The results are in – Birmingham wants cleaner air

Councillor Waseem Zaffar discusses what the results of a recent survey on Birmingham's attitudes towards transport during the coronavirus pandemic means for the future.

The results of a YouGov poll, examining public attitudes to transport in cities following the coronavirus pandemic were published today. 8,000 members of the general public in 21 European cities were surveyed, including those in our city of Birmingham.

There has been overwhelming support for measures to protect our health and environment by tackling air pollution – which is fantastic to see. Nearly 80% of Brummies were in favour of measures to reduce car emissions, with 63% not wanting to return to the levels of pollution we had prior to the pandemic.

We published our Emergency Transport Plan on 14 May, which gave an overview of the steps we are taking to enable Birmingham to recover from the pandemic in a low-carbon, greener way. Some of will involve prioritising and accelerating parts of our draft Birmingham Transport Plan, published last year.

This week, we announced more detail around the first set of measures we plan to introduce. This will be part-funded by the Department of Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund. I’ve been really pleased to see an increase in walking and cycling during lockdown, and as we start to come out the other side, I want to ensure we are doing everything we can to make walking and cycling more attractive, safer and easier for Birmingham’s residents and visitors.

The survey analysis, supported by European transport think-tank Transport & Environment, provides further reassurance that the measures we have planned, and are starting to deliver, will be very much welcomed by the people of Birmingham.

A big part of our Emergency Transport Plan is reallocating road space – particularly to help with social distancing - and it’s great to see that 76% support the creation of more room for pedestrians. Pop-up cycle lanes will also be a significant focus for us, with 7 new priority routes to be delivered in the next two months – a move supported by 63% of respondents.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone has been and still very much is a big priority for me. This initiative is so important for the city's future, and in fulfilling our aim to become 'carbon neutral' by 2030.

When the pandemic hit is was clear that we needed to give businesses time to recover before introducing such a big change to the City Centre, so we took the decision to postpone the launch until 2021.

Rest assured, we are focused on the delivery of a Clean Air Zone and this survey has shown overwhelming support for that too – with 71% of Brummie respondents backing the introduction of Zero Emission Zones to discourage high-polluting cars from entering cities.

The survey also finds that, since lockdown began, there has been a surge in interest to buy battery electric cars. In total 29% say their interest has increased, 21% saying increased a little, while a further 8% say increased a lot.

I’m really pleased to see that we as a city want to be greener, cleaner and healthier. After all, air quality will still be the biggest public health concern this city faces after covid-19.

We have a monumental task ahead of us to deliver the schemes needed to achieve this, but that is a challenge I will relish in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your support.

This blog was posted on 11 June 2020

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