A £17 million bid has been launched to turn Birmingham into a centre for cycling – just as new figures revealed the region is the worst in the UK for people taking to pedal power.
The city council’s cabinet has agreed to press ahead with the scheme, which could see 70 miles of new routes created for bike users along with upgrades to a further 60 miles of the existing city network by 2016.
Officials are set to bid for government cash, which would be worth £22.9 million in total, as part of the “Birmingham Cycle Revolution” package.
The news comes as a Department for Transport publication revealed that people in Birmingham and the West Midlands are least likely to get on their bikes. The figures showed that just 12 per cent of adults in the West Midlands ride a cycle at least once a month. This compares to 19 per cent in the East of England, and 18 per cent in the South East.
The lowest proportion of people who cycle at least once a month was Sandwell with just one in 20.
Dudley has lowest proportion of people who cycle once a week – three per cent or about one in 33.
This makes the city’s bid all the more important, both for the health of the region, and also to try and reduce carbon emissions.
Developed for the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Grant scheme, the bid is focused on the greater city centre and a commuter catchment area of within 20 minutes cycling time from the ring road. Officials said that if the scheme goes ahead it would also see the introduction of wider measures such as improved cycle parking and bike hubs.
Coun James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, said: “Birmingham is known as a motoring city, but we need to embrace more sustainable methods of travel for many good reasons. Cycling is good for your health as exercise, helps to reduce traffic and carbon emissions and is also good for your finances.
“With rising fuel costs and a sluggish economy, the use of bikes offers people a way to save money at a time when cash is tight. Now is the time for a cycling revolution, and I hope the need for change, cyclist support for the plans and the ambition of our bid are persuasive forces that convince the Government to back Birmingham’s aspirations.”
The bid would support a 20-year “Cycle Revolution” to include:
l Transforming eight ‘main corridors’ into the city centre. This would include marked cycle facilities on the carriageway, shared use footways, improved routes through subways, bus lanes, and short diversions to avoid particularly complex junctions or other pinch points.
l Parallel Routes: A network of generally quieter routes running parallel to the main corridors, suitable for less experienced commuter cyclists as well as family trips.
l Green Routes: Improvements and extensions to the existing network of ‘off-road’ routes such as Rea Valley, Cole Valley and Tame Valley, particularly suitable for family and leisure cycling but also available for commuter cyclists.
l Canal Network: Extensive improvements to existing towpaths to provide a surface more suitable for all-weather cycling, with improved access at certain locations, and signing and wayfinding measures.
l Supporting Measures: Items such as cycle hire, parking and hubs, wayfinding, and a significant extension of 20mph areas.
l City Centre: A series of improvements within the Ring Road, including some contraflow cycle facilities and signing, to improve routes into and through the city centre.
l Smarter Choices: A supporting package of marketing and educational measures to promote cycling to residents and businesses.
Coun McKay added: “The plan we’ve put together gives Birmingham a clear way forward that will improve provision and facilities that will make cycling an integral part of our transport network, and a much more attractive and easy option for people to consider. For too long, the car has been an easy and obvious option, with cycling seen as unattractive.
“We want to create a city where people have genuine choice in their method of transport, where car dependency decreases and bikes are seen as equal to motor vehicles.”
Meanwhile, dozens of “Boris bikes” arrived outside Symphony Hall ready for the first Cycle City event this week. More than 300 delegates are taking part in the event to coincide with the council’s Festival of Cycling
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