‘We used to the walk the Mancunian Way’: A short history of the Mancunian Way

Steve Millington

Department of Geography & Environmental Management, Manchester Metropolitan University

SONY DSCAbstract:

The Mancunian Way (A57M) is a mainly elevated running 0.6m in an East-West direction, located just south of Manchester city centre. Planning for the route began with the 1945 City of Manchester Plan, which envisaged the Mancunian Way, or Link Road 17-7 as it was initially known, forming part of a new system of arterial routes and ring-roads linked to a regional communications network. The route was later incorporated into SELNEC’s 1962 Highway Plan and construction began in 1964. Promoted as the Highway in the Sky, the Mancunian Way was to solve problems of traffic congestion. Cutting a swathe through the Victorian industrial landscape, the road was to be a symbol of a progressive and modern city.

In contemporary Manchester, however, the Mancunian Way, occupies a very different discursive space. Rather than a symbol of optimism, it has a signifier of urban problems. Within 15 years of opening, Manchester Docks closed and the industrial hinterland it served was largely derelict, undermining the primary functionality of the highway. Rather than a fluid space for car drivers to effortlessly traverse the city, the Mancunian Way is acongested obstacle. But as our empirical observations, drawn from a series of tours that counter-intuitively attempted to walk the route of a motorway, show that this environment also produces affordances in terms of creativity and unconventional use. Utilizing Ritzer’s (2002) assertion that rationalised systems also produce irrationality, this paper therefore, maintains that scientific planning based on principles of calculability and predictably, will also produce apparently irrational decisions and unintended, sometimes random, consequences.

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Dr Steve Millington is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is co-author of two edited collections, Cosmopolitan Urbanism and Spaces of Vernacular Creativity: Rethinking the Cultural Economy, both published by Routledge. His current research focuses on the relationship between light, space and society. Steve is also a member of the Manchester Modernist Society.


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