On the Friday in September, the end of the "Summer of Cycling" was marked by an inaugural "Birmingham Councillors Bike Ride". This was a serious fact finding experience organised by City cycling activists.
Afterwards, David Cox Chair of CTC the National Cycling Organisation and one of the instigators said "It was brilliant, much better than I could have hoped."
A good group of Councillors (see below) turned out including leading members of the Cabinet and Chair of the Transport and Connectivity Scrutiny Committee. This Committee is currently carrying out a review which focuses on cycling and we are all invited to submit our views by October 5th.
The sun shone, Graham Lennard (BCC) led a peleton of about 20 riders with commanding skill and improvised as our best laid plans crunched against the harsh realities of Friday afternoon traffic! As we waited on Victoria Square handing out Bike North Birmingham leaflets, Walking and Cycling Maps etc a dull day deteriorated into high winds and rain. Staff and volunteers from the Council and partner organisations including Smarter Travel, Be Active, Centro, British Cycling, Sustrans, Pushbikes, CTC, NHS etc all weathered the storm hanging onto the gazebos to keep them on the ground.
Then as the group formed, some on bikes borrowed from the Be Active Bike HUBs, the sun came out, the City looked washed, bright and cheerful again. We walked through Paradise (not) visited Cycle Chain's new beautiful Bike Boat at Cambrian Wharf.The ride continued along the canal and circled back to Broad St using some contra-flows on one-way streets. But as we pottered down John Bright St towards New St Station, Hurst Street and the markets, the planned route became gridlocked with cars and buses and impenetrable even for bikes (or at least 20 of them in convoy). Councillors were shown just how poor and uncoordinated many of the routes into and across the City are at present.
Before trying out the new priority system up Albert St and back to Colmore Row we found ourselves forced to walk up the pavement beside Selfridges through the mass of pedestrians and bus queues.
Riding alongside officers and volunteers enabled Councillors' questions to be answered as they arose. While there have been important improvements in cycling in the City and there has been much more cross-party interest, there is so much more to do to encourage cycling uptake and no where is this more important than at the heart of the City centre where so many cycle trips intersect.
The ride launched a research and consultation programme on how better to develop cycling within the changing patterns of development around the City Centre. This is being led by cycle planning guru Adrian Lord from Arup. We will get more chance to examine his findings and have input to promised improvements as the area and its transport hubs for buses and trains are re-modelled.
The ride still got back to Vic Square on schedule so participants could meet their other commitments. The Councillors loved it, the want to do it again and were very receptive to the idea of an All Party Cycling Group like the ones in Westminster and Holyrood. Political interest in cycling has improved markedly over the last two years in Birmingham as elsewhere and this Ride marked a step change which is greatly to be welcome by those of us who have cycled and championed cycling in the City for many years.
Cllr McKay who commutes along the Hagley Rd daily said "This is about politicians from across the city coming together saying cycling is important for our City because of health, carbon, cost . its an all round good thing for this city and if we can show that we have cross party support then its better for cycling." His full interview is here
Councillors on the ride included :-
- Cllr James McKay Cabinet Lead for a Safe, Green and Sustainable City
- Steve Bedser Cabinet Lead for Health and Well Being
- Cllr Brigid Jones Cabinet Lead for Children and Family Services
- Cllr Lisa Trickett Cabinet Lead for Devolution and the new Chair of the Cycling Forum
- Cllr John O'Shea
- Cllr Peter Griffiths
- Cllr Tim Evans
- Cllr Victoria Quinn Chair of Transport Overview and Scutiny
- Cllr David Radcliffe Chair of consultative groups like the Cycling Forum in the previous administration
Cllrs Ian Ward, Stewart Stacey and Peter Osborn were not able to join the ride but came out to Victoria Square to discuss the ride and cycling issues. Cllrs Tim Huxtable, Mariam Khan, Eva Phillips, Anita Ward (Deputy Lord Mayor, Paulette Hamilton and Paul Tilsley sent messages of support.