Manchester City Centre Speed Limit to Drop to 20mph to make Walking and Cycling Safer

Feb 15, 2023 | Transport

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The default speed limit on roads in Manchester is set to be reduced to 20mph in a bid to make walking and cycling safer in the city.

Manchester city council’s new active travel strategy also aims to cut 40mph speed limits to 30mph by 2028.

Manchester City Centre has proposed the reduction of speed limits as part of the council and TfGM’s Active Travel Strategy. The council says the decision is primarily for public health reasons, citing benefits such as less pollution, better fuel efficiency and fewer crashes.

The decision comes alongside the implementation and expansion of the Bee Network, the London-style scheme which Mayor Andy Burnham hopes will integrate buses, trams and trains into one network, making it cheaper and easier to travel by public transport in Greater Manchester.

The scheme also aims to provide bikes and better cycle paths to encourage cleaner transport, and better pavements and walking. 

Endorsed by Dame Sarah Storey, Vernon Everitt, and Andy Burnham, the Active Travel Strategy includes encouraging more active home-to-school travel for children and teachers, closing roads near schools to reduce pollution and making walking to school more appealing.

The local authority also wants to focus on making roads safer for cyclists and is aiming to double the proportion of trips by bike within five years, making walking ‘the natural choice’ for short journeys and double the proportion of trips by bike within five years.

Campaigners have praised the new plans saying they hope speed limits can be reduced ‘as soon as possible’, alongside a ban on pavement parking. They say lowering vehicle speeds makes streets safer for everyone – including drivers.

Walk Ride GM described the move as a ‘win-win’ for all road users, saying it would encourage more considerate driving while reducing noise and danger.

The TfGM Greater Manchester Active Travel Mission states: “Active Travel Commissioner, Dame Sarah Storey, has unveiled a refreshed active travel mission for Greater Manchester focusing on accessibility, behaviour change and clear communications.”


Manchester council leader Bev Craig said“We want Manchester to be one of the best places in the country to live and work. That means attractive, green, and connected neighbourhoods with safe streets which prioritise residents.

“Running alongside Greater Manchester’s launch of the Bee Network we feel this policy puts detail on Manchester City Council’s long-running ambition to make sure our roads are safer and that air pollution can be tackled.”


Labour councillor Tracey Rawlins, who is Manchester’s executive member for environment and transport said: “Active Travel is one of the most important policies in recent memory that Manchester City Council has proposed.

“We know how important it will be in not only creating a greener and less polluted city – contributing to our goal of becoming zero carbon by 2038 or earlier – but in shaping our neighbourhoods to become more vibrant and safer, as well as improving health across generations.

“School safety also plays an incredibly important part in the work we are doing. Providing safe and accessible spaces for our young residents is something the Council is eager to work on as in many areas schools lie at the heart of our communities.

“Most importantly, this work will be inclusive and we will work hard to make sure that every one of our residents is represented. Our city is for everyone to enjoy and it is crucial that no one is left behind for any reason. We must work tirelessly to identify barriers that get in the way of active travel to ensure that Active Travel works for everyone.”


Manchester city centre has seen some permanent changes that came out of the pandemic, including the pedestrianisation of some areas of the city such as Stevenson Square, now open to certain bus routes, and plans for the pedestrianisation of other busy Manchester streets and areas such as Deansgate. The Mayor wants to see these changes as a cohesive scheme to improve general well-being in Manchester and to make it the best place to live in the UK.

In a Q&A with campaigners Walk Ride GM, Andy Burnham said about the state of transport in Greater Manchester: “We are in a transition right now. The engrained culture in Greater Manchester is car use, our job is bigger than in London. It’s a bigger hearts and minds job here. We are leading change.”


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