What will each Metro Mayor do for cycling?

Cyclists gather in Birmingham to tell Metro Mayor candidates, we need Space for Cycling!
In the lead up to the England's first Metro Mayor elections, Cycling UK teamed up with local groups to ask each set of candidates to support a set of local-specific pledges. As the results stream in, Cycling UK's Space for Cycling Campaigner, Tom Guha, examines the likely next steps in each region.

The votes have been counted and the results are in. Six recently-formed Combined Authorities now have new directly-elected 'Metro Mayors', each of them holding significant powers and funding devolved to them from Whitehall. They could play a huge role in transforming their local streets and communities to be cycle-friendly and people-friendly, for the benefit of our health, wealth and wellbeing.

In the lead up to the elections, Cycling UK teamed up with local groups to ask each set of candidates to pledge support to a set of local specific asks. We received widespread support throughout the campaign but how does that translate now that individuals are taking office? Click on the links below, or scroll through the page, to see our predictions. 


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Greater Manchester

Liverpool City Region

Tees Valley

West of England

West Midlands

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the Conservative candidate, James Palmer, won the mayoralty.

In the region, we joined with Camcycle, to ask candidates to:

  1. Ensure cycling is fully designed into all new roads projects.
    Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has lots of roads projects planned. The mayor needs to ensure that any such projects are built in accordance with Highways England IAN 195/16.
  2. Ensure cycling is fully designed into all new developments.
    Major developments are planned across the region, such as the building of 3,500 new homes in Peterborough. Cycling must be considered from the outset and planned for appropriately as per the standards set by http://www.makingspaceforcycling.org/.
  3. Make cycling the easiest and most obvious choice of transport for all short journeys or parts of a longer journey.
    Support transport authorities in building cycle networks at a local level and ensure that all networks are linked to key transport hubs; and that key transport hubs have adequate facilities for cycling.

James Palmer chose not to answer our questions, instead offering a statement:

“Cycling is an important mode of transport, particularly for those fortunate enough to live close to cities and have office based jobs.

“The City Deal has large amounts of money to spend on cycling routes and I will encourage them to do so.

“When new roads are built I will look in to the possibility of providing cycle routes alongside them.  I will also encourage developers to include cycle routes in new estates.

“I am mindful of the popularity of cycling and it will be an important part of my vision for new infrastructure in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

While it is disappointing that Mr Palmer did not agree to our pledges, the statement he offers provides some reassurances. For example, that he recognises the importance of planning for cycling in any new road or house building projects, is crucial. However, we would have appreciated more robust commitments than pledging to “look into the possibility” of including cycle routes, where such schemes exist.

Beyond his response to this campaign, Mr Palmer’s only other reference to cycling was in his acceptance speech, where he answered a question about the Bridge Street cycling ban by saying, “the job of the combined authority is not to sort out cycling”. While it could be possible to interpret this statement as a dismissal of cycling as a mainstream form of transport, it is equally possible that Mr Palmer was trying to avoid getting into, as he put it, “minutiae of detail” at a highly local level.

Like most Metro Mayor candidates, infrastructure was a central theme of his campaign, particularly routes travelling east-west through the region. Road and rail links to Oxford have been high on the agenda. An upgrade to the A10 was mooted at a hustings event at the beginning of April.

Mr Palmer has talked of an integrated transport system, looking at schemes like a Cambridge underground railway and a light railway that extends into the counties.

It is worrying that Mr Palmer highlights the importance of cycling for “those fortunate enough to live close to cities”. The biggest city in the region, Cambridge, already has the highest rate of cycling in the country by far. The real opportunity with the election of a Metro Mayor in this region is to spread the success of Cambridge beyond the city.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has employment centres dotted around the region, in both urban and rural areas. The newly built Cambridge CyclePoint, which includes cycle parking for 2,850 bikes at Cambridge station, is already nearing capacity – indicating just how many people cycle to the station daily in Cambridge, to employment centres elsewhere.

Increasing the rate of cycling across Cambridgeshire & Peterborough should be relatively easy, compared to other regions, due to the high level of cycling in its main city and in some of the surrounding rural localities. Crucial to achieving this will be the integration of cycling into the wider public transport network.

We look forward to joining our partners and working with Mr Palmer, to help unlock the benefits of cycling across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.  

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 Greater Manchester

In Greater Manchester, the former Health Secretary and MP for Leigh, Labour’s Andy Burnham, was elected as Metro Mayor.

