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Will motor city become cycle city?

Will motor city become cycle city?

🕔14.Aug 2013

Birmingham has peddled to victory following Monday’s announcement that the city council was awarded a £17million grant to launch its Cycle Revolution.

The news was welcomed by Councillor James McKay, cabinet member for a Green, Safe and Smart city. ‘I am delighted we will be able to deliver much-needed improvements to Birmingham’s cycle network through this grant. We fully recognise there is untapped potential for cycling to become an integral part of our transport network – for both commuting and leisure purposes – and want to exploit it.’

Councillor McKay was in much need of this win after recently coming under fire following his proposals on the installation of wheelie bins.

The success of Birmingham’s four-month city cycle campaign is due to the collaborative effort of the council, businesses and third sector interest groups.Moreover, by securing the bid Birmingham has beat rival Manchester home of the national cycling centre.

The majority of the £17million will be spent on developing infrastructure, creating 71 miles of new cycle routes and upgrading a further 59 miles by 2016.

Eight of the major arteries into the city will now see new fast cycle lanes created along main roads or shared-use footways. Birmingham’s canal towpaths will undergo significant renovations to create all-weather, off-road network. The funding will also build upon pre-existing cycling networks such as Bike North Birmingham.

However, Chris Lowe chairman of the cycle campaign Push Bikes, did voice minor apprehension due to the time constraints in which the grant has to be spent. “The fact the money has to be spent within a certain time makes me slightly concerned the work will be rushed and not done to a high standard.”

Overall, cycling groups and safety organisations across the city have celebrated the news, welcoming the much over-due cash injection.

Cycle Revolution is also part of Councillor Leader Sir Albert Bores broader plans to create an Integrated Transport Network in Birmingham over the next ten years. The new cycle lanes are one of several strategies to integrate travel in a bid to modernise and increase efficiency of transport within the city.

Birmingham, as a result of this grant, is hoping to triple the amount of journeys made by cycling within the next two years. This will give the city an estimated average of five per cent. Thus, making it a national competitor with the likes of Manchester and Nottingham; who already have around three per cent of journeys being made by bike.

The impetus behind Birmingham’s Cycle Revolution is to generate an alternative mode of transport that, in the words of Councillor McKay provides a “cheaper and more sustainable option.” Yet, in securing this bid the city has also demonstrated its ability to come together collectively and achieve first class status as a national leader.

In reality Birmingham is a city designed for the car. Although efforts to adapt this and reach a cycling average of five per cent are commendable, such a figure is significantly dwarfed when compared to the Netherlands and cities such as Amsterdam, where an estimated seventy per cent of all journeys are made by bike. One cannot help wondering whether Birmingham’s cycling revolution will ever get passed first gear.

Hannah Scarr is a work experience intern at RJF Public Affairs. She is a Politics graduate of the University of Liverpool and interested in localism and has written on the influence of Blairism on contemporary politics.

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