In the middle of August it was announced that Birmingham was successful in bidding for £17 million to make Birmingham a better city for cycling. Birmingham City Council have vowed to add another £7million in funding for cycling in Birmingham meaning that the city will spend £24 million on cycling. The Council has a deadline of two years to spend the money, which will result in urgency to deliver the improvements.
I had taken a keen interest in the bid from the city council for this pot of money. Birmingham was in competition with other cities including Manchester and Bristol. I attended the consultation for the bid before it was submitted.
The bid was split into 5 sections, representing the different parts of the city. These areas are the city centre, south, north, east and west. There were 5 tables; each table displayed the plans for a different part of the city. Improvements are marked for each part of the city by creating different types of cycle paths for the city. One of them is to create arterial routes along the main roads like the Bristol Road or the main road of Bordesley Green. These would have fast routes leading into the city centre. A second route of parallel routes would be created that would be away from heavy traffic. Parts of the canal network would be revamped to make them cycle friendly. There would also be an increase in the number of off road cycle paths. On top of all of this the bid was to help make the city centre easier to cycle across.
Before the bid results were announced there was concern amongst the cycling community that Birmingham would not be successful in the bid. Thankfully Birmingham won £17 million from it and will have £7 million added to it from the council. This £24 million can have a real impact. The plans already mentioned could have a great impact on cycling in the city. The city centre is practically impossible to cycle across. Birmingham has a great cycle route that is popular in the Rea Valley Route, but that only serves a small section of the Brummie population. Personally I prefer to cycle on the roads and on main roads because that is the quickest way to reach a destination. I would like work to be done on making junctions safer. Different cyclists have different needs. We need a variety of options for cycling to help make cycling viable for commuters and those who want to cycle for leisure.
24 million will be able to make a difference, but the money is not enough to be able to turn Birmingham into an actual cycle friendly city. Birmingham was recently ranked the worst city in the UK for cycling. Approximately 1% of commuter journeys are made by bicycle, which again is one of the worst percentages in the UK for a major city. Other cities including London and Bristol have managed to vastly increase cycling by investing heavily in cycling infrastructure. £24 million in a good start but will not change the culture of transport in Birmingham. Birmingham is notoriously reliant on the car, but we are a growing city and the costs, the pollution and the safety issues that come with too many cars on the road make cycling an attractive proposition. Cycling is cheap, environmentally friendly and can help fight against the obesity crisis. On top of this cycling infrastructure is vastly cheaper than infrastructure for cars. £24 million would not build a main road. Road building budgets are measured in billions whilst cycling infrastructure is measured in millions. If we spent more on cycling we would be a more sustainable city. £24 million is a good start for Birmingham but for any real, lasting change we need to continue beyond these two years of funding for a long period of time. BFOE welcomes this new funding and will push for more past the two years as part of our Let’s Get Moving campaign.