I have been attending the Centro PEG for over a year now and the meeting last Tuesday was definitely the most interesting yet. If you’re wondering what in the blue blazes a CentroPEG is, it’s not anything to do with outdoor living, or drying your washing, but the Centro Partner Engagement Group.

“But Julien”, you may protest, “that doesn’t tell us who Centroare!” Well Centro is the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, they are responsible for promoting and co-ordinating public transport in the West Midlands urban conurbation, that’s everywhere between Coventry and Wolverhampton.

There is a PEG for each of the council areas within the West Midlands conurbation, the one I attend on behalf of Birmingham Friends of the Earth is the Birmingham & Solihull Centro Partner Engagement Group. The meetings have discussed a range of issues from safety on public transport, to the Centro transport prospectus, to walking and cycling, which was very much the focus of last week’s meeting. 

The meeting started off with a presentation from Centro about their West Midlands Cycle Charter. This was a well-meaning document, with some good ideas in it about how to improve cycling in the West Midlands and get more people on their bikes. This includes things such as an integrated cycle network, linking in with public transport, ensuring cycling is considered in the planning process, encouraging lower speeds etc.

These are similar to some of things we’re hearing from the Council about their cycle revolution in Birmingham. However, the problem is as ever, funding. The Cycle Charter is even less specific than the Birmingham Cycle Revolution about where it’s getting its funding from, where the latter has at least managed to get the first two years from the Cycle City Ambition Grant. This is understandable in the present climate, but, as with the Birmingham Cycle Revolution, prioritising getting funding is crucial if this isn’t to be just another document on a shelf. 

The other thing of note is that the Charter only advocates a 5% cycle target over 10 years, not the 10% advocated by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, and incidentally by Birmingham Friends of the Earth in our Let’s Get Moving campaign. When I queried the lack of ambition with regards to a target, the response was that the West Midlands is starting from a low base, and research suggests that the tipping point in terms of mainstreaming cycling is 5% of journeys. However they did say they were open to other ideas during the consultation process. So you can be sure that Birmingham Friends of the Earth will be taking advantage of the opportunity to comment. I’d encourage other people and organisations to do the same.

The second thing on the agenda of interest was a presentation on 20mph speed limits. This was from an officer from Birmingham City Council who are currently consulting on introducing 20mph limits across the city over the next 5-7 years. I asked to confirm that it was definitely a consultation as to how they would be introduced rather then whether they should be introduced. The officer assured me that his understanding is that it is very much about the how.

There was concern expressed by Centro about the effect on evening bus services by reducing speeds to 20mph. The argument was that this would mean the bus operators would not be able to maintain the level of service with lower speeds. I pointed out that this was unlikely to be the case, as routes with frequent services in the evenings are those arterial routes which would not be reduced to 20mph.

So all in all an interesting and useful meeting. I hope my ramblings have been as interesting to read! Let’s hope the next PEG meeting the same! After the meeting closed it was off to join Shaz at the Bike Lounge in Kings Heath.