Roads in Birmingham could be designated as special “cycle streets” with a speed limit of 15 mph, and where it will be illegal it overtake bikes.

The radical plan has been launched by the Government in a bid to tempt more people out of cars and to use more healthy modes of transport.

Under the scheme, places which have been designated ‘Cycle Cities’ and have therefore demonstrated a commitment for biking, will test the proposals.

Birmingham was last August told that it had won a £17 million fund, which it then topped up for a total of £24.3 million to be spent on improving cycling .

The aim is to transform cycling in the city, including providing a host of safer routes, designated facilities, rolling out 20mph zones in residential areas and developing loan and hire schemes.

Now Birmingham City Council has expressed an interest in the latest initiative which would allow the installation of cycle priority measures.

The Department for Transport revealed in the latest Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions legislation (TSRGD), that it is planning the measures.

The DfT document said: “We will be taking forward the opportunity to trial the “Cycle Streets” concept within the revised TSRGD.

“This is a bold initiative, which is being considered by some of the Cycle Cities and London, possibly including a ban on overtaking on lightly trafficked roads where cycle flows are high. Subject to any scheme trial, this prohibition could be accompanied by an advisory speed limit of 15mph.”

The ‘cycle streets’ is part of a raft of new legislation which could transform “Cycle City” Birmingham’s roads and the DfT will be advocating a big push from the city council.

Cyclists on Britain's roads
Cyclists on Britain's roads
 

The document said: “The Government is committed to improving conditions for cyclists, through various initiatives including the Cycle Cities Ambition Grant, the Cycle Safety Fund, and the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

“Traffic signs, signals and road markings form an important part of the toolkit used by local authorities to provide cycling infrastructure. The review recommended a range of changes that should be made to help improve cycling facilities.

“Since then, we have worked closely with various local authorities who have been trialling some of these ideas on their networks.”

The changes include traffic lights with special sequences for cycles to allow them to get away first, new route branding, ‘no entry except cycles’ signs, safety bike ‘trixi’ mirrors, and better lane markings.

The report adds: “Where pedestrian zone signs include the “no motor vehicles” sign, the zone will now be referred to as a “pedestrian and cycle zone”.

“In ‘Signing the Way’ we committed to trialling a new form of crossing, similar to a zebra crossing, which would allow cyclists to ride across it. While we have been unable to authorise a trial of such a crossing in the interim, we have worked with stakeholders to develop a design for inclusion in the revised TSRGD.”

David Cox, chair of CTC, the national cycling charity said: “There is hardly anywhere where cyclists get priority. You are either sharing space with faster heavier motor vehicles or allowed onto shared use pavements with pedestrians and as on the A38 to Selly Oak these are poorly designed discontinuous and slow. Canal tow paths similarly pedestrians should have priority.

“Birmingham’s cycle lanes are narrow and only protected by paint. Advanced stop lines are of limited use, often if ignored and potentially dangerous. I am greatly encouraged by Birmingham’s new approach.

“I do 6,000 miles a year on my bikes and thoroughly enjoy it. Current conditions put off too many people and we are way behind Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Germany.”

Chris Lowe Chair of Push Bikes, Birmingham’s voice for cycling said: “This idea of cycle streets is interesting, but the focus should be on livable streets – where the local residents can feel comfortable with their children playing outside, and where the street has a community feel, not a rat-run feel. Cycle streets would need to be supported by the community.

“Birmingham City Council is trialling 20 mph speed limits, and has received positive feedback from residents who want their own streets to be 20 mph as well. Push Bikes believes that consistency in speed limits will help car users to understand what is expected of them, so we support a high level of consistency in the new speed limits that Birmingham City Council are trialling.

“To create livable streets and comfortable space for cycling, preventing rat-running is essential, and Push Bikes would like that to be a priority.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We are currently considering our response to the consultation being carried out. Here is Birmingham we have started the Birmingham Cycle Revolution project and are in the process of planning for the trial of 20 is Plenty – which will see 20mph limits implemented on the vast majority of city roads.

“These two schemes will make cycling much safer and easier and in the city, improving the health of citizens and the environment in the process.”