First Bee Network scheme celebrates one year

three cyclists on canal path

The region’s first cycling and walking route as part of the Greater Manchester Bee Network scheme has reached the one-year milestone.

The Bridgewater Canal Towpath in Astley was completed in July 2019 following a collaborative effort between Wigan Council and Peel L&P.

It was the first scheme delivered as part of the regional plan to create the UK’s largest cycling and walking network.

And, manual counts in June 2020 suggest that there has been an average of 100 cyclists and 100 pedestrians using the towpath over the course of one hour.

Leader of the council, Coun David Molyneux said: “The Bridgewater Canal Towpath used to have a reputation for being inaccessible. It was exciting to deliver the very first scheme as part of the regional project and is a good example of how we are leading the way in Wigan Borough.

“Having high-quality and attractive cycling and walking facilities has proven invaluable in recent months as people use these modes of transport for daily exercise.

“Our efforts to encourage people to leave the car at home have continued since the completion of the towpath with us continuing to consult with the public on other schemes across the borough.”

Previously known as the ‘Muddy Mile’, the stretch was completely resurfaced, better signage was installed and access points had been improved. The new towpath now provides an attractive off-road cycling and walking route, allowing people to travel on the canal path from Wigan Pier through Leigh and across the Salford boundary to Monton and Patricroft.

Local resident, Chris Leather, regularly uses the towpath to walk his dog.

He said: “Before the work, the path was not user friendly at all. When my children were younger, getting the pram down there was virtually impossible so we would avoid using it.

“There were other paths nearby, but none as nice as walking along the canal.

“Obviously during lockdown, the towpath has been much more well-used but even before the pandemic, I could tell an increase in people cycling and walking.

“The improvements have helped me and the family get out more too, which we appreciate because the health benefits associated with being outside are great.

“The Bridgewater Canal Towpath felt like the missing gap between Leigh and Boothstown, now there’s a seamless link that can be used in all weather conditions.”

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, alongside Coun Molyneux and Louise Morrissey, director for land and planning at Peel L&P opened the new route last year with an official ribbon cutting ceremony.

Since the Bridgewater Canal Towpath was completed, more Bee Network schemes across Greater Manchester have now started construction, with more than 25 proposals published for the public to give their feedback and help formalise the plans.

This work continues as part of Greater Manchester’s ambition to be a true cycling and walking city-region and provide a safe travel option for the one third of GM households that do not have access to a car.

The network aims to connect all ten local authority areas in the region by foot and bike to encourage more people to use sustainable modes of transport.

In a bid to create schemes tailored to local need, Wigan Council has recently published an online map so local people can submit suggestions for cycling and walking schemes in their area.

Coun Molyneux added: “It’s really important we deliver schemes that our residents can be proud of and will use, which is why it’s key we get their input. They know their communities inside out and may think of options we haven’t explored.

“In the last month we have received around 1,500 comments, which be collated and will help to inform our current and future schemes.”

The Bridgewater Canal Towpath scheme was funded jointly through the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund, Wigan Council and the Bridgewater Canal Company.

To submit your views on the interactive map, visit