Below is my response, but I’d just like to start of by sharing something that is impossible here, but shows how differently you can view subways. In Trafford we are talking about filling in subways to improve the feel around the shops. Here in Hungary was a lovely place I encountered where the shops are in the subway!
I write in response to these plans primarily as a person who cycles through this area, but also as a Metrolink user, driver and a Greater Manchester resident who would love to see true regeneration in this area. Having responded to the consultation for the overall area last year, I do not see the concerns and flaws recorded from stakeholders in ‘Stretford Public Consultation Report (M5255-705-D) reflected here. With no changes in the ways these plans are positioned, continuing to use drawings and a ‘Public Realm’ nomenclature that do not accurately categorise a highways improvement scheme, there is not only a threat to the future of Stretford and active travel in these plans, but to faith in the normal channels of consultation between residents and local government in Trafford. However, here are some reasons why the changes are not in the interests of Stretford and are a poor contribution to any transport strategy for the area.
It is noted in the responses to the previous consultation that the majority of attendees to Stretford Mall came by foot (60%). It is therefore reasonable to think that making changes that cause delays walking will harm the economic prospects of the mall and its tenants. It is a 15 minute drive to the Trafford Centre with free parking for any length of time, so extensive growth cannot come from making the area easier to visit by car. The changes to the junction will make more people travel through Stretford, bringing the negative affects of lower air quality and danger, and fewer people will stop.
Apart from extra pavement space across the current cobbles on the north west side to facilitate the at-grade crossings, there is little detail to changes or improvements to the north subway and access. It shows little motivation in the project to improve the public realm, when the concerns of safety are in a large part down to the poor design and specification of these subways. Following successful subway designs there are clear examples that would have all the advantages of the at-grade crossings without harming freedom of pedestrian movement, Such as that up to Eccles New road as it joins Regent Road roundabout. It the new lanes on the south side of the junction that is creating the lack of space for a high quality subway on each arm of the junction that would not delay pedestrian access and could even serve cycle users.
Section 2.7 of the TfGM cycle design guidance states that ‘The target design width for a with-flow cycle lane is 2.0m‘ and that the minimum width of 1.5m ‘should only be used where the speed limit is 30mph or less and over short distances (less than 100m) where carriageway width is constrained.’ – This being a project at most catering for 8 lanes of motor traffic, none of those stipulations are met. It says ‘Mandatory cycle lanes should be provided in preference to advisory cycle lanes’ – yet none are, even where there is no obvious need for motor traffic to enter the lane, such as the north side of the junction heading southbound.
By every measure, the design for this junction is not only falling well below recognised best practice for facilitating cycling, but also TfGM’s own stated standards. Narrow, advisory 1.5m lanes across a junction where speeds are likely to be well above 30mph, as can easily be seen on the 30mph zone that starts a short while north as the a56 crosses the Bridgewater Canal, which is an alternative route but cannot support TfGM’s aspiration for a ‘300% increase in the levels of cycling across the city region by 2025,‘ and this junction clearly does not fit the criteria that ‘cycling infrastructure must cater for all age groups (ages 8-80) and the full range of cycling abilities.‘
This is such a key junction across south Manchester, that looking past temporary relief of current traffic problems, the designs if built will thwart the modal shift from private motor vehicles to walking, cycling and public transport needed when congestion continues to rise in the next decade on this junction and further improvements to traffic flow cannot come from extra space. No attempt has been made to even make easy changes that could make cycling easier or more attractive, such as using the parking/loading strip on the west side of the a56 to form a parking protected traffic lane. This will not be a success for the area unless all users are considered from the first stage of a redesign, rather than helping to create an unsustainable over-reliance on private motor vehicles. Further discussions will be needed on the true aims and standards for this project before going to a formal consultation, as the brief from TfGM has created a project that is too far from fit for purpose for the community to be expected to coalesce on a clear set of changes to bring the planning forward.