In January we sadly lost a dedicated Birmingham campaigner, when Roy Watson passed away. He was a committed contributor to the stakeholder meetings for the Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) and tirelessly pushed for continued improvements to the many green routes within the West Midlands. Roy worked tirelessly, creating the Birmingham Greenways website and the Birmingham Greenways map for which we are very grateful. We would like to share some of our memories of Roy with you here.
Catherine Watton (Push Bikes):
The first time I met Roy was after a BCR Stakeholder meeting. I was new to campaigning and had spoken up during that meeting. He came directly over to me and said how much he valued my input. I don't think Roy realised how much I appreciated his kind words then and the many times subsequently. Often as a young woman you can feel quite disempowered in large meetings surrounded by what feels like more experienced men. Roy made me feel like an equal in those situations and I think I have a stronger voice for that reason.
Over the following years Roy continued to support my contribution to the cycle campaign world and would always share his knowledge and ideas so generously. I hope that some of Roy's insights into new opportunities will one day be successfully realised and we can dedicate them to him. Roy will be very much missed by all of us who had the pleasure of working alongside him.
Robert Latham (Push Bikes):
Roy was a warm and friendly personality whom I will miss. His enthusiasm for cycling led him to research, create, and have published the Birmingham Greenways map. For those that don't know it, it shows the many car-free routes cyclists can take around Birmingham. I've always sought out such routes when planning journeys by bike, either for leisure of for transport, but Roy's great contribution to cycling in Birmingham makes that easy, no matter where you are in and around the city. Inspired by Roy's informative map, I've written about one such journey here. However, I most often met Roy not on the Greenways, but in the BCR meetings we both attended. Indeed, Roy can be seen in one of the photos in the carousel at the top of the Push Bikes home page. It would be nice to see both the city council and those beyond its borders capitalising on Roy's legacy, and using it as the basis of a properly signed network, with the road links marked in red made cycle-friendly for all.
Bracken van Ryssen (Solihull Cycle Campaign):
Since I was first introduced to Roy as a Solihull cycle campaigner, I have been treated like an old friend and welcomed enthusiastically. Roy's passion, drive and get-things-done attitude have always been a source of inspiration and motivation to me. Roy worked tirelessly to find, document and improve even the smallest cycle connections, more often than not he was the one who brought opportunities for improvements to my attention. Roy's legacy, the Birmingham Greenways Map, remains the most comprehensive and detailed map of cycling and walking routes in the West Midlands and I will no doubt be continuing to consult the copy Roy gifted me for years to come.
Chris Lowe (Push Bikes):
I first remember meeting Roy through the Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) stakeholder meetings, although he had submitted evidence to the transport scrutiny committee's report on cycling prior to that. When the BCR meetings started, I didn't really know much of Birmingham outside of the city centre, but Roy had an encyclopaedic knowledge of vast swathes of the West Midlands, let along Birmingham. Although I know more of the city now, I still would get regularly lost as Roy talked about different towpaths and roads when we discussed the various green routes that were being developed. One memory that stands out for me is the ride that Roy took us on around the Black Country with the then West Midlands mayoral candidate, Beverley Nielsen. I'm not sure who else could have talked a mayoral candidate into spending a whole day that late in the campaign out with 4 people on bikes. Roy had an immense energy and enthusiasm, and was always had new ideas for green routes that could be developed. We all learnt a lot from Roy, and I don't think he can be replaced. The BCR meetings won't be the same without Roy.
John Bennett (Push Bikes):
Roy believed that Birmingham and the west Midlands had many worthy features that are 'undersold'. The growth in tourism has massive but unrecognised potential. Roy's beautiful Greenaway's map was the result of a personal campaign to correct this lack of vision. So too was Roy's well-researched plan for a pedestrian and cycle path from the city boundary at Bearwood along the Chad valley that would connect Harbourne, Edgbaston and the Rea valley.
David Cox (Push Bikes):
Roy Watson brought a unique blend of enthusiasm, energy and creative flair to cycle campaigning in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Roy’s evidence to a City Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee helped provide the basis for the Birmingham Cycling Revolution. Roy turned up at the meetings with rolls of high quality large scale maps to persuade councillors and officers. Roy had been spending his retirement exploring Birmingham’s canals and greenways on his old Claud Butler mountain bike. He mapped routes and potential new links, took photos, and researched the history and potential of these amazing resources for cycling and walking. Roy didn’t just lobby and agitate he put his own time and money into getting things done and the wonderful Greenways of Birmingham Map will be part of Roy's legacy.
James Avery (Coventry):
I think the best story I could tell you about Roy was when my parents met him on the train as they boarded at Warwick, all bound for London. They then continued to spend the whole journey down to Marylebone putting the transport world to rights, and Roy’s enthusiasm really shone through with them. My dad is the former Director of Public Health for South Warwickshire, and he has always been keen to push cycling. He remembers how keen Roy was to map the greenways. Now we are starting to see not just the greenways opened up, but also the wider on-street network in Birmingham that we so badly need.