Events move forward rapidly
A lot has happened in the space of a week. One week ago, I attended a #IdeasWithBeers Zoom event with other cycle campaigners. We lamented the lack of action taken in the UK compared to other places like Milan and Paris, who were looking into the future beyond Covid 19. Wuhan is starting to show us that faith in public transport will be lost because in Wuhan modal shift is moving towards the car. We can’t have that happen in the UK. Pre Covid 19 our roads were congested, and our lungs were suffering from the air pollution. Thousands of people die every year prematurely due to air pollution in the UK. We had one example of reallocation of road space in Brighton and that was about it.
Moving forward a week, action is now happening in the UK. Councils are now taking action to implement temporary infrastructure for walking and cycling. Lambeth Council has announced that it will spend £78,500 on a plan to provide temporary infrastructure. In Leicester a pop up cycle lane has been installed to help key workers to get from Leicester Royal Infirmary hospital. Action is taking place, there are more examples occurring.
In last night’s #IdeaswithBeers Zoom event, nearly 100 people discussed cycle campaigning tactics. We know that there will be many unhappy people who are anti cyclists. As cycle campaigners we need to target our message appropriately. We need to demonstrate where positive change is happening. Social distancing may go on for a long time. Some of these temporary measures may be needed for the rest of the year and beyond. The event was excellent. It allowed cycle campaigners from up and down the country to see what we are doing in our local areas. We often get caught up in our local campaigns and lose track of what else is going on. A speaker from Camcycle; the Cambridge cycling campaign spoke about how Cambridge is in a different position to the majority of the UK. Cambridge has commuter cycling numbers of around 30%, which is a far higher % than anywhere else in the UK. There is still significant resistance to cycling in Cambridge and the battle with the car lobby is ongoing.
Cycle Campaigning in Birmingham
Bringing this back to Birmingham; Birmingham City Council has announced that it is onboard with temporarily reallocation space to help social distancing for walking and cycling. The Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment Waseem Zaffar announced on twitter, that they were looking for suggestions for local centres and high streets that temporary infrastructure could be installed. Suggestions should be sent to the Birmingham Connected email. Connected@birmingham.gov.uk I’ve been in touch with my local Councillors about areas that could have temporary infrastructure installed. For example, there is a big dual carriageway near me that does have a painted broken line cycle path. This cycle path is narrow and encourages traffic to pass cyclists too closely. Cycle paths like this could be widened, taking one lane away from the rest of traffic, whilst motor traffic is at a reduced level.
If you are in Birmingham, there are a few things you can do to help in this matter. Cycling UK and Living Streets have template letters that can be sent to your Councillors. Also, you can look for local centres and high streets and send suggestions to Birmingham Connected. On a wider note you can contact your MP and ask them to support cycling and walking infrastructure long term. Please do these things as there will be people who have the opposite view to what the cycling campaigners want. Traditionally the car lobbyists have been much stronger than other transport campaigners, we need that to change.
What will happen next?
Social distancing may mean that temporary infrastructure could be in place for a year or more, but if we are to fight the climate emergency, we need to redesign our roads. We need to take space away from cars and parking and reallocate it to active transport and public transport. If public transport usage falls after Covid 19, then people will choose to either drive or possibly cycle. We need people to choose cycling and so we need to make cycling easier.
Next week there will be another #IdeasWithBeers so we will see what developments have happened between now and then.