Birmingham City Council has a Walking and Cycling Strategy for the next 10 years and Birmingham Friends of the Earth made a written response. Our meeting unpacked what the council is proposing and talked through what we think of its different elements.
We are very much in support of increasing the number of journeys walked and cycled, because they are not only good for individuals, but essential for the city. This is zero carbon transport and the Council has declared a Climate Emergency, moving towards zero carbon by 2030. Fortunately, 25% of daily car journeys are only one mile or less. Bicycles already make millions of trips a year that equate to 14,462 cars a day off Birmingham’s roads, according to ‘Bike Life’ by SUSTRANS. However, currently only 3% of all trips by residents are by bike, so there is a long way to go.
The question, realistically, is how to get the most walking and cycling for what will be limited funding over the next 10 years. What to do first, and where to do it, to get the maximum effect in “Car City”?
The Strategy contains several blue cycle tracks along arterial roads, the A38, A34 and A45. They will be visible, direct and go to important destinations, such as the city centre for commuting. The one along the Bristol Road to Birmingham University is already encouraging cycling in that corridor. However, such routes are expensive, because of all the engineering to protect you from the buses, lorries and junctions with fast traffic.
For the rest of the street network, a mass of small changes are required to make them safer for both pedestrians and cyclists. Already some neighbourhoods and even High Streets are 20mph, but they need features to make drivers slow down and share with others. Walking and cycling neighbourhoods could surround train, tram and bus stops for the longer stage of your journey. Private vehicles should be pushed out of the City Centre.
We want a visible transformation of the places where most people live and spend their time, to break the dominance of the private car, and deliver huge benefits for people and planet.