At Birmingham City Council's recent Transport Summit, Councillor Len Gregory unveiled his plans to identify 'Blue Routes', priority routes for the emergency services.
Cllr Gregory fears lives are at risk because traffic-calming measures slow down ambulances, so on Blue Routes there would be a presumption against traffic calming. There is even the possibility that traffic calming measures could be removed altogether and any proposed new schemes cancelled.

Stripping out traffic calming would, of course, allow all traffic to speed up, not just ambulances, resulting in more road casualties. The ambulance service has said that no lives have been lost as a result of ambulance journeys being adversely affected by traffic calming. On the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming that not only does traffic calming reduce casualties by slowing down traffic, it also creates a safer and more attractive environment cyclists and pedestrians: peopled streets are safer streets.

Unfortunately, Cllr Gregory's strategy is fairly typical of the Conservative party's approach to transport policy, the aim of which appears to be to 'get Britain moving', i.e. speed up traffic, at all costs. So while local authorities up and down the country are introducing more traffic calming measures and 20mph zones to satisfy residents' demands for safer, more pedestrian and cycle friendly streets, Birmingham City Council's Conservative-dominated Transport department is moving in the opposite direction. If they are serious about pursuing this latest brainwave, the Council must ensure that Blue Routes do not turn into a network of high-speed rat runs.

On a more positive note, Birmingham FoE has been invited onto Cllr Gregory's 'Congestion Task Force', which will meet for the first time later in April. We will be raising our concerns about a range of local transport issues to the Task Force and will keep you posted on what comes out of the meetings.