Cycle to Work Day - one simple change can make all the difference

This Cycle to Work Day, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar discusses the cycling improvements made in Birmingham over the last 12 months, future plans, and how one small change to your comm

It’s been well over a year since Covid-19 hit the UK and turned our lives upside down. Slowly though, and particularly during these last few months, our city has started to return to normal.

I see this every day as I travel around our city – Birmingham is coming back to life and I know many of us will have missed the hub bub of activity in our neighbourhoods and the city centre.

For many of us this ‘new start’ is an opportunity to do things differently. From spending more time with our loved ones, to making our health and wellbeing a priority.

As a Council, we are committed to a green recovery from Covid-19. After all, prior to the pandemic poor air quality was the biggest health emergency our city faced – and it’s still a huge issue for our citizens. As we all go back to our normal lives, we must think about the way we travel and try to use sustainable, low carbon options wherever possible.

Every week day in Birmingham more than a quarter of a million journeys that are taken by private car are under 1 mile long. Converting these journeys to cycling and walking will have a significant impact on our air quality and improving walking and cycling infrastructure continues to be a big priority for my colleagues and I.

It’s Cycle to Work Day today and over the past year or so we have been putting in the work to make cycling a viable option for as many people as possible.

Through the Emergency Transport Plan in 2020 we delivered a number of pop-up cycle lanes to help moving around the city by bike safer and easier.

We have extended the A38 cycle lane with a pop-up cycle route between Selly Oak Triangle and the A38 cycle route, improving connections to University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the city centre. There are also shared-use footways that connect the A34 and A38 blue routes to pop up cycle lanes on Bradford Street and the A47 (Jennens Road).

It doesn’t stop there though.

This year, we were allocated an additional £4 million from Government to implement a second round of active travel measures – building on what we delivered in 2020.

Subject to public consultation, we will be making the pop-up cycle lanes from 2020 more permanent, developing a scheme for the A45 Coventry Road corridor which will build on elements of the pop-up cycle lane to Small Heath and the A457, and bringing forward plans for three new pop-up cycle lanes.

Improved walking and cycling facilities also continue to be a major part of our highway projects, from our plans to transform Digbeth High Street to the recently unveiled improvements at Iron Lane in Stechford. We want to ensure that with every improvement we make, consideration is given to active travel (and public transport) as much as possible.

Don’t forget we’re also incredibly lucky as Brummies to have an extensive network of canal towpaths and green routes that are ideal for family outings and scenic bike rides. More than 50km of canal towpaths were resurfaced in 2019, and if you head to our website there are six downloadable maps for you to enjoy the countryside and make the most of the city’s canal routes.

We know that access to cycles is a significant problem for many people in Birmingham, particularly those on low incomes. For me, the provision of better cycling infrastructure in all areas – including inner cities – and the provision of bikes for those who cannot afford them is a matter of social justice.

It is key to unlocking solutions to tackle poor health, inequality, and indeed access to better opportunities. For our poorest communities, access to a bike means they can travel further than before; able to access education, jobs, and community services that they would have previously found much more difficult to reach.

That’s why we are committed to continuing our Big Birmingham Bikes project, which in recent years saw 7,000 bikes being provided to people in the most deprived parts of the city through organisations like Cycling UK and The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS).

Through our second round of Active Travel Funding, we want to continue the Big Birmingham Bikes initiative. This extension to the original programme will help us overcome the barrier for hundreds more residents.

We also now have bikes to hire through the West Midlands Cycle Hire Scheme. Since launching on 5 May we’ve seen almost 13,000 people use the bikes in Birmingham, completing more than 27,000 journeys.

The bikes cost £1 to unlock and 5p for every minute of cycling – simply download the Beryl cycle hire app and find your nearest docking station here.

Given we’ve been stuck in our homes for most of the year, getting back on your bike might be a daunting prospect for some. If you’re in need of a refresher on cycling skills and awareness, West Midlands Cycle Hire are offering free skills sessions throughout August. Suitable for those new to cycling or coming back to cycling after a break.

Follow the links below to sign-up:

There’s plenty more activities going on this summer too. British Cycling have also got their Let’s Ride Summer of Cycling taking place until 22 August with led rides, route information, and pop up events.

You can also get your bike checked for free through Love Your Bike sessions – funded through the Active Travel Fund and delivered by Cycling UK across the West Midlands. You can check out the upcoming events on the Transport for West Midlands Facebook page.

And, if you have children and want them to get involved in cycling over the summer break, the Active Wellbeing Society are running summer holiday cycle sessions in Handsworth and Kings Heath. Find out more on Facebook.

So, what are you waiting for? Why not make a pledge today on Cycle to Work Day to start commuting by bike? Even for one journey a week you will be helping us to tackle the issue of air quality – and taking care of your own health and wellbeing.

The pandemic has shown us that we can make changes to protect ourselves and others. Making fundamental changes to the way we move around our city will be key to our recovery.

This blog post was published on 5 August 2021.

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