Birmingham Cyclist

Cycling in and around Birmingham England

I stumbled across a streaming webcam in Bruges a couple of weeks ago.   Yes, that's Belgium, not the Netherlands or Denmark, and it shows an endless stream of people cycling, at all hours of the day (though I admit I haven't watched it after midnight).   They ride mostly on ordinary bikes, with no hi-viz or helmets, and most ride at a good pace (though I did see someone cycling as he chatted to someone walking).   I've also seen a roadie zip through at a terrific pace.   Just now I saw a platoon of Segways head out from the market square (when you build infrastructure that supports cycling, you provide for all sorts of forms of transport that you never see here).   Doesn't it look so much nicer than streets clogged with barely moving cars?

Yet you wont see anything much that is specifically for cycling, just a few signs on Street View indicating that cycling is allowed.   What you have to look for is what is missing - heavy motor vehicles (cars, trucks, and buses).   You will see some, but not many.   Clearly motor traffic is restricted in some way.   When you restrict motor traffic but allow cycling and walking, that's filtered permeability, and the absence of motor traffic encourages people to ride.   When asked why they don't cycle, most people say the traffic makes cycling too dangerous.   Given Matt's recent post, it seemed a good opportunity to link to this webcam.

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In a recent discussion elsewhere about the hazard that tram tracks pose to cyclists, I wrote about spending a couple of days getting lost with a bike in Ghent.  Ghent has tram tracks, which are pretty much the same as British tram tracks.  Some of them are on narrow streets where they pose an unavoidable hazard to cyclists.  But the difference is that you don't have impatient motorists hanging off your back wheel, pressuring you to to take risks and potentially running you over if you do fall off your bike.

I'm not sure what measures they take to reduce motor traffic in the city centre.  It may be as simple as a lack of abundant cheap parking.

(Tram drivers themselves seem pretty good about giving cyclists room, even British ones.)

I don't know Brussels, but when I visited Assen (in the Netherlands), there was very evidently a surplus of parking, with knock-down prices being offered.   Driving short distances, however, is awkward.   Cycle journeys, on the other hand, are always direct and away from motor traffic, so people ride a bike rather than drive.

The restricting parking approach seems to have been effective at reducing congestion and (though funding major improvements) increasing public transport use in Nottingham:

Interesting how effective it is, given that it only affects commuters.  Visitors can still park in Nottingham, although prices make the Park & Ride more attractive for day visitors.  Through traffic isn't affected at all.  Anecdotally, Nottingham does seem less congested than it did 10 years ago, with the exceptions being roadworks-related.

Nottingham's been undergoing modest cycle infrastructure improvements, notably a hire bike scheme and a proliferation of secure cycle parking.  They've recently built a couple of quality segregated cycle routes, though lack of connectedness at the city centre end means they currently function mainly as a sort of Deliveroo Expressway.  There's also some not too awful shared-use infrastructure that appeared as part of the tram works, much of which provides an alternative to riding alongside the rails.

I think the webcam in the link is Bruges, not Brussels (or certainly when I looked this morning).

I've been to Brussels a couple of times in the last months and there is no where near as much cycling as, say London. While the medieval centre shares a lot of similarities with Bruges, by the nature of the political and business dimension of the place in addition to the tourism, there's a lot more hustle a bustle and less pooling around on bikes.

That said, there is a great public transport system of metros, trams and buses, a bike hire scheme and it is looking at improving the quality of life with a big filtered permeability scheme where they are running a trial of pedestrianising one of the main boulevards which used to be clogged with cars with the aim of it becoming this:

The idea of keeping cars out off of these big boulevards and making nice relaxed shared spaces (which can of course only happen if there are other transport options available) is something other cities could really make use of. I note, Birmingham's pedestrianised centre very much frowns on cyclists sharing space with shoppers.

Yes, you're right.   I'm not sure why I got into the mindset of thinking "Brussels" having been poking around Bruges on Street View after watching the camera, but it might be because originally I had been looking for a streaming webcam in Brussels.   I've corrected the title and text.   I can't say I know Bruges any better.

It really makes no difference whether a city is medieval, Victorian, or modern. All can be made fit for cycling.   A lot of the "bustle" we are used to in some cities is just the domination of motor traffic.   Remove it, and you find that more people are able to get around and without the "bustle".   City centres are simply too small for people to get around them in something as large as a motor vehicle.

Over the past few years the tram and the CYCLISTS DISMOUNT signs have made it harder and harder to cycle through Birmingham city centre, with the net result that people are resorting to cycling through shopping arcades, ignoring the CYCLISTS DISMOUNT signs, and cycling contