Manchester mayoral hopeful Andy Burnham pledges priority for cycling

Andy Burnham

Labour's candidate to become the first elected mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has promised to build a major network of dedicated cycle routes across the city if he wins in May this year. Answering questions from the Channel 4 newsreader and President of the cycling charity Cycling UK,  Jon Snow, the Labour MP said he wants to replicate what London has done to promote cycling, with a dedicated, ringfenced budget for cycling infrastructure.

Tackling road congestion is one of three main policy pledges of Burnham's mayoral election campaign – alongside housing and social inclusivity and safety. His manifesto plan for the city lists cycling as a top priority for reducing traffic congestion and asks for views on how best to go about it, ahead of the launch of his full manifesto in March.

Jon Snow is due to interview a number of Manchester mayoral hopefuls and other politicians as part of Cycling UK's Space for Cycling campaign. In his interview with Burnham, Snow expressed his concern for "Britain's obesity epidemic" and the fact that many towns and cities are heavily congested and suffering acute air pollution.

Burnham replied: “I'm a big believer in physical activity, not just the physical health benefits but the mental health benefits. If you look at Greater Manchester, too many people are trapped in their cars. We need to make our city more liveable," he said.

Burnham has ruled out introduction of a city congestion charge to curb traffic after Greater Manchester voted against such a measure in 2008. Encouraging cycling is a major part of Burnham's plan, alongside improving bus services and tackling traffic pinch-points.

He wants to get close to London's pledge of spending £13 per head on cycling by 2020. Government's national target is to reach £10 per person. Currently, around £2 per capita is spent by local highway authorities outside London on cycling infrastructure and initiatives, according to Cycling UK.

The charity's chief executive, Paul Tuohy, said: “Mr Burnham has really thrown down the cycling gauntlet to his fellow candidates with his commitment to create a dedicated budget and pledge to build a major new cycling network.

“At the moment, we’re seeing London, Edinburgh and Cardiff all making real efforts to promote cycling. Manchester is the next proving ground for cities that are fit for cycling in England. We will be encouraging all candidates to commit to Space for Cycling during the course of this election.”

Greater Manchester goes to the polls for its first elected mayor on 4 May this year. The other candidates are Sean Anstee (Conservative), Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrat), Stephen Morris (English Democrats), Shneur Odze (UKIP) and Will Patterson (Green Party)