Birmingham Cyclist

Cycling in and around Birmingham England

This video about joined up transport thinking and cycling in Vancouver should be a must-see for all Birmingham councillors, the WMCA Mayor and anyone involved in transport in the region.

Having cycled around Vancouver I can tesify to how pleasant it is to move around that city. And get this, you can take your bike on a bus.....

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I had noticed that Air France is running a series of adverts on RTÉ Radio 1 this year suggesting (amongst other things) flying to Vancouver for a cycling holiday. This video shows why. Wouldn't it be nice if Birmingham became a place that people visited for a cycling holiday, bringing their tourist money to the city? Alas it's not going to happen all the while the council works to fill as many streets as possible with ever bigger motor traffic jams.

Excellent integrated transport.  I took my Brompton to Vancouver years ago and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the City. From downtown to Univ of British Columbia (fabulous anthropology museum BTW) you had a choice of a scenic coastal route or a faster commuter route.

Making Birmingham a centre for cycle tourism is fully achievable. New St links us to most parts of the country and as Roy Watson has shown with the Greenways of Birmingham Map there are plenty of leisure routes out of the City. But then you find all the restrictions on cycle carriage by train and end up putting the bikes on top of a car and going somewhere else.

The green routes can be very pleasant, but they suffer from poor social safety, particularly after dark. The tow paths also suffer from poor objective safety, both from the immediately adjacent water, and from a range of obstacles such as recently erected totem pole signs and centuries old design features, some genuinely old, but many very recent.   The tow paths are largely inaccessible to people with disabilities, and even infrastructure built just recently maintains this discrimination.   Lighting is strongly resisted, and there seems to be strong resistance even to the proper signage that would be needed to help visitors to the city know where they are and which path they should take at junctions.

The narrow paths, some so narrow that two bikes cannot easily pass each other, are expected to take leisure cyclists, commuter cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and dogs (some leashed, most free range), in two directions simultaneously. They have insufficient capacity for the current loading, let alone a significant increase. What is particularly galling is that some of these paths are new.   Where the Dutch get four metre bitmac or concrete paths just for cycling, we get 1 metre gravel-strewn paths shared by everyone.   Except motor vehicles, which get over 3 metres per lane, and multiple lanes of dedicated space.   Toucan crossings will only grudgingly allow you to cross, and even then very often not across all the lanes in one go.

The green routes only provide for limited options.   Unless you want to head out and back on the same route, very often you will need to come off them.   But then you will find the lack of signage a very serious impediment.   You'll also find, for example, that the council has randomly closed NCN5 to cycling again, or they've directed heavy traffic down it.   We know that most people wont even consider cycling in heavy traffic.   In general many roads are hostile, with no-need-to-slow-down junctions, speeding motorists, and rat-running.   A lot of these roads could be quietened, like they are on the continent, but the council prefers to maintain motor traffic flows at all costs, even if that cost is a life.

The city centre is a nightmare for cycling, with the very limited tram creating a hazard and a barrier for cycling, and one way streets with no contraflow creating long detours.   Of course you can do what I do to get to the BCR stakeholder meetings, namely ignoring the CYCLISTS DISMOUNT signs, and riding through a shopping arcade, but this is hardly the sort of infrastructure that says "CYCLISTS WELCOME".

Not being able to take your bike on the bus and tram is only a tiny part of the problems this city has to address to make cycling acceptable to most people, as opposed to the minority with a high risk tolerance.   Yet getting the city council to see the opportunities and take them is a massive uphill struggle.   In the meantime, other countries and even other British cities are getting further and further ahead of us, decades so in the case of the Netherlands.   It was such a joy there to peddle at the speed I wanted to go at, to not worry about cars all the time, and to ride side-by-side for kilometre after kilometre chatting, or dropping back and enjoying the quiet brought about by reduced private car use.

Aboslutely spot on Robert!

Robert said:

The green routes can be very pleasant, but they suffer from poor social safety, particularly after dark. The tow paths also suffer from poor objective safety, both from the immediately adjacent water, and from a range of obstacles such as recently erected totem pole signs and centuries old design features, some genuinely old, but many very recent.   The tow paths are largely inaccessible to people with disabilities, and even infrastructure built just recently maintains this discrimination.   Lighting is strongly resisted, and there seems to be strong resistance even to the proper signage that would be needed to help visitors to the city know where they are and which path they should take at junctions.

The narrow paths, some so narrow that two bikes cannot easily pass each other, are expected to take leisure cyclists, commuter cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and dogs (some leashed, most free range), in two directions simultaneously. They have insufficient capacity for the current loading, let alone a significant increase. What is particularly galling is that some of these paths are new.   Where the Dutch get four metre bitmac or concrete paths just for cycling, we get 1 metre gravel-strewn paths shared by everyone.   Except motor vehicles, which get over 3 metres per lane, and multiple lanes of dedicated space.   Toucan crossings will only grudgingly allow you to cross, and even then very often not across all the lanes in one go.

The green routes only provide for limited options.   Unless you want to head out and back on the same route, very often you will need to come off them.   But then you will find the lack of signage a very serious impediment.   You'll also find, for example, that the council has randomly closed NCN5 to cycling again, or they've directed heavy traffic down it.   We know that most people wont even consider cycling in heavy traffic.   In general many roads are hostile, with no-need-to-slow-down junctions, speeding motorists, and rat-running.   A lot of these roads could be quietened, like they are on the continent, but the council prefers to maintain motor traffic flows at all costs, even if that cost is a life.

The city centre is a nightmare for cycling, with the very limited tram creating a hazard and a barrier for cycling, and one way streets with no contraflow creating long detours.   Of course you can do what I do to get to the BCR stakeholder meetings, namely ignoring the CYCLISTS DISMOUNT signs, and riding through a shopping arcade, but this is hardly the sort of infrastructure that says "CYCLISTS WELCOME".

Not being able to take your bike on the bus and tram is only a tiny part of the problems this city has to address to make cycling acceptable to most people, as opposed to the minority with a high risk tolerance.   Yet getting the city council to see the opportunities and take them is a massive uphill struggle.   In the meantime, other countries and even other British cities are getting further and further ahead of us, decades so in the case of the Netherlands.   It was such a joy there to peddle at the speed I wanted to go at, to not worry about cars all the time, and to ride side-by-side for kilometre after kilometre chatting, or dropping back and enjoying the quiet brought about by reduced private car use.

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