Bike West Midlands Update

New Policy Context

Cycle campaigning locally and nationally is a long game but Gear Change, LTN1/20 and the (E)ATF response to the COVID pandemic are game changers and the culmination of years of work nationally and locally. In spite of some row back in response to political pressures and a disappointing Public Spending Review on the 26th November 2020, there is a great opportunity to transform active travel and the shape of our urban areas. Cycling and walking are centre stage like never before and built into the machinery of transport planning and funding in a more secure way.

Mayoral Election 2021

We have begun to prepare for the next round of WM Mayoral and WMPCC elections. In 2017 #Space4Cycling was the modest national ask of all candidates in Mayoral and local elections. Locally we had Big Bike Picnic (Hustings) well supported by all candidates. For 2021 there is not yet a nationally coordinated campaign but the pitch is likely to be a wider coalition with a #walkcycleplay emphasis. The key ask will be a promise to fully implement Gear Change to LTN1/20 standards and push for future tranches of funding. We have had discussions with Friends of the Earth to ensure active travel is embedded in their national 10 Point Climate Action Plan.

Impact of LTNs

When BWMN was launched “filtered permeability” (a typically obscure technical term) was one of the objectives. Now Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are widely publicised and debated and new ones becoming a reality in a few parts of Birmingham and Coventry. This is changing the constituency for cycle campaigning with local residents’ groups emerging and developing expertise and skills to lobby at constituency and ward level.

We have held three well attended Zoom workshops with Better Streets groups mainly from Birmingham. This has greatly boosted the scope of the traditional cycling campaign bringing in Living Streets members and parents concerned about school streets and playing out. It means that campaigning is more granular able to work at regional, city and ward level and expanding beyond the small and dedicated groups of cycling enthusiasts. Whats App and Zoom are great new technologies bypassing the need to book chilly local halls for meetings!

Cycling Mayors

This is an international concept which may take hold in the UK. Adam Tranter became Cycling Mayor for Coventry in March and has already had an impact on the city’s active travel ambitions. He is very skilled and well connected in the cycle industry and media. More recently, Chris Coyle has also emerged in Birmingham with racing background and an interest in eBikes Brum and the Cobble Café. He is promising to engage more young people in cycling among other ambitions.

Opposition and the Motor Lobby

Those of us who have attended Cycle Forums and Overview and Scrutiny Committees for over 20 years rarely see the “Motor Lobby”. Apart from the AA, RAC and RHA they’ve never had to work so hard. Motoring is common-sense, car parking always an issue for constituents, and most policy makers drive as a matter of course. The emergence and almost desperation of dubious outfits like the Association of British Drivers, Fair Fuel and One Ambridge shopkeeper groups is an indication of the success of active travel campaigning challenging the privileges and entitlement of 100 years of motordom.

Thought leadership during Lockdown !!

Birmingham Transport Plan and its Emergency version is inspirational. Chris Boardman as ever is the just excellent spokesperson for active travel. Cycling UK and the Active Travel Alliance are doing excellent work in Whitehall behind the scenes and more visibly in publications, media and analysis. The London Cycling Campaign’s latest publication Climate Safe Streets is their most comprehensive and exciting policy document yet. Finally Brian Deegan’s weekly Ideas with Beers sessions have kept me sane through Lockdown/Shielding etc.