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Not So Fast, Zebra: UK Government Halts Manchester Green Transport Plan


If you have wandered around Paris or Amsterdam or Vienna, you will know that crosswalks (zebra crossings) appear fairly regularly on side streets and at low-volume junctions. They are no big deal. They help pedestrians. But in the UK things are more complicated as efforts to paint up to 20,000 crosswalks on Manchester streets have highlighted.

Efforts to burnish the city's green credentials, strongly welcomed by Manchester landlords who know their tenants want a cleaner, pedestrian-friendly city, have hit a snag.

Greater Manchester Walking and Cycling Commissioner Chris Boardman wants to paint zebra crossings on 20,000 side streets in the city. He estimates the cost at about £300 each. However, the UK Government said you can't simply paint some lines. You need a flashing beacon, and a mains electricity supply, and each crossing will cost £30K. The total bill would be £1.5B, The Guardian reported.

The dispute over costs comes as Manchester councils and the Department for Transport escalate a row that has been simmering for some time.

Last year officials working for Boardman worked with Salford Council to paint a simple crosswalk on a road as a trial and reported encouraging results. But the Department for Transport insisted they erase the zebra markings.

The disagreement about zebra crossings marks an unhappy start to Greater Manchester’s ambitious and groundbreaking plans to become the UK’s first city-region to achieve carbon neutral living. The city-region’s bold 2038 target is 12 years ahead of the national ambition, and earlier this month launched a new industrial strategy for carbon control as its centrepiece.

Cycling to work outside on the Oxford Road, Manchester

The dispute over crosswalks comes on the day that Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham launched plans for an integrated transport network.

The network will be an integrated, simple and convenient London-style transport system allowing people to change easily between different modes of transport with simple, affordable ticketing and an aspiration to have a London-style cap across all modes. The plan envisages cycling, walking and buses will be accessible and convenient for short journeys.

The mayor announced a key milestone in Greater Manchester’s bus reform, as an assessment into the future of the city-region’s bus market has now been completed and recommends franchising as its preferred option.

Greater Manchester is the first city-region seeking to make use of the new powers under the Bus Services Act 2017 and the first to test this legislation — so is leading the way nationally in this regard.

Burnham also announced that as a part of the integrated transport system: contactless payment will launch shortly on Metrolink, a new bike hire scheme including electric bikes will be launched in 2020, expanded park and ride schemes at transport hubs, and innovative partnerships with Google that will improve travel information and advice.