Towpath refurb leads to commuter boost

Bookmark    and Share
Follow on 
Follow       British Cycling on Facebook Follow British       Cycling on Twitter Visit our       images on Flickr Visit our       images on Flickr

Towpath refurb leads to commuter boost

Posted: 19th July 2011

Bridgewater Canal path upgrade leads to 380 percent increase in everyday journeys

A new section of the National Cycle Network along an improved canal towpath is already proving a hit with local people in Sale and Stretford, showing an estimated 180% increase in the number of pedestrians and cyclists using the route. The route is proving especially popular for everyday journeys, the vast majority of new users cycling or walking to work, school or the shops. In Stretford, the majority of those using the path are now doing so for commuting to work, (up from just 14% before the work was completed).

Charity Sustrans has worked with The Peel Group and Trafford Council to upgrade a two-mile section of towpath along the Bridgewater Canal linking Sale and Stretford to the south west of Manchester as part of the ongoing Bridgewater Way project, providing a direct, traffic-free way for people to get to local shops, schools and workplaces.

The project is part of Sustrans' national Connect2 programme, designed to help people make their everyday local journeys on foot or by bike, which received £50million from the Big Lottery Fund in 2007.

Sustrans has undertaken monitoring and surveys of route users at two points along the canal, one at Waterside Plaza, Sale and the other at Edge Lane, Stretford.

Sustrans monitored the number of people using the route before and after completion and the results show an average 180% increase in estimated annual use across the two monitoring points, with almost a quarter of a million journeys per year estimated at Sale. In Stretford, in 2009 85% of journeys were being made for leisure, but new users are making their everyday journeys using the path, with over half now commuting to work and many more going to school or the shops.

The route has also seen a boost in convincing people to leave their cars at home. At Sale over six in ten users said they could have made their journey by car, but decided to leave it at home to walk or cycle instead. Cycling has proved increasingly popular on the towpath, with an average increase of 380% across the route.

Peter Green, Sustrans' Area Manager in Manchester, said, "These statistics really speak for themselves and once more prove that people want to make their local journeys on foot or by bike and feel much more comfortable in safe and attractive spaces.

"The Bridgewater Way is a key link in the local traffic free network that allows people of all ages to make the journeys they want without the need to rely upon the car."

Louise Morrissey, Director of Land and Planning at Peel said, "This two-mile section is the first part of the Bridgewater Way route in Trafford. Bridgewater Way is 39 miles in length and when completed will create a route that will attract over half a million visitors a year, create up to 350 new jobs and bring over £6 million into the local economy.

"The increase in estimated annual use is astonishing and we are pleased that a safer and more pleasant environment has been created along the towpath for all to enjoy. We are looking forward to developing the next phase of the project, linking towards the Trafford Centre and Barton Aqueduct."

Sustrans and Trafford Council are working together on a series of projects that will link to local schools, as well as to Salford Quays and the Old Trafford sports stadia, improving the walking and cycling network to the south west of Manchester.

Chairman of the Bridgewater Way Steering Group, Cllr Ken Weston, said, "I am delighted to see all the hard work that went into upgrading the towpath paying off, providing a route that the entire community can use. The route is encouraging people to leave their cars at home and enjoy much healthier ways of travelling, while keeping Trafford's roads clearer and safer at the same time. This is so important, particularly at peak times when children are walking to and from school.

"As a Council, we will continue to try to access as much external funding as possible to enable more projects like this to get off the ground."

The success of the Connect2 project is adding to over 70 million commuting journeys were made by bike on Sustrans' 13,000 mile NCN in 2010, equivalent to saving 63,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide had all those journeys been made by car. Over 58% on Britons live within one mile of the NCN, and projects such as Connect2 are helping to extend the Network into local communities, enabling more people to benefit from it.

The charity will be holding an awareness day on the new towpath during the summer, helping path users respect and understand other groups using the path. Sustrans' NCN is suitable for all and the aim of the day will be to help raise awareness among faster cyclists of those who may be travelling more slowly along the routes.

The Sustrans website - - has a free online map service to discover how to get around everyday on foot or by bike. Search for local or national routes, plot journeys, or find what the local area has to offer from schools, supermarkets and local landmarks to car clubs, bus stops and bike shops.