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Birmingham's £23 million cycling transformation only benefits 'white, young men' says city councillor

The Department for Transport has given Birmingham £17 million to become a 'Cycle City' but the scheme has come in for criticism from one elected council member

Dominic Lipinski Cyclists on Britain's roads
Cyclists using a dedicated lane, more of which could be coming to Birmingham city centre soon

A £23 million scheme intended to transform cycling in Birmingham has been blasted as discriminatory and only benefiting "white, young men".

The Department for Transport has given Birmingham £17 million to become a "Cycle City" which will create a network of safe new routes aimed at tempting commuters out of their cars.

The council will also put £6.3 million into the project which will see an upgrade to some of the busiest routes in the city including Hagley Road and Bristol Road, with dedicated cycle lanes and safety improvements at junctions to encourage more cycling.

After the views were published in the Post, there was a strong backlash on social media.

But at the Edgbaston District committee Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) said she was concerned that such a large amount of effort and investment was being spent on a mode of transport predominantly used by young men.

"The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men," she said.

She added that, while there were exceptions, "most elderly people are not going to cycle, and it would be dangerous for them to start on our streets now".

The councillor said disabled people did not benefit from cycling and that "women of any ethnic group who wish to wear modest clothing, and I count myself in that category, are not going to cycle. It is a discriminatory form of transport".

Read more: Off-road cycle routes ideal for the whole family

Other councillors said the money would be better spent repairing potholes to improve cycle safety while Coun Caroline Badley (Lab, Quinton) suggested improving the grade of road surface around drains as this was a major concern for cyclists.

And Coun John Alden (Con, Harborne) argued cyclists should be licensed and insured like motorists are if they wished to use the road.

Under the cycle revolution, cash will be used to buy 5,000 bikes and set up cycle hubs from which they can be rented or used for training.

Councillors were stunned to find out that 2,000 of them would be given away.

They were told that those being given cycles, which would have Birmingham Cycle branding, would be vetted, be asked to sign and have both a bike serial number and their details recorded.

But they admitted it might be difficult to stop people breaking the agreement or selling the bike.

Pic: Tim Ireland/PA Wire Cycling

Coun Matthew Gregson (Lab, Quinton) said: "My concern is that we are giving these bikes away to people who are not going to use them. This would be a waste of public money."

He suggested they just used the lease scheme to test public demand and only give them away to those who demonstrated a commitment to cycling.

Coun Gregson added: "Otherwise, it's a massive waste at a time when we've got very few resources. We should send back a message to the Department for Transport that this part of the scheme is an absolute nonsense.”

Paul Simpkins, one of the officials running the Cycle Revolution scheme said one of the conditions of the grant was the investment was made by September 2015 - otherwise the Government might claim the money back.

He said the investment was going into routes, including major roads, canals and parks within a 20-minute cycle commute of the city centre - starting with routes to the south and west.

As well as bike loan and free bikes, there will also be a training courses to give people the confidence to take up cycling.

The aim of the policy is to double the number of trips made by bike from five per cent to ten per cent of the total in the city by 2033 – with the aim of making the city greener, healthier and safer.

Proposals are currently out for public consultation.

Coun James McKay (Lab, Harborne), a cyclist, defended the investment, saying: "Everyone accepts the model of us all getting around in single occupancy cars is broken. With a rising population, this will lead to gridlock so we have to change our way of doing things."

He said that government had recognised this in issuing the grant.

His colleague Coun Caroline Badley (Lab, Quinton) added: "We are going to have to move to a position where we have more people using bikes and we know that many people do not use bikes because they do not feel safe.

"While there are some reservations, this investment is generally a good thing."


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