Stretford a56 Mall junction – urban renewal or urban motorway?

There’s a consultation currently available on a website called stretfordtowncentre.org.uk, and described as a ‘public realm enhancement project.’ While you might expect from that to see environmental designs to comment on, apart from some lighting choices and a look at materials, the thrust of the details involve road widening and providing signalled crossings for those crossing the street instead of subways.

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And you know what? It may have been better to call a spade a spade. Partly due to geography and the existence of the ring motorway, there is a lot of traffic that ends up on this junction. There are merits to wanting to improve the traffic situation. Plans for a wider revamp of the area were published in December, and as you can see, no changes came about from,  or perhaps despite, the results of that initial consultation.

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I have sympathy for those who don’t have any choice but to drive through here on the weekday mornings, but I think the changes will make a barrier for promoting walking and cycling a great deal worse, making one form of travel slightly, and temporarily better, but forsaking others. Dominic, who is an actual Stretford resident unlike myself, has written a good analysis of the plans themselves, so I want to examine the current situation in more detail and alternatives.

What you see above is about average for the UK and certainly Manchester. Poor use of space results in poor visibility, and maintenance has not been great. It makes waiting between barriers in between multiple lanes of traffic look much more attractive. But the option to improve what is there should have been explored before throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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Barriers along Regent Rd

It should be very feasible to include cycling in the subways – doubling down on them as one attractive option for vulnerable road users, rather than having two bad options on foot and one most wouldn’t countenance on a bike in the current design. The increased width that would be necessary for shared use and activity through more hours of the day would obliterate any security concerns that are reasoning for their closure.

You don’t even need to look beyond greater Manchester to find something better. Under Regent’s Road roundabout in Salford is a shared-use route that is clear, open, and feels much safer. Some wings of the roundabout have quite a lot of space, but the entrance pictured above coming from Eccles New Road is quite similarly sized. Adding level crossings means a need to have a surface level pavement. Removing that need creates quite a bit of space.

Sure, some will likely prefer to continue cycling at surface level if a facility like this were present. But cycling is far more efficient than more driving, so pursuing a realistic option that has the capacity to give the average Mancunian the option of going about their business on a bicycle while improving links on foot – that’s going to have more transport value than adding a few motor lanes to one junction, and it’ll certainly do more to regenerate the area. Bearing in mind that the modelling here is for 60k vehicles a day –

Here are some more photos of the area as it stands today. There are many junctions in Manchester like the plans that are to be built, and while many of them are functional, they are not great places to be, and none of them feel like a town centre. The deadline for the consultation is this Friday the 29th July, the email address for responses is Mark.Ford@amey.co.uk, although considering how the brief the contractors have been given do not seem to match the stated aims of the project, I would get in touch with tfgm and trafford council as well, if you can.

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