transport options for residents.

You probably also walk or cycle on Public Rights of Way (PRoWs) e.g. footpaths and bridleways, which are often on private land and maintained by the landowner.  PRoWs are recorded by the council on a Definitive Map, showing where they are and what type. Problems should be reported to the local authority’s PRoW officer(s). You might also use permissive paths, which are open to the public at the discretion of the landowner – unlike a PRoW, their permission can in theory be revoked at any time.

Your local authority may have published active travel / walking and cycling / accessible infrastructure policies which it is worth getting familiar with.  If you can point councils to their own local policy that might be more effective than quoting regional or national guidance.  

Local Authority Links
Bolton | Bury | Manchester | Oldham | Rochdale | Salford | Stockport
Tameside | Trafford | Wigan

So what does Andy Burnham do?

Andy Burnham is the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester. Along with the leaders of the 10 councils (including Salford’s City Mayor), he jointly leads Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).  GMCA has strategic responsibility for transport across Greater Manchester and manages and makes decisions about how national funding for active travel is allocated between schemes proposed by councils. However, they do not have any direct control of what happens in each borough once funding is allocated.

GMCA is set to agree a new Trailblazer devolution deal with the government.  This deal means, instead of “ringfenced” funding for active travel, Greater Manchester will receive all its transport funding in one big pot which the Mayor/GMCA can allocate as they see fit between active travel, buses, Metrolink, etc. We are campaigning for £100 million per year to be spent on active travel. This isn’t an unreasonable figure – TfGM already invest about £60 million per year into walking and cycling, and they recognise the pace of delivery must increase to deliver their 2040 network plan and modal shift targets.

Modal Shift is a change from one form of transportation to another, for example, switching a delivery van for an e-cargo bike. TfGM sets targets for the proportion of future journeys taken by walking, cycling and public transport – they call this target the “Right Mix”.

Dame Sarah Storey is Andy Burnham’s appointed Active Travel Commissioner in charge of leading GMCA’s Active Travel strategy and policies. This role was previously filled by Chris Boardman who coined the term “Bee Network” for a proposed walking & cycling network connecting all of Greater Manchester. Where Chris’ vision focused on low-traffic areas linked by crossings over main roads, Dame Sarah’s plan puts more importance on bus & cycle priority along main roads. Walk Ride GM supports both!

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is the executive arm of GMCA and is responsible for running GM’s transport services including promoting and supporting a shift to active travel. They are also a key partner in Rail North and Transport for the North. TfGM control:

  • Travel planning and timetables
  • Bus stations and transport interchanges
  • Traffic lights and crossing signals
  • Hired Starling bikes (aka Beryl Bikes or Bee Bikes)
  • Metrolink trams
  • Some buses – GMCA are in the process of taking over management of GM’s buses, which are still operated by private companies but now franchised under yellow Bee Network branding. All buses across GM will be refranchised by January 2025.

TfGM have rebranded as “Bee Network” and use this name to refer to the entire public transport network under their control, as well as active travel.

GMCA are quite good on active travel policy.  A member of the Walk Ride GM Steering Group is invited to their Walking And Cycling Committee Advisory Group (WACCAG) which take place several times a year.

The Bee Network Committee is a joint committee of GMCA, the GM Mayor and the 10 GM local authorities and was established to scrutinise and make decisions about transport policy across GM. It is responsible for monitoring Bee Network performance and providing oversight of TfGM. The Bee Network is Greater Manchester’s vision for the delivery of the emerging fully-integrated, London-style transport system – including buses, trams, cycling and walking infrastructure and cycle hire.

Signal and crossing timings
TfGM operate the central signalling and traffic management centre, controlling all lights and signals to keep traffic flowing.

In highways terminology, “traffic” refers to all road users: pedestrians, horses, and vehicles including cycles.  Highways engineers’ main duties are to guard public safety & facilitate the flow of traffic – not just motor traffic!

Among other things, GMCA are also responsible for overseeing Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

GMCA Links
Dame Sarah Storey’s Refreshed Active Travel Vision, 2023
GM Transport Strategy 2040 & Five Year Delivery Plan (update due soon)
Streets for All Strategy, 2021 and Streets For All Design Guide, 2024

National Government

The government are responsible for setting national policy, published and controlled via the Department for Transport.

The national vision/strategy for active travel was set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a 2020 document called Gear Change. A lot has happened since then and neither the government nor opposition currently appear willing to promote policies which could be seen as “anti-motorist”.

Nevertheless, Boris’ government successfully oversaw the creation of Active Travel England, a new body within the DfT led by Chris Boardman and Brian Deegan (who previously worked together in Greater Manchester to create the original Bee Network).

UK transport funding is allocated to authorities in part based on documents they must produce called a Local Transport Plan (LTP) and Local Implementation Plan (LIP).

The Greater Manchester boroughs’ collective LTP is called the GM Transport Strategy 2040. TfGM are working on a new update of this strategy and Walk Ride have been asked to contribute feedback – please join our Discord if you’d like to be part of this.

The Strategic Roads Network (all motorways and some large A-roads) are nationally planned, maintained and managed by Highways England.

National Policy Links
Active travel:
Inclusive Mobility
Gear Change, 2020
Gear Change – One Year On, 2021
LTN 1/20, 2020
Scheme review tools, Active Travel England, 2024

Highways generally:
Manual for Streets 1 (for residential streets)
Manual for Streets 2 (for busy streets)
Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (for Strategic Roads like motorways and dual carriageways)
The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, 2016 (for signage and road markings)

Bad news:
👎 “Plan for Drivers”, 2024 👎

Coming Soon:

  • TfGM design review, and Road Safety Audits – who enforces quality of highways schemes?
  • Barriers and accessibility – if it can stop a motorbike, it will also unlawfully restrict disabled people’s access
  • Legality of vehicles obstructing cycle lanes
  • Non-government entities – Sustrans, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Ramblers, RNIB and other groups representing disabled people
Last updated:

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