New active transport measures announced by Birmingham City Council
Today is potentially a momentous day for cycling and walking campaigners in Birmingham. Birmingham City Council announced the first measures that it will implement to help social distancing and active transport. Kings Heath High Street and Erdington High Street will have measures to help social distancing. Pavements will be widened and parking removed. Now as a cycling campaigner I think that more can be done, but this is a good start. Hopefully, once people realise that a High Street with less cars on it is a nicer place to be, more measures can be introduced. More streets will be announced for changes. Kings Heath and Erdington are the start of the implementation, more announcements are to come. Erdington is too far for me to get to at the moment, but if you can get there, take photos and let people (including me) as to what the new infrastructure looks like. I live within an easy cycle of Kings Heath so I will ride there and see for myself what the differences are.
Labour Cycles Webinar
In other news I attended a Labour Cycles webinar about the recent experiences of Labour Councils in enacting cycling and walking infrastructure in the current climate. Professor Rachel Aldred noted that people’s habits have drastically shifted under lockdown and warned that a shift from public transport to cars could have disastrous consequences. It would also affect disadvantaged groups more, who are less likely to have cars, and rely on public transport. The poorest are already the hardest hit by poor air quality and a modal shift back to the car would disproportionately hit the deprived. As Danny Dorling said it is a social justice and equity issue. Councillors from across the country shared their experiences.
Councillor Claire Holland from Lambeth Council talked about how they moved quickly and made £75,000 available to put in temporary measures. She feared that further money needed from central government to add more measures would not be forthcoming. Claire also spoke about when she took on the role in 2018 she thought that she would receive endless criticism from some quarters, but actually ended up in constructive dialogue with these people. They have been important in forming a working relationship to get things done.
Leicester City Council
Adam Clarke from Leicester City Council (LCC) spoke about the new cycle lane that they put in for the Royal Infirmary hospital to help key workers get to the hospital. Leicester City Council also provided free bikes to key workers. The response has been positive, both locally and nationally. This cycle path has been so successful that it has been extended. LCC have worked closely with partners like Sustrans to get action done and it has taken ten years of learning and development to build the knowledge to do what they are doing.
Waltham Forest Councillor Clyde Loakes spoke about stripping out car parking spaces. New batch of school streets put in place. These restrict access to only who live there. Infrastructure like Planters are really easy to do and suggested that councils do them themselves An example of an unexpected was an issue with planters is that they need to spaced effectively. Had examples of car drivers mounting pavements or knocking planters out of the way. Works for other groups to, electric scooters, wheelchair users.
Birmingham City Council
Most importantly for me was the contribution of Waseem Zaffar, who is Birmingham City Council’s (BCC) cabinet member for Transport and the Environment. He said that Birmingham is on a journey. In January BCC launched a draft transport plan in which car will no longer be king in Birmingham. The transport plan tackles congestion and unsafe levels of air pollution. There are four big moves in this, reallocation of road space, creating city centre public transport prioritisation, making parking more difficult, and active neighbourhoods. BCC wants Brum to be a 20mph city. Birmingham trialled 20mph zones with success. They were most popular in consultation response. Very keen to push ahead with this. 90 % of roads are residential in Birmingham. Important to make neighbourhoods safer. Waseem said that he had given up his car, which means that he knows the pain of those relying on means of transport that are not the car.
BCC had come to the end of consultation. Covid 19 has acted as a catalyst for action. Biggest threat is to public transport. Will public transport still be used post Covid 19? In a stat that shocked many people on the webinar Zaffar revealed that 25% of journeys of less than 1 mile are done per car. We need to get them to be travelled via walking and cycling. People more receptive to walking and cycling than before. We have faced challenges in trying to get clean air zone through, but it will be implemented. Social media lobbying now for better walking and cycling. Waseem mentioned the launch of the two segregated cycle lanes and called for more support from central government.
What happens next?
Whilst I don’t always agree that BCC is doing enough, the proposed widening of the Dudley Road would potentially make the Climate Emergency worse, I am pleased that the person in charge of Birmingham’s Transport strategy believes in the direction of travel that we need to go. That has not always been the case with BCC. I’ve sat in meetings with members of BCC spouting the outdated case that we should widen road X because that will reduce congestion. In the short term maybe, but in the long term it will increase congestion. I am very excited to see the new measures on Kings Heath High Street. When I have done so, I will take photos and blog about it. I’m very keen to learn what other roads and high streets will get infrastructure changes. Personally, I’m hoping for the A38 Bristol Road and the A441 Pershore Road because they are both main roads by me, that have the space for new cycling and walking measures. When more developments happen. I’ll update this blog
The featured image of Travel Demand Manager of BCC Joe Green, with a filled in car parking space on Kings Heath High Street.