Cycling UK, with Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign, asked candidates in Greater Manchester to:

  1. Ensure more Space for Cycling is provided across Greater Manchester by leading initiatives to traffic-calm local streets and delivering a Greater Manchester-wide network of high quality cycleways on key routes.
  2. Create a dedicated budget for cycling and walking and work with partners across Greater Manchester to lever investment into it, to provide predictable funding to deliver the above.
  3. Work towards a highways network with zero road traffic fatalities or serious injuries by prioritising road traffic law enforcement to reduce road danger.

Andy Burnham pledged support to all three of our asks, adding, “Greater Manchester should be a place where everyone, regardless of age or economic circumstance, sees cycling as an accessible, safe and effective choice.”

Andy Burnham made cycling a central focus of his election campaign. Speaking to Cycling UK’s President, Jon Snow, Mr Burnham said he wants to see the Olympic success of Manchester’s velodrome taken out to the streets, adding: “We need to make our city more liveable – a better place to live, to be, to breathe.”

Greater Manchester is the second most congested urban area in England and air pollution in the city contributes to roughly 2,000 early deaths every year. Currently, only 2% of journeys in Greater Manchester are done by cycle. Boosting this number will go a long way to addressing these issues.

In his manifesto, Mr Burnham pledged to appoint an Active Travel Commissioner. It is likely this will be a relatively early appointment as it is this person who will enact his policies to boost cycling and walking.

Another early step that Mr Burnham could take would be to create a dedicated budget for cycling and walking within Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). This is something he has pledged to do on two occasions, however, the level of funding allocated to this budget is difficult to predict.

While the Devolution Deal for Greater Manchester gives the Mayor “responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget”, spending commitments will need to be agreed on by a committee that includes all ten council leaders. Mr Burnham will sit on the committee with a vote of equal value to the other members and can even be vetoed by them.

We know from his interview with Jon Snow that Andy Burnham would like to provide stable funding for cycling and gently increase the amount allocated over time – with a view to matching the Mayor of London’s spending figure of £17 per head annualy.    

When asked by Jon Snow what we can expect to see from Andy Burnham within his first hundred days as Mayor, Mr Burnham responded, “to have a clear plan for a new [cycle] network across the City Region”.

While it may be a challenge to have a finalised plan within a hundred days, we certainly expect Mr Burnham to consult with stakeholders such as Cycling UK to inform this plan early on. In the lead up to the election, Mr Burnham was very proactive in seeking the views of advocacy groups, such as Cycling UK and GMCC, to inform his policies.

Whenever the network plan is produced, we can expect to see it making extensive use of existing infrastructure, such as canals and disused railway lines. The aim of the network will be to provide safe links between boroughs, as well as creating key radial links into and out of the city centre. We would hope to see at least some new infrastructure on the ground by the end of his first term – though it would be unrealistic to expect delivery of a comprehensive cycle network in that time.

To complement his infrastructure plans, Andy Burnham has also pledged to launch “an iconic bike-hire scheme”. This should be relatively easy to get support for as plans in this respect have been gathering pace for some time. A feasibility study was conducted back in 2013 and, more recently, endorsement has been given by a range of councillors.

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Liverpool City Region

In the Liverpool City Region, Labour MP Steve Rotheram was elected as Metro Mayor.

Steve Rotheram did not respond to the campaign pledges set out by Cycling UK and the Merseyside Cycling Campaign, which were to:

  1. Plan and cost a strategic Liverpool City Region-wide network of safe cycle route.
  2. Create a dedicated budget for cycling and actively seek enough funding to implement the plan.
  3. Work with the Police and Crime Commissioner to crack down on dangerous driving and parking.

Although he did not respond to our asks, Mr Rotheram’s manifesto said:

“We will lead a City Region-wide campaign to promote walking and cycling and champion the needs of pedestrians and cyclists working alongside public health leaders. We will deliver a strategy to make these sustainable and healthy forms of transport safer and more attractive to all.”

It is difficult to predict what Steve Rotheram’s campaign and strategy will be. That he references delivering his campaign with public health leaders is noteworthy as it is the health benefits of increased cycle use that would be unlocked in the Liverpool City Region.

Currently, Liverpool has the highest rate of fatalities attributable to particulate pollution of all the Metro Mayor areas. Child obesity in Liverpool is among the highest in England, as is physical inactivity in adults. The rate of incapacity benefit claimants for mental illness in Liverpool is the highest in the country.

