Birmingham is the largest city in Europe not to have an integrated urban rail system. Some of our twin cities abroad have a complete rail system, and an underground and a tram network. As a result, the majority of Birmingham’s households are very dependent on the private car – the least efficient way of getting around.
The major threat to clean air is now posed by traffic emissions. Petrol and diesel-engined motor vehicles emit a wide variety of pollutants, principally carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM10), that have an increasing impact on urban air quality. In 2012, the West Midlands is blighted by having the second worst air quality of any zone in the UK. To escape the bad air, increasing numbers of people have moved out of the conurbation in search of life among the green fields.
Half of Birmingham jobs are held by people who have moved out of the city, but commute in every day to work. Travel into and within Birmingham is by no means straight forward as the limited rail network serves a limited number of city centre stations. Most access away from the city centre (and even to nearby Dudley) relies on a chaotic free for all on roads that rarely include bus priority.
For people living in the city, there is a need for more people-friendly speed limits. 30mph is too fast for residential roads if we want people to feel safe cycling and walking.
A small – but increasing – number of people cycle some journeys, but there is little council support for creating better cycling infrastructure so that more people will feel the roads are safe for them to cycle on.
Birmingham hardly makes cars any more, but suffers all their negative consequences. Oil is a limited and increasingly expensive resource. Cutting the city’s carbon emissions will be impossible unless our dependence on the car can be changed.
The approximately 35% of households with no car get a poor deal.