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Getting around Leigh: Social research with older and disabled people

Sherriff, Graeme; Cookson, Ian

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There are many reasons for those who make decisions about neighbourhoods to be interested in transport and mobility. People rely on transport provision to get around. Whether crossing the city to get to work or making a quick trip on foot to the local shop, their journeys will be shaped by decisions about a wide range of local issues.

Some of these – like speed restrictions, pavement parking, public transport fares and routes – are understood to be ‘transport’ decisions. Other issues, such as anti-social behaviour, the quality of the public realm, and the location of shops and services, may seem like nothing to do with transport but they nevertheless have an impact on how people get around and whether they can access what they need.

The public realm, and the social infrastructure it hosts, is tightly bound up with provision for transport and mobility. Cafés, community centres and places of worship are of limited use if people cannot access them, whether that’s because the bus does not go there or because people do not feel safe walking in the local area. Even if a neighbourhood is ‘walkable’, this is only as useful as there are places to walk to. Where traffic flows, how fast it moves, and where it is parked are all factors that shape places and affect how much people want to spend time there.
It is for these reasons that the neighbourhood has become a focus for transport planning and, as we will discuss, concepts like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, 20mph zones, 15-minute neighbourhoods and School Streets have been prominent in public discourse.

Transport policy is also of national and international concern. It is a major contributor to environmental issues and these, in turn, impact upon health and social inclusion. At 24%, road transport is the largest sector in terms of UK Greenhouse Gas emissions (Department for Transport, 2022). In relation to air quality in Greater Manchester, transport contributes 65% of nitrogen oxides and 79% of particular matter (Greater Manchester Combined Authority, 2016). The potential for policies enacted at the neighbourhood level to reduce these impacts on the global and local environment is another reason for policy makers to be interested in mobility at this scale.

In designing and planning neighbourhoods it is important to think about the difficulties particular groups may face in getting around and our previous research (Larrington-Spencer, Sherriff and Price, 2021) highlighted the importance of understanding the ways in which older and disabled people may find urban environments unwelcoming and difficult to navigate. In this report, we detail research conducted in Greater Manchester, including a case study in Leigh in the Borough of Wigan. Our discussion draws on stakeholder interviews, drop-in workshops in Leigh library, and walkalong interviews with older and disabled residents of Leigh.

We begin (Chapter 2) with an exploration of the particular challenges faced by older and disabled people in getting around, and place these within the context of car dependency and neighbourhood approaches to mobility. We then present (Chapter 3) a thematic analysis of our stakeholders interviews. Over the next three chapters, we report our research in Leigh, starting with an overview of the area and the data collection (Chapter 4), discussing the ways in which Leigh has changed and the implications for mobility and social infrastructure (Chapter 5), and considering the factors that shape the extent to which the town facilitates walking and wheeling (Chapter 6). We discuss cross-cutting themes (Chapter 7) and provide a set of recommendations that follow from our research (Chapter 8).


Sherriff, G., & Cookson, I. (2023). Getting around Leigh: Social research with older and disabled people. Salford: Transport for Greater Manchester

Report Type Research Report
Online Publication Date Oct 24, 2023
Publication Date Oct 24, 2023
Deposit Date Nov 29, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 30, 2023
Pages 64


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