Currently, only 2% of commuter trips in the Liverpool City Region are done by cycling. However, the region has the third highest propensity for cycling in the country under a Dutch scenario, identified by the Department for Transport funded Propensity to Cycle Tool.

Mr Rotheram’s transport policies, as outlined in his manifesto, are focussed primarily on improving public transport facilities and on creating an integrated transport network.

We look forward to working with Steve Rotheram to ensure cycling is effectively planned for as part of this network.

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Tees Valley

In the Tees Valley, Conservative councillor Ben Houchen was elected Metro Mayor.

Cycling UK, with the Tees Valley Cycle Campaign, asked candidates in the Tees Valley to, if elected:

  1. Plan a strategic Tees Valley-wide network of safe cycle routes.
    Produce a costed plan for a strategic and integrated network of safe cycle routes, linking residential areas, business areas and key educational facilities.   
  2. Actively seek funding to build your network.
    Create a dedicated budget for cycling and to actively seek enough funding to build the network to a high standard, with a view to spending at least £10 per person annually on cycling
  3. Ensure developers cater for the needs of cyclists.
    Major developments are planned across the Tees Valley. The mayor needs to work with developers and the Tees Valley Development Corporation to make sure that cycling is considered from the outset and planned for appropriately.

Ben Houchen pledged support to all three of our campaign asks, which were devised to provide some political will to champion plans already in place.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority, the political body Mr Houchen has been elected to lead, is currently producing a Strategic Transport Plan, of which a draft already exists. The draft includes significant proposals to produce a network of safe cycle routes around the Tees Valley.

The key word in question one is “integrated”. The draft Strategic Transport Plan outlines extensive plans for rail and other public transport improvements. Cycling must be integrated into these works, for example with adequate cycle facilities installed at and around railway stations. This is doubly important given the distance between core urban areas in The Tees Valley.

The Combined Authority has already made significant progress on active travel, by securing a £3.3 million Sustainable Travel Access Fund grant to deliver on some of its cycling plans – one of the largest amounts secured anywhere in the country. It is now up to the new Metro Mayor to progress and deliver on these plans – which we hope Mr Houchen will do.

The third question is crucial in the Tees Valley, where the Combined Authority currently has plans to build 22,000 new homes. Key to making a success of this will be creating a modern and efficient transport system, in which cycling must play a central role.

The potential for cycle use in the Tees Valley is high as it is a region with comparatively low car ownership. Likewise, the benefits would be far-reaching. Teesside has been in repeated breach of legal air pollution limits and Middlesbrough has been highlighted as the local authority with the largest estimated health gain from an increase in cycling. 

Beyond agreeing to our asks, it is difficult to gauge Mr Houchen’s views on cycling. His flagship transport policy has been to buy back Durham Tees Valley Airport. Beyond that, there is little indication of his plans for transport. We look forward to working closely with our partners in the North East and with Mr Houchen to make a success of his policy pledges. 

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West of England

The first result to come through was from the West of England, where Conservative Councillor Tim Bowles was elected.

In the West of England, we, with the Bristol Cycling Campaign and CycleBath, asked candidates to:

  1. Champion the West of England’s cycling and walking culture by planning a high quality and coherent network of core cycle routes across the West of England for commuting and local trips that meets the needs of all levels of cyclist. Aim to double the number of trips made by cycle in the West of England area by 2025 while upholding the target of 20% of trips to made by cycle in Bristol city by 2020.
  2. Create a dedicated budget for cycling and actively seek enough funding to build your network to a high standard.
  3. Establish MetroCycle on an equal footing with MetroRail and MetroBus.

Mr Bowles did not pledge support to any of our asks, instead opting to give a statement:

“I have long been a supporter of improving cycling facilities. I was pleased that our work in South Gloucestershire was recognised by the National Highways and Transportation Public Satisfaction survey when we were ranked as the top performing local authority for the provision of cycling facilities and infrastructure.

“In my own ward we secured significant funding to improve the facilities for cyclists at Junction 1 of the M32 motorway at Hambrook, which benefits commuter cyclists along the A4174 ring road corridor. As a council we also introduced more extensive gritting on the cycle path network.

“We are shortly to start essential maintenance work on the Bromley Heath Viaduct on the A4174, one of the busiest roads in the whole region. As part of our commitment to improving cycling facilities we were keen to use this opportunity to build a new cycle path across the viaduct as we recognised this is a pinch point for cyclists and is one of the most well used parts of cycle path in the area and I am pleased that this will now be included in the works.

