In 2013 and 2014 BFOE ran a campaign called Let’s Get Moving. This campaign was ahead of the curve by detailing how air pollution was damaging our lives. A significant proportion of this pollution was from motor vehicles. At the time 420 people a year died prematurely per year in Birmingham because of air pollution. A key solution to this problem was to promote active travel. Increased cycling and walking could help ease reduce air pollution and congestion as well as helping reduce health problems such as obesity.
Whilst we ran the Let’s Get Moving campaign, Birmingham City Council launched the Birmingham Cycling Revolution (BCR). This was meant to turn Birmingham into a cycling city and funding was obtained to attempt to make this happen. The original plan was to create arterial routes on all of the main roads of Birmingham. Work on canals and routes along quiet roads were not controversial and went ahead without much fuss. However the plan to create arterial routes across the city was met with much hostility and has resulted in most of these plans being scrapped.
BCR have thus taken a different approach. They have picked two routes and are proposing to do them well. One along the Bristol Road (the A38) and one along the Walsall Road (the A34). The idea is that these two roads are the most suitable for high quality cycling infrastructure. Once the routes are finished, people will see how easy it is to use them and the number of people cycling along these roads will dramatically increase. Once these two routes have proven popular, it will be easier to make the case for other routes.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth are very excited and supportive about these proposed cycle routes. I live near the Bristol Road and so the prospect of having a high quality, segregated route excites me. A cycle route with proper segregation and separate crossings on the very busy roads, especially Priory Road and Belgrave Middleway will make cycling far more attractive on the Bristol Road route. There is plenty of space along the Bristol Road to implement this cycle lane.
We at BFOE have responded positively to the consultation and would like everybody else to do so as well. There will be a strong lobby against this proposal and so it is very important that as many people as possible respond positively to the two consultations.
I’ve written several blogs about my times cycling in other cities across Europe, where cycling infrastructure is much better than in Birmingham. Where there is high quality infrastructure, cycling is an every day activity, where people from all communities, cycle in their normal clothes. Even British cities like London are now seeing the benefits of quality cycling infrastructure. The London Cycle Super Highways are very well used and are helping reduce congestion.