Bike libraries part of City of Greater Manchester’s ‘transport revolution’

The City of Greater Manchester is supporting the establishment of community bike libraries as part of its push to encourage active travel and tackle pollution.

Chris Boardman

Greater Manchester, a county in northwestern England and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, is offering grants worth around $A9,000 for community organisations to set up the libraries, which will allow people to borrow a bike for free in the same way they would borrow a book.

The first bike libraries emerged in Europe at least ten years ago and there are now several across the UK, including some that allow used bikes to be donated by members of the public.

Bike libraries have also recently started to appear in Australia including the government-supported Canberra Electric Bike Library and council bike library initiatives in some states.

Organisations based or working in the city can now apply to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), the public body responsible for co-ordinating transport services, for funding to set up a bike library in a location like a community centre, school, village hall or local business.

The libraries are also being seen as a way of encouraging the take-up of new cycling routes that are being rolled out across the region as part of the city’s Bee Network, a fully integrated transport system including the UK’s largest cycling and walking network.

The network, unveiled in 2018, will see the delivery of segregated walking and cycling routes, signage and crossings, and priority areas for pedestrians.

Over the next 10 years TfGM plan to create almost 3,000 kilometres of routes and 2,400 new crossings connecting every neighbourhood, school, high street and public transport hub in the city region.

Getting people out of cars

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham in May appointed former cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman, a former racing cyclist and Olympic gold medallist, as the City’s first Transport Commissioner, tasked with accelerating delivery of the Bee Network and driving what he’s described as the City’s walking and cycling revolution.

Mr Boardman says around 75 per cent of households in Greater Manchester don’t have access to a bike.

“Along with our GM cycle hire scheme which will launch later this year, community bike libraries will offer a genuine alternative to daily car trips,” he said.

“These local schemes will help us to create a network of free bikes that are either bought or donated and then maintained by volunteers, available for use by everyone.”

In Greater Manchester, 200 million trips of under one kilometre are made by car in the region every year – adding to congestion and poor air quality.

That’s the equivalent of a 15-minute walk or four minutes’ cycling.

In June the city released it regional Clean Air Plan in a bid to reduce air pollution, which TfGM says contributes to 1,200 deaths in the City per year.

Greater Manchester has set a goal becoming carbon neutral by 2038.

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