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08/04/2011 // INFO Leave a comment

Birmingham strategy offers glimpse to a better future

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Despite being the UK’s second biggest city (and the city of my birth), Birmingham’s cycling facilities are frankly poor and non-existent. When I’ve cycled in the city, I’ve also found a lack of infrastructure to support cycling and traffic that is not used to cyclists on the road.

Is this about to change? Pouring over the details of Birmingham City Council’s recently announced cycling strategy (Bike Birmingham). I live in hope of some improvement in investment and promotion of cycling in the city.

Importantly, the Council recognises there is a problem. The focus groups held to help develop the Bike Birmingham strategy were not too kind in terms of their perception of cycling in the city.

The strategy document states: “We know that we have to look further than better routes and better infrastructure by addressing behaviour and promotion. We need to work with destinations; we have to change people’s opinions; we have to identify resources and opportunities for coordination and development, cohesion and coordination and we have to move cycling forward.”

Dutch style cycle hubs

So what is in the Bike Birmingham strategy document? Headline to what the council is trying to do is the creation of cycling hubs, similar to the CyclePoint hub at Leeds train station. The hubs would offer secured storage, changing facilities, bike hire and repair services in key city centre locations so to encourage workers/leisure cyclists to commute/ride into the centre by bike. Council officials are currently exploring locations for at least one CyclePoint hub in the city centre.

The Council is also keen to improve cycle parking facilities at railway stations. There approximately 450 cycle stands and 170 lockers at railway stations across the West Midlands, of which over 90 of these stands and 40 lockers are situated at stations located in Birmingham.

A cycle hire scheme for Birmingham has been mentioned in previous strategy documents but has always been dismissed over cost issues. Bike Birmingham resurrects the idea but says it may need a sponsor to make it viable or profitable.

Cycle routes

On infrastructure, the Council is keen to connect the road network to Birmingham’s substantial canal network that also connects towns like Wolverhampton to the city. There is an estimated 100 miles worth of canal towpath in Birmingham and its surrounding region that could provide ample opportunity for leisure rides. There are also plans to implement/improve cycle lanes across key routes into the city centre as well as investment into off-road routes.

Children are the future

With a view to the future, the Council also aims to train 6,000 young adults via the Bikeability scheme by the end of 2012. In 2012, Birmingham will host the World BMX Championships at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena. The Championships are already leading to the development of new BMX parks in the north and south of the city. The championship and the parks must lead to more children wanting to ride BMX’s or cycle in general through proper promotion of the sport by the Council.

Investment

So how much will this all cost. Well Birmingham Council has put a figure of £1m on implementing its plans, which it says is a firm commitment on its part. Of course it also hopes to secure funding for elements of its Bike Birmingham strategy.

There is an opportunity here for Birmingham Council to really get cycling off the ground and change people’s opinions, not least cyclists who want to cycle in Birmingham but havn’t been given that support so far to do so. If support and investment are forthcoming, opinions will change and people will cycle.


See also

Funding made available for London Biking Boroughs
Portsmouth seeks cash for cycle hire scheme plans

from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

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