Trafford Council is being urged to reconsider a new A56 cycle lane that drivers say is causing severe congestion on car journeys towards Altrincham.
The local authority has taken what it says is a “bold step”, using emergency cash from the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund to section off a seven-mile stretch of the main direct link between Manchester city centre and Altrincham town centre.
The move, which has been brought in initially on a temporary basis, has been designed to support the growth in cycling journeys that has been a feature of the coronavirus lockdown.
But the scheme has already led to severe congestion on the approach to the Park Road junction, with one Twitter user saying it took him an hour to drive two miles and others saying it was a “nightmare” and “very poorly conceived and executed”.
Trafford Conservatives have called on the Labour-run council administration to “urgently reconsider” the reduction in lanes.
“As with the recent change of heart on the crazy idea to close Barrington Road in Altrincham to vehicles, it would be a positive step for (Trafford Council leader) Andrew Western to acknowledge that his scheme is an error, that he got this one wrong, and get our borough flowing freely as lockdown is lifted.
“We certainly need safe cycle routes but at a time when we need maximum opportunity for access to work and limited use of public transport, simply halving the main route into Manchester, without proper consideration or any consultation with local residents, is the wrong decision.
“There’s so much we could have done which would have been solid and permanent and not disruptive.”
Cllr Michael Welton, who represents the Altrincham ward for the Green Party, said Trafford’s move had been a “brave” one and it had been “very successful” on other parts of the A56.
But he said: “I think the problem is that most people aren’t aware of the reasons why it’s gone in. It’s there because when schools and offices go back, if we’re still socially distancing there won’t be enough places on buses and trams and parking spaces in central Manchester. This is an alternative that will be there for people to use.
“20% of households in Trafford don’t have access to a car and in poorer areas of the borough, 45% of households don’t have access to a car. This is a way of enabling them to get around.”
“We understand that there is likely to be some disruption and hopefully the council will be passing on residents’ concerns and they can do something about that with things like traffic light phasing. It’s very early days.
“I would say to drivers to be patient and to give it a bit of time – we need to see what happens. The A56 invites a lot of traffic and air pollution.
“There needs to be a concerted campaign to get rid of the rush hour completely and that needs employers to allow people to have flexible schedules and allowing people to continue working from home some of the time, if possible. By forcing everybody onto the road between 7am and 9am in the morning, you create that problem.
“We need to give it a chance and not just have a knee-jerk reaction.”
A spokesperson for Trafford Council said it was “reviewing” traffic and cycling usage on the road.
The spokesperson said: “Trafford Council took the bold step of creating the new cycling and walking corridor as a reaction to the coronavirus epidemic and the fact that more people are turning to walking and cycling to commute and for leisure purposes. Our decision reflected Government advice and our commitment to health and wellbeing.
“We understand the traffic issues this weekend and are reviewing traffic and cycling usage to make sure the system is working correctly and fairly for all road users.”