The establishment of the West Midlands Combined Authority and Transport for West Midlands earlier in 2016 is giving a real impetus to the West Midlands Cycling Charter and its Implementation Plan. Several of us were at a recent meeting of the Implementation Group and Hannah Dyan is now the Cycling Charter Coordinator (contact HannahDayan [at] centro.org.uk). This is a great strategy and well located in the broader transport vision of Connected for Growth. The Metro Mayoral Elections in May will be critical in ensuring that the new Mayor is fully conversant with and supportive of this regional approach to cycling. Sustrans are in contact with each of the candidates with a view to holding a hustings on cycling, walking and active travel themes in the New Year. We should also be trying to influence their manifestos. Also relevant is the lobbying of the Civil Society Forum who have published a Vision for Transport for Quality of Life. Their Engage West Midlands Transport Group are seeking views on this Vision by the 9th January.
The West Midlands has been rethinking its approach to transport and growth with a welcome emphasis on active travel and public transport but as always there is a powerful momentum behind trying to get ahead of congestion by yet more road building and a new threat from the speculative bubble building up around autonomous vehicles. Even if powered by electric motors as an alternative to the lethal diesels of today such vehicles may put constraints on the freedom of pedestrians and cyclists and still clutter the roads with single occupant or unoccupied vehicles!
Economic Benefits of Cycling
Later in the year we are planning to bring together people with an interest in engineering, sustainability, jobs, skill and economic growth to explore cycling and the cyclical economy having been inspired by Isla Rowntree and the IslaBikes Imagine project.
Local Community Cycling
We are also interested in local communities working together to establish Mini-Hollands and convivial cycling environments in residential areas. It is early days but the success of Waltham Forest in East London has triggered local activists in two Birmingham suburbs, Bournville and Kings Heath, to explore what can be done to create safer local networks with initially temporary changes and redesign. An initial meeting in Kings Heath is to be held on January 18th.
Equality and Inclusivity
Big Birmingham Bikes has had a very successful year bringing cycling to new communities and the distinctive orange bikes are a familiar sight. This initiative has taken on a new dimension with community rides from Wellbeing Centres with support from British Cycling's Ride Activators and Cycling UK's Community Cycling Clubs. In Handsworth a new, community cycle club has been launched.
Similar clubs are now planned for Sandwell working with the Beat the Streets physical activity project.
The consultation on the Black Country Walking and Cycling Strategy was very welcome with a comprehensive approach and several well worked up improvement schemes. However, getting adequate cycle parking into the redeveloped station at Wolverhampton still seems to be an uphill struggle for Wolves on Wheels.
Meanwhile in Coventry a change within the Labour administration has led to the experimental closure of some Bus Lanes (also used by cyclists of course) and now a proposed ban on cycling in the City Centre. Our friends in Coventry Cycle Campaign have been assiduous in following through on local planning proposals and having some success but it does look as though Coventry is out of step with the West Midlands regional approach and learning nothing from the great success with urban realm, economic development and active travel in the neighbouring and now iconic city of Leicester.
In Birmingham the Cycle Revolution continues with a significant change of approach to on-road cycle schemes with a new agreement to concentrate on two segregated high quality demonstration routes on the A34 and the A38 which have largely been welcomed by Push Bikes. Meanwhile Push Bikes has responded proactively to a consultation about developments in Snow Hill and the Colmore Business District with a well thought-out proposal for contraflow cycling across the district and a cross city cycling route on Colmore Row.
So plenty to be getting on with in 2017 and this quick round up has only scratched the surface of what's happening in the West Midlands to improve and encourage cycling.