John Newson (BFoE Newsletter June-July) questions whether the City’s cycling strategy should be taken seriously. How, he implies, can Birmingham increase cycling when busy roads are the only option? The promised level of investment is low yet the strategy applauds it as a significant gain.

He’s right to question the council’s commitment. Push Bikes has met with the council officers to make similar points; we have been assured that, yes money is tight, but nevertheless, there is a renewed determination to revitalise cycling in the city. Tim Huxtable and Martin Mullaney -relevant cabinet members- are signed up. They point to the connect2 route now virtually completed and the successful award of £4.1mill under the government’s Local Sustainable Transport scheme. These will greatly enhance cycling routes in North Birmingham.

What new strategies are proposed?The main ‘hard’ measures areCycle routes with more dedicated cycle lanes. Identification and improvement of problem routes and locations.Secure cycle hubs in the city centre (including cycle storage, hire, repair and changing facilities). Improved cycle facilities at railway stations. 
‘Soft’ measures are mainly concerned with training –children, adults, maintenance, and (not before time) highway engineers. Also there is a commitment to integrate cycling into area, local and regeneration networks.

None of these proposals will produce the ‘modal shift’ towards sustainable travel that the City Council purports to achieve and that the cycling strategy is intended to deliver. There is no mention of restrictions on car use or of city centre car parking. Widespread 20mph zones have been rejected but more are promised near schools. Also, many of the strategies are vague and lacking in timing and accountability.

Push Bikes made our disappointment clear in our response. However we are where we are and rather than totally reject the document Push Bikes believes that we should first endeavour to make sure that these promises are implemented. They may not revitalise cycling –but they will make a start in that direction.

The key will be in how well monitoring of the actions happens. It will be the responsibility of the council’s Cycling Co-ordination Group. It will also be open for questioning at the public Cyclists’ Forum meetings. It is now three months since the launch of the strategy. Push Bikes are eager to see and to question their first progress report. Push Bikes has been encouraging our members (and others) to contact their councillors with responses to the Cycling Strategy and with suggestions of improvements or complaints. We would welcome contributions from Birmingham FOE.

Our website is regularly fielding queries and monitoring responses.

John Bennett

Chairman Push Bikes