As noted in the last update, this is the last year of existing funding for the Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) and with a new set of cabinet members in Birmingham City Council (BCC) following the local elections at the start of May, there will need to be some decisions made about the future of the BCR programme beyond the end of this year. The two cabinet members leading on the BCR programme - Lisa Trickett, as cabinet member for Clean Streets, Recycling and the Environment, and Stewart Stacey, for Transport and Roads - have been replaced by Majid Mahmood and Waseem Zaffer respectively. Stewart Stacey did not stand for re-election this year, and although Lisa Trickett was re-elected, it seems that the bin strikes last summer led to her removal as the crisis over green waste bins resulted her predecessor, James McKay, leaving the role in 2014. Lisa Trickett had overseen the BCR programme since BCC was awarded the funds by central government, and Stewart Stacey oversaw the change in direction for the main road routes that saw the designing of the high-quality cycle tracks being built now on the A34 and A38. We don't yet know what approach the new cabinet will take to cycling in Birmingham.
As you can see from the photo at the top of this article, the main road routes are not yet complete, but we are told that they are on schedule for completion by the end of this year. The BCR Facebook page has two public albums of photos, one for the A34 route, and one for the A38 route (you shouldn't need a Facebook account to view the albums). You can see the width of the cycle tracks - 3 meters wide - from the albums and from our photo at the top of this article. This is substantially wider than some of the other cycle tracks built using Cycle City Ambition funds, such as the Leeds to Bradford cycle superhighway, and the surface is being freshly laid to the same standard as a new road. Work has been going on this month on the junction of the Middleway and Bristol Road, to create space for the cycle track and change the layout to give two turning lanes onto the Middleway. In a few weeks we should be able to see what that junction will look like, but from Monday 21st May, the layout for the general carriageway will reflect the final layout of the finished junction.
The installation of signs for 20mph in the B2 area (covering Edgbaston, Selly Oak and Cotteridge) is progressing well, we are told, and completion is expected by July this year. You can download maps of the 20mph areas from the BCC website here.
The route in Woodgate Valley Country Park is nearing completion. The tarmac track has been laid, and just the final finish of tar-and-chip is yet to be laid. We are told that should happen soon. The three remaining schemes, which we reported on in the last update, should have work starting in June this year.
The towpath widening works in Edgbaston Tunnel should be finished by the 25th of May, according to the latest update from the Canal and River Trust. The delay was caused by a rethink of the metal frame for the path when the contractors initially got on site earlier this year. There are photos of the metal frame at the beginning of May on the Birmingham Cyclist forum, courtesy of some boaters who are still able to travel down the canal. (Update to the update - the BCR team have shared photos of the almost complete towpath through the tunnel. It looks like they may make the 25th May deadline.)
Improved access schemes at Yardley Road and Lincoln Road (Yardley) are almost complete, and the access point at Pershore Road in Kings Norton should be finish by the end of June. Schemes at Brookvale Road, in Witton, and at the back of Alexander Stadium will be started by the end of July. There are two more schemes being developed, at Northbrook Street in Ladywood and at Bristol Road next to the new Sense building (close to Selly Oak station). The access ramp next to the Sense building has been increasing in cost as the plans have been developed, but the alternative existing route, along the Dingle, needs resurfacing after being damaged during building work, but it is not clear who owns the Dingle and so who has responsibility to maintain it. If you know who owns it, please do let us know.
The second phase of Big Birmingham Bikes (BBB) have started to be distributed, with hopefully all 2,000 bikes to be given out by the end of July. Recipients will be asked to keep a diary of rides or use a smartphone app, instead of having a GPS unit fitted in the headset. This has saved money, and means that we can all now contribute our cycling data to Birmingham City Council by using the same smartphone app - SETA app. BCC will be able to plan better cycling routes if they have more data about who is cycling and where. We will write a review of the SETA app and discuss the benefits of collecting this data soon.
The BBB team have also launched a children's Bike Bank to help families with bikes as their children grow in size. There are currently 1,000 bikes, which are painted the same orange colour as the adult BBBs, although they are mainly second-hand children's bikes that have been refurbished. As the children grow, their parents can return the bike and borrow a larger one. Watch out for these orange bikes around Birmingham.
We have been told that the activity around the BBBs has been so successful in getting more people cycling, that there is now investment coming in from British Cycling and Cycling UK. From the £1.5 million spent on the BBBs plus associated activities, it has been calculated that there has been a return of about £2.5 million, from things like replaced car journeys and increased health from the physical exercise. There are now 20 community cycling groups who meet up regularly, and we hope that these new cycle users will be able to bring their new perspective to guide the future progress of the BCR programme in Birmingham. You can find the closest community cycling group to you using the BCR website.
As we reported last time, Nextbike UK have been appointed to deliver the cycle hire scheme, which should be funded through advertising and user's fees. The first docks will be placed on the University of Birmingham (UoB) campus, based on the existing plans that UoB developed for a separate bid for a cycle hire scheme in 2017. Those docks should be installed early summer, with docks in Birmingham city centre being rolled out from early autumn. Docks in Coventry and Wolverhampton centres will be rolled out at the same time. In total there will be 5,000 bikes with 500 docking stations in the West Midlands in the initial scheme, with 2,000 bikes and 200 docking stations in Birmingham's boundaries. We've been told that this is the largest single bike hire scheme in the UK, based on the geographical area covered.
Following the first phase of cycle parking rolled out around the Colmore Row Business District, the second phase of installation should start soon. Details of the consultation, with locations, can be found in the BeHeard consultation archive.