Following an announcement by Nick Clegg MP at the end of November 2014 of a further £114 million for the 8 cities who received Cycle City Ambition funds in 2013, Birmingham City Council (BCC) has submitted a bid for a further £22.1 million, matched by £7.9 million of local funds. This is phase 3 of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR), as a further £8 million for phase 2 was secured by BCC last summer (although these two pieces of funding will run side-by-side). The decision on this bid will be announced by the DfT in March, and will be reported on our website.
In BCR Phase 3, there will be 5 main corridors undergoing improvements: Harborne Road, Lichfield Road, Coventry Road (A45), Bristol Road and Birchfield Road (A34). The bid documents refer to “high-quality ‘showcase’ routes” to be delivered on some of these main corridors, which should mean wide, protected cycle lanes. On these routes, however, the challenge will be providing safe space for cycling dangerous junctions, such as the Bristol Road / Priory Road junction which suppress demand for cycling and walking. The bid refers to providing pedestrian and cycle phases at this location, which will be a positive improvement, but whether a single attractive infrastructure solution can be found for the cycle users who currently ride on the carriageway and those who use the shared-use paths remains to be seen.
What about Sprint rapid transit buses?
In November 2014, BCC also launched ‘Birmingham Connected’, which lays out a vision of a network of rapid transit buses, called ‘Sprint’, as a mass transit solution which is cheaper than laying down tramlines. One key corridor is the A45 (Coventry Road) leading from the city centre to Birmingham airport. The ‘Birmingham Connected’ paper argues for road space re-allocation to sustainable modes of transport, and if a Sprint project goes ahead on the A45, it would bring in extra money for a significant level of infrastructure change which could also benefit cycles. But it is important that there is joined up planning between BCR and any Sprint project to ensure that work done under BCR is not later undone by a Sprint project.
Canals and green routes
By the end of Phase 3, in 2018, all canals within Birmingham city boundaries will have had their towpaths on at least one side resurfaced and new access points will be added. In addition, BCC propose a further 21km of upgraded green routes in phase 3 and a trial of lighting (possibly solar) in critical areas. The importance of this was highlighted in December after a couple of muggings on green routes near Stirchley and Kings Heath. One factor appears to be the lack of over-head lighting on these routes, and it is important that BCC takes steps to improve this. The green routes need to be useable the whole year round in order to properly bring about a cycling revolution.
Local links - liveable streets
As well as continuing to deliver connections where green routes meet the highway network, the BCC are proposing a pilot scheme in a residential area to improve connectivity and permeability for cycling and walking trips, while discouraging rat-running. Measures would include exempting cycle users from traffic regulations such as banned turns and one-way streets, closing residential streets to through motor traffic and upgrading paths linking cul-de-sacs to permit cycles on them. Small measures such as these are relatively cheap to implement, but can make a very significant impact on the environment of residential streets and can provide important routes for cycle users. Dutch residential areas don’t have the through motor traffic that British residential areas do, and it is measures such as these that achieve that difference. This is an important step forward that was previously missing from the Birmingham Cycle Revolution.