Jonathan Schofield applauds as council admits defeat over dangerous junction
If road rage were a spectator sport, stadia should have been built around the junctions of Deansgate and Liverpool Road, and further north, of Deansgate and Quay Street. The pavement extensions placed there in 2012 have been a disaster since they were imposed by twisted logic upon hapless drivers and cyclists.
This retreat from needlessly annoying its own citizens is a good step by Manchester City Council
The cacophony of cursing at any pressure point time of day is almost audible to pedestrians. The thing is the numerous bumps and accidents and hair-pulling moments were entirely predictable. Pushing cyclists into cars, lorries and buses using a single lane isn't the route to a sound cycling policy. Meanwhile, the inevitability of vehicles travelling down Deansgate having to do dangerous dodgems around right turning vehicles was bleeding obvious. We pointed all this out at the time, with particular focus on the Quay Street and Deansgate junction, but the council were having none of it.
A spokesperson told us back then, "The works are intended to encourage motorists to use the inner ring road, instead of driving through the city centre when this is unnecessary. This is part of the council's overall transport strategy of improving traffic flow and making it easier for people to access the city centre."
This rationale was akin to those council estates built in the 1960s where the lawns had pavements around them and local authorities were shocked people created their own muddy ‘desire paths’ straight through the grassed areas, as the quickest method to get from A-B.
People will generally do the logical thing despite those in authority insisting they do the contrary. It's a reassuring characteristic of humanity. So people for eight years have been coming into the city centre through Deansgate regardless of the pavement extensions because it feels stupid not to do so.
Now, at last, the council has admitted defeat. The first of these silly pavement extensions at Liverpool Road and Deansgate is being removed, albeit using different logic from 2012.
Confidential requested a statement and received this complicated set of words: ‘The work involves removing the existing kerb build-out. The current junction layout has a two-lane approach from the south on Deansgate, with lane one left-turn only, and lane two both ahead and right.
‘A build-out was provided to prevent vehicles in lane one travelling ahead; however, a conflict point exists, as right-turn vehicles are often held up by opposing ahead southbound traffic, with ahead northbound traffic inevitably undertaking the queuing right-turn traffic and weaving between the cars and build-out. Added to this, the cycle facilities at the junction had become dated and faded, so some road users were not obeying them as well as they should be. These are being repainted as part of the work.
‘The work aims to improve safety through the junction by simplifying the existing arrangements and removing the conflict point (the kerb build-out). Once this is removed, the northbound lane road markings will be redesignated, with lane 1 ahead and left, and lane two right-turn only. This simpler approach should make it easier for traffic and especially cyclists to travel northbound on Deansgate.’
You have to love bureaucracies, you have to love the line, 'The work aims to improve safety...' This paragraph somehow forgets to include these sentences: 'The safety at these junctions was compromised by the council for eight years. We now hold our hands up and say we were wrong.'
Anyway there we have it, a mini-triumph for common sense on Deansgate. This isn't a trivial little matter either. The removal of the extensions will alleviate daily frustration and increase safety for hundreds of people coming into the city: those hundreds per day will add up to tens of thousands by the year's end. This retreat from needlessly annoying its own citizens and its visitors is a welcome move from Manchester City Council.
Not that the illogic has been entirely abandoned. The junction of Deansgate and Quay Street still has its pavement extension and there’s no plan to remove it just yet. The exact same problems occur there as further down the road. Confidential assumes it’s only a matter of time before that artificial blockage is removed as well.