Ben Ridley- Bus, walking and train
My job and other commitments tend to group into two areas of greater Birmingham: the city centre on the one hand; Smethwick/Oldbury on the other. The two routes nicely show how the distribution of development and infrastructure in the city compares in terms of corridors from the suburbs to the city, in contrast to corridors between non-central areas of the city. To get into the centre I have the choice of a regular, very short train journey or a fairly regular collection of bus connections. The only complaint here is that the services tend to finish early in the evening, making social life and work life expensive. To get to work in Oldbury however, I have two choices given that the time I usually work tends to limits my willingness to walk. There is a quick connecting train journey with a reasonable amount of walking on either side that’s my usual way to get to work – but because of the scheduling I have to leave quite early in comparison the length of time the journey actually takes. The bus connections for getting to work are useless – I’d have to get two way-too-expensive buses for each journey, the first to take me twice as far as I need to go and second to bring me back to where I actually want to be. The expense of the buses in the West Midlands is very apparent, and comes of quite poorly in comparison to other cities in the UK and EU in which I have lived. The expense is in no way mitigated by the service in terms of convenience or travel experience, which is why I will always use the train if it’s at all practicable.
Time and weather and a pleasant route permitting, I’ll walk by preference. I have cycled as a form of regular transport for many years in others cities (particularly in Brighton), but not since moving back to Birmingham just over a year ago. I would prefer to cycle rather than use powered transport, but a number of factors have so far been sufficient to prevent me. One personal factor is definitely laziness or business depending on how charitable one wants to be. Despite many a note to myself imploring me to source a affordable bike and – given the punishment previous bikes have taken at my hands – to look into some bike maintenance classes, I have yet to sort this out. A number of external factors would certainly encourage me to get moving though. Ideally, there would be clearly marked, realistically-routed and enforced cycle routes along the important transport corridors in the region. One headache I remember from cycling in Brighton in the mutual antagonism that sometimes existed between Bus drivers and cyclists that often shared routes. Some general encouragement – and education- about road safety for both parties might help. In fact, even an acknowledgement from officialdom that biking should be encouraged and is valued in the city would be some encouragement.