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£24 million cycle boost must be 'just the beginning'

Department for Transport cash in the form of a £17 million grant will be combined with £7.3 million from the city council.

A cycle lane
A cycle lane

Birmingham must build on a successful bid which will see £24 million spent on transforming cycling in the city, campaigners have said.

The Department for Transport has pledged the cash – made up of a £17 million grant and £7.3 million from the city council.

Birmingham can now push ahead with a two-year plan to triple the number of city cyclists, revamp canal towpaths, create or upgrade 130 miles of off and on-road routes and launch cycle-friendly schemes such as London’s “Boris bikes”.

Chris Tunstall, Birmingham’s director of sustainability and transport, said: “In our early discussions with the Department for Transport they just didn’t think Birmingham was in any way, shape or form up to this challenge. We’ve turned a massive corner, not just to get this bid but to overcome the negative impressions that have been formed about us over the years.”

“There has been a real groundswell of support giving a collective feeling that now is the right time.”

“We’re hoping to work with local manufacturers in and around the city and the West Midlands to try and grow what was, at one point, a manufacturing base and is now concentrated on a really niche market.”

“We are an old industrial city, founded very much on the car.

“People will see a lot of big changes over the next two years – improvements in signage, cycling facilities, shared space routes and cycle lanes on highways and footpaths, and significant improvements to canal towpaths.”

Birmingham Friends of Earth welcomed the investment and Campaigns Support Worker Julien Pritchard said: “Congratulations to Birmingham City Council on the success of this bid, which is fantastic news for Birmingham and could make a real difference to cycling in the city.

“It’s well-known that cycling in Birmingham is often difficult and often dangerous due to a lack of proper infrastructure and a fragmented approach to cycling in the past, making some locations difficult to reach by bike.

“This bid should be seen as the beginning a big push for major investment in cycling in Birmingham. The council should also not forget walking as a mode of transport, and look for ways of making it easier and more pleasant to walk when travelling shorter distances.”

The two-year plan will focus on a radius reaching to Quinton in the west, Stechford in the east, Perry Barr in the north and Stirchley in the south. There will be major improvements to the network within a 20-minute ride of the city centre in all directions.

Most of the £24.3 million will be ploughed into infrastructure, creating 70 miles of new cycle routes and upgrading a further 60 miles.

Eight of the major arteries into the city will see new fast cycle lanes created along main roads or shared-use footways, and Birmingham’s canal towpaths will undergo a major revamp to create an all-weather, off-road network. The rest of the money will be spent on improved signage, parking and bike hire schemes.

Birmingham is currently languishing at the bottom of the UK’s league table for cycling, with around one per cent of journeys in Birmingham made by pedal power.

Chris Lowe, chairman of cycle campaign group Push Bikes, said: “I’m very happy because this means that Birmingham’s cycling funding is now at a level we should be striving for nationally.

“But 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.”

Georgia Stokes, manager of Northfield Ecocentre, said: “This is fantastic news for the city. We know from delivering cycling activities and launching the Cycle South Brum bike hub, that many people are keen to cycle but are put off by a number of reasons.

“These include a lack of confidence, not knowing where the cycle routes are, and inconsistencies in the standard and availability cycle routes.”

Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said: “This is fantastic news for Birmingham and the other successful cities.

“Getting about by bike for everyday journeys could become a reality for people of all ages and abilities in those areas and we warmly welcome this initiative.”

Staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital also welcomed the news, saying the funding would go towards making roads safer for cyclists as the number of those injured tripled.

Latest figures show that 83 cyclists were admitted to the hospital’s A&E department in July compared to 30 in the same month last year – an increase of 276 per cent.

A&E Matron, Margaret Garbett, said: “We see huge numbers of people brought to A&E as a result of cycling injuries and want to prevent these injuries happening in the future.

“We are delighted to hear that Birmingham will receive funding.”

 

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