The city councillor who sparked widespread outrage after blasting a £23 million scheme to transform cycling in Birmingham as only for ‘young white men’ has hit back at her critics.
The Cycling Revolution scheme is backed by £17 million from the Department for Transport, with the rest coming from the city council.
An army of biking groups took to Twitter and wrote to the Birmingham Post saying that the project was key to encouraging people to taking up the healthy activity.
Coun Alden was described as “absurd”, “parochial, regressive and mistaken”, “politically correct” and a “typical hypocrite.”
In a letter to the Post, printed in full this week Coun Alden said she stood by her comments made at the Edgbaston District Committee and claimed she was reflecting complaints made by her constituents.
She said: “I have received complaints about this proposal from my constituents, not least because there will be a significant loss of parking spaces which Edgbaston can ill afford. In asking for the assessment, I made the factual observation that most, not all, but most, of the cyclists I see in my area are young white men.
“Of course I know that some elderly, disabled, women and people from all ethnic groups do cycle, but clearly many in Birmingham – for lots of reasons – don’t feel they can, so it seemed reasonable to ask for the Equality Impact Assessment.
“When I saw it, it confirmed that women are very under represented among Birmingham cyclists.
“Surely it would be better to spend some of the cycling money in ways which would help those groups who don’t currently choose to cycle – and that has to be improving the infrastructure in ways which help them, and not just current cyclists.
“Instead, one of the hare brained schemes in the plan is to give away 2,000 free bikes to people, with absolutely no way of ensuring they don’t just sell them on.
“£24 million is a lot of money to spend, especially when £7 million of it is coming from the hard pressed council.
“It is surely important to see the paperwork to ensure it is being spent wisely, and in a manner which will seek to benefit all sections of our society.”
But her comments provoked angry responses, and also led many groups dedicated to promoting cycling to get in touch.
Yvonne Gilligan from Digbeth based group Sustrans said: “While many cyclists are young men, many of us are from backgrounds as diverse as the community we live in – it’s a great joy to see people of all shapes and sizes taking to the bike as we work towards a greener, healthier and safer city.”
Prof David Cox Chair of CTC, the national cycling charity said: “The “Cycling Cities” programme, launched by the Prime Minister, is designed to break down the barriers which prevent many from experiencing the freedom that comes with cycling.”
George Gracey from Handsworth added: “How parochial, regressive and mistaken can an elected representative be?”
The project will see upgrades to some of the busiest routes through Birmingham including Hagley Road and Bristol Road, with dedicated cycle lanes and safety improvements at junctions to encourage more cycling.
Cash will be used to buy 5,000 bikes and set up cycle hubs with 2,000 of them given away. There will be improvements to ‘off road’ routes such as Rea Valley, Cole Valley and Tame Valley, and also along canal towpaths.