“As a member of the leadership team on South Gloucestershire Council I feel that it’s important to connect all of the authority with a strong cycling network of infrastructure. We have just finished consulting on Yate-Dodington-Westerleigh cycling spur path. I see the Westerleigh spur as an important part of making that happen, allowing people a continuous cycle path from Yate to Emersons Green

“I hope this shows that I have a real track record of providing improvements to the cycle network and please be assured I will continue to do so if elected as the West of England Regional Mayor.”

Mr Bowles made transport a central focus of his election campaign. Upon meeting with the Transport Secretary, Mr Bowles commented, “Improving the local transport network is one of my top priorities.”

On multiple occasions, Mr Bowles has spoken of the need to tackle congestion and air pollution in the region by improving transport links. Unfortunately though, leafing through his policies reveals not one mention of sustainable transport options like cycling or walking.

His flagship proposals include enhancements to the M5, upgrades to the M4, improvements to the A37, building a new link road to the north east of Keynsham and completion of the South Yate Link Road. Mr Bowles has been clear that these plans will primarily improve life for “the motorist”.

To be clear, Cycling UK are not against policies that benefit motor vehicle users. However, if Mr Bowles is serious in his commitment to reduce air pollution and congestion in the region, it is crucial that any roads projects consider cycling from the outset.

Adam Reynolds of CycleBath commented on the election:

"Although it is disappointing that Tim Bowles was the only candidate not to sign up to our three asks, we hope that over the coming months we can create a good working relationship with him. With Bristol and Bath having the worst traffic congestion in the UK, we hope Tim can be persuaded that supporting and developing good cycle networks is key to tackling congestion. 

“It is absolutely key from an economic and health point of view that Tim tackles the poor congestion the West of England suffers from. With 157,000 people driving to work in Bristol and Bath, of which 29,700 live within a 20-minute walk and 65,600 live within a 20-minute cycle, encouraging cycling will be key to generating significant economic and health benefits for the region.”

Cycling UK look forward to working with local groups to support Mr Bowles in building a truly inclusive cycle network across the West of England that addresses the key needs of residents and gives people a real choice in how they get around their cities and towns.

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West Midlands

In the West Midlands, the Conservative candidate Andy Street, was elected. He agreed to the campaign asks set out by Cycling UK and the Bike West Midlands Network:

  1. Support the West Midlands Cycling Charter.
    Aim to have 5% of all trips in the West Midlands made by cycle by 2023. Deliver a high quality and coherent cycle network across the West Midlands.
  2. Actively seek the funding necessary to implement the West Midlands Cycling Charter.
    ​The Charter suggests a spend of £10 per person annually on cycling, rising over time to £20.

The West Midlands Cycling Charter was published by Transport for West Midlands but will need to be implemented by the West Midlands Combined Authority, the political body Mr Street has been elected to lead. It outlines plans to dramatically boost cycle use by building a comprehensive network of safe cycle routes and suggests spending a minimum of £10 per person annually to realise its aims.

The Charter was welcomed by local and national advocates at the time of publication. Through our Vote Bike campaign we wanted to ensure that whoever is elected has the political will and financial commitments to implement it properly.

When answering the campaign asks, Mr Street added:

“We need to supercharge cycling in the West Midlands to tackle congestion, air quality and inactivity. We must upgrade cycle routes, making the most of the canal network and off-road routes, whilst accelerating existing plans for on-road cycle superhighways.

“We need more cycle parking at stations, offices and housing developments. If we are to get the West Midlands moving again, cycling is a vital part of the plan. For more details, please see my Renewal Plan for the West Midlands.”

Throughout the election campaign, Andy Street has been extremely supportive of cycling. Back in February, Mr Street pledged a 40-fold increase in spending on cycling, albeit from a shamefully low 20p per head annually.

In April, Mr Street backed up his commitment when he pledged to lead a "cycling revolution" in the West Midlands. He announced: “Our roads are badly congested and our public transport needs huge improvement – that much is clear to everybody. We need to take cars off the road and one of the ways to do that is to invest in cycling and walking.”

Like all other Metro Mayors, Mr Street will sit on a committee with local council leaders and have a vote of equal worth to them. His policy plans will therefore need to negotiate local political structures to be successful. 

We look forward to collaborating with our national and local partners to support Mr Street in his commitments. 

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