The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (WM ITA) are consulting on a strategic transport plan for the West Midlands, intended to shape the development of the transport networks in the area over the next 20 years. This consultation is important as it will set a transport agenda for the new West Midlands Combined Authority (expected to be ratified by the UK Parliament in April 2016) which will have influence over transport, economic development and regeneration in the 7 West Midlands boroughs. In London, it is TfL that is providing the funds for individual London boroughs to develop their cycle networks, following Boris Johnson's commitment to spend more money on cycling in London, and we can expect that 'Transport for the West Midlands' (as the WM ITA may be renamed) will provide the same function here.
The metropolitan cycle network of high quality core routes supplemented by quieter green routes is perhaps the most interesting part of the plan for many cycle users (See page 18 of the plan, sections 4.30 to 4.32). Push Bikes is strongly in support of this idea, which would make it easier to cycle across the West Midlands, enabling easier commuting between the different boroughs, and helping people living in the centre to cycle out to the beautiful countryside surrounding the conurbation (it is no surprise that cycling clubs are concentrated around the edge of the conurbation). For this reason alone, it is worthwhile responding to this consultation to support the delivery of a regional cycle network.
We will start with our recommendations, and then put our comments and observations after that. When you respond, please make use of those recommendations that you think are important.
Push Bikes response:
Push Bikes is pleased to see that the WM ITA 'Movement for Growth' plan includes a measurable modal share of cycling to aim for along with a metropolitan cycle network of high quality core routes. Delivering a high quality cycle network, as TfL is doing in London, would provide a very large benefit to cycling in the West Midlands. However there are several areas in which we feel the plan could be much better:
(1) Movement for Growth has no no commitment to a level of spending on cycle infrastructure. For the West Midlands to achieve the target modal share of 10% for cycling, serious investment will be required in infrastructure. The APPCG's report "Get Britain Cycling" recommends a budget minimum of £10 per person per year, raising to £20 per person per year later. Other European cities are spending far more than this, with Trondheim investing €75 per person per year in order to catch up with the Dutch. The DfT has consistently found that investment in cycling returns at least £5 per £1 invested, which is significantly higher than for other transport schemes. If Movement for Growth does not include a spending goal of at least £10 per person per year in section 6, then the plan is not taking increasing cycling modal share seriously.
(2) The goal of a 10% modal share for cycling by 2033 is unambitious, and as such may encourage complacency in early years, leading to a re-setting of the modal share goal in the 2020's if the next transport plan finds there has been an insufficient increase in cycle modal share. The APPCG report notes that Seville achieved a 10-fold increase in cycle use in only 3 years, from 0.5% to 5%. Setting targets of 5% by 2020 and 10% by 2025 for the West Midlands would a suitable sense of urgency that would better motivate the WM ITA to take prompt action to improve conditions for cycling.
(3) "Cycle and Ride" needs to be promoted across the West Midlands region as the best solution to the 'final mile' link between public transport and the front door. "Cycle and Ride" is far more space efficient than "Park and Ride", and emits none of the CO2 that cars do, while significantly increasing the catchment area for public transport compared with walking. At peak hours, "Cycle and Ride" can disperse much greater volumes of users in a shorter period than "Park and Ride" can, with minimal strain on the local road network. There are two elements to "Cycle and Ride": Ample cycle parking, including secure parking options; Attractive direct cycle routes to the public transport nodes. Recently Centro's focus has been on increasing cycle parking, but if road conditions are hostile, such as those around Rowley Regis station, then uptake of "Cycle and Ride" will fall far below its potential. In addition to the metropolitan cycle network, Movement for Growth should include a plan for attractive cycle routes to bus and train stations to be delivered by the regional transport authority.
(4) It is vitally important that all cycle infrastructure meets a minimum level of service. The Welsh Government's Active Travel Design Guidance has a cycle route audit tool, and TfL's cycle design guide also has a audit tool in Section 2.2 of the design guide. The use of audit tools such as these is essential for ensuring that the cycle infrastructure built is fit for purpose. The biggest failing of the Birmingham City Council design guide is that it does not include an audit tool such as this. To ensure the use of these audit tools, Monitoring Indicator C5 needs to be amended as follows: "Overall Customer Satisfaction with travel by bike, measured through the factors identified in the TfL 'Cycling Level of Service' assessment tool."
(5) Monitoring Indicator P8 needs to be added as follows: "Cycle journeys on the high quality core routes must provide a comparable journey time to, or faster than the same cycle journey on the nearest main road alternative." It is very important that cycle users on the high quality core routes have as speedy and direct a route as using the nearest main road, in order that all cycle users feel that the core routes have been designed for them. Currently the majority of cycle routes do not provide a comparable journey time to the nearest main road, and that reduces their level of use by commuting cycle users. It is important to note that journey time is affected by factors such as: the amount of stopping at side roads and crossings; the quality of cycle path surface compared with the main carriageway; diversion from the most direct route (often the main road); the interaction between the width of the cycle path, volume of other users and presence of pavement furniture.
(6) Monitoring Indicator E6 needs to be amended as follows: "Number of Killed and Seriously Injured Casualties per mile travelled." This is very important, because if there is a substantial increase in the number of people cycling, then there will also be a rise in the numbers of KSIs, even if relatively speaking cycling becomes safer. If this number of KSIs is not taken in the context of the distance travelled, then this indicator will incorrectly measure the change in risk for each mode of transport. Do not make this elementary statistical error!