Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another win for Birmingham

Earlier in the year, as Birmingham proudly hosted the Cycle City Expo, Andrew Stunell, a Lib Dem MP, accidentally leaked on the internet (and then withdrew it) that Manchester had won their bid for money to develop further their cycling potential. The assumption that followed was that there was no way that Birmingham would win, given the size of Manchester's bid. This view gained a lot of traction - even I bought in to it - but Monday saw the announcement that we were all wrong. Yet again, Birmingham has won a competitive bid and gained the largest chunk of the £62m won by any single local authority (the Manchester bid covers the Greater Manchester area and Leeds is actually a West Yorkshire bid including work across Leeds and Bradford). We've secured £17m of funding - to go with a further £7m of city council money - to make some major improvements for cyclists in Birmingham.
Infographic from Dave Atkinson @roadccdave
Although this is going to be used to create 70 miles of new cycling routes and improve the 60 miles that we already have, this is only a start. As was pointed out during the Changing Gear scrutiny inquiry, the infrastructure in the Netherlands has taken four decades of work to get to the level that it is now - it has taken consistent investment and political will, backed by popular pressure, to get to their standard of provision. As a city, we're a long way behind this curve and this money is only a contribution to what we need to do to revolutionise cycling in our city.

This is a long term investment for the city - changing how we travel and making sure that we can use the most appropriate method for the journey will make our city cleaner, it will improve the air quality and have significant health benefits well beyond the value of the investment. It makes financial and health sense to do this.

While I'm delighted to see this boost for cycling in Birmingham, a tweeter (@roadccdave - Dave Atkinson) put this money into the context that we normally see for transport projects. The realignment of the A45 Coventry Road to allow the extension to the airport runway has cost £30m by itself. The Cycle Expo saw Andrew Gilligan, Boris' cycling tsar, visit Birmingham and tell us that he has the same amount to spend on a single project on the Embankment as we have won from the government for the whole city. I'm not being ungrateful - but let's put this into context.

Of course, we now have to deliver on the promise. That's the next challenge.

By the way - SkyRide Birmingham returns to the city on Sunday September 15. Sign yourself up....

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