Setting the wheels in motion for a greener city

Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, reflects on the achievements of the council’s Birmingham Cycle Revolution to date

In January, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet approved a new walking and cycling strategy, setting out a long-term plan to ensure that more people leave their cars at home and opt for walking or cycling for short journeys instead.

This is part of a much wider strategy to reduce the city’s over-reliance on private car use and choose more sustainable forms of transport instead. This, in turn, will help clean up Birmingham’s dangerously polluted air and make it easier for people (as opposed to vehicles) to move around our city.

Cycling has a key role to play in achieving this, but we know that in order to encourage more people to swap four wheels and petrol for two wheels and pedal power, we need to ensure that we have the right cycling infrastructure in place.

This is something we have already been working on for the best part of a decade through our Birmingham Cycling Revolution, an ambitious 20-year plan to enable cycling to become a mainstream form of transport across the whole city.

Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) was launched in 2013, when Birmingham was one of eight cities to be awarded Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG) funding by the Department for Transport (DfT). When we launched BCR, 2% of all journeys in Birmingham were made by bike, with the aim off increasing this figure to 5% by 2023 and then 10% by 2033.

We have achieved a great deal in the first few years, with our most visible recent achievements being the opening of the city’s first two fully segregated two-way cycle ‘superhighways’ on the A34 from Perry Barr and A38 from Selly Oak, covering a total of 7km, enabling people to cycle from these areas to the city centre in confidence, completely separate from road traffic. Feedback from users so far has been excellent.

However, BCR has done much more than this. In fact, over the years we have invested £58 million in cycling provision and infrastructure across the city. This includes:

  • 46km of canal towpaths, with a 43% increase in cycle traffic across these improved routes
  • Approximately 24km of new or upgraded green routes (through parks and other open spaces)
  • 12km of shared use footways on highways
  • The introduction of four 20mph pilot areas across the city, with the average speed on these roads decreasing by 1.4mph as a result
  • Grants to 62 businesses and 69 schools to improve cycling facilities
  • 5 Brompton bike hire docks established
  • 914 cycle parking spaces created across the city

We have also given away more than 7,000 free bikes to people living in the most socially deprived parts of Birmingham, through the Big Birmingham Bikes scheme, as well as offering cycle training and bike maintenance sessions. This project was designed to help improve health and wellbeing, social mobility and provide access to employment opportunities. This initiative was originally delivered by the council’s Active Wellbeing Service, which has now become The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS) and is continuing to build on this success by launching bike banks which offer recycled, serviced and upgraded bikes for children and young people, who can then return them for bigger bikes when they outgrow them.

We still have a long way to go, but we are already seen some extremely positive results from the work we have done since 2013.

If you are already a frequent cyclist, then I hope you are enjoying the facilities put in place so far. And if you are a less confident cyclist or have never even cycled before then it’s never too late to start – and I should know because I only learnt to ride a bike myself two years ago and my only regret was that I waited so long to do it!

This is an exciting time for our city. I hope that as many of you as possible will join the Birmingham Cycle Revolution and help us change the way we all move around our city for the benefit of all.

This blog was posted on 31 January 2020

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