There are many reasons to cycle. As a sustainable form of transport, it benefits the environment by reducing CO2 emissions made by cars (many of which are only travelling on short journeys) and also cuts down the amount of harmful pollution in the air. At the same time, it is a good form of exercise, is free, and is fun – I, for one, find that I am buzzing when I get off my bike after cycling to work.
The popularity of Birmingham’s Sky Ride on the 3rd July suggests that there is an enthusiasm among residents to get their bikes out. 15,500 people took part and there was a real sense of occasion as people streamed along the blocked off streets over the course of a whole day. Despite this phenomenon, the conditions for cycling in our second city are not always ideal (as mentioned in the last newsletter) – Birmingham has few designated cycle lanes and it can feel unsafe on some of the city’s main roads during rush hour.
We know that some cities in Europe, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have prioritised cycling as a form of transport and the good results in these places show what is possible. Now, cities in the UK are also strongly supporting cycling as a mode of transport. A recent survey suggested that Oxford leads the way for the most cycle parking facilities while Leeds tops the table for the amount of dedicated cycle pathways. In London, too, the introduction of ‘Boris bikes’, a bike hire scheme, has drastically raised the profile of cycling in the Capital.
Significant investment has also occurred in Bristol, which beat Birmingham to be designated as the UK’s first Cycle City by the Government in 2008. This award led to £23m being spent in the last three years and the project has had encouraging early results with an increase in the number of cyclists in the city by one third.
Birmingham, by contrast, has planned to invest just £1m over 4 years in the city’s new Cycling Strategy. It is perhaps not surprising given the scale of ambition that just 1.5% of residents here currently go to work by bike. Cycling campaigns group Pushbikes responded to our article about this saying that it is at least a step in the right direction, particularly given the current economic climate, and that we should work to ensure that what is promised in the cycling strategy is delivered.
Since then, there has been good news due to a major initiative to promote cycling in North Birmingham, for which the Government has agreed to provide a grant of more than £4.1m toward the overall cost. To make sure that this project creates a positive outcome, it is important that the money is spent wisely and builds on the good practice put forward by organizations such as the CTC – the UK’s National Cycling Organisation – in its ‘New Vision for Cycling’. At BFOE, we certainly believe that this exciting award can be the beginnings of a step change in cycling provisions for the future.
We are looking to work together with cycling organisations to ensure that Birmingham starts taking cycling seriously as a form of transport for getting around every day. We want to work with Pushbikes, CTC, Sustrans and others, to try to get more money invested in making Birmingham a proper cycling city, where getting about on two wheels is considered better than on four and cycling is not just an occasional leisure activity when roads are closed.
North Birmingham initiative: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/2011/07/6-7m-boost-to-cycling-in-north-birmingham/
New Vision for Cycling: http://www.betterbybike.info/cycling-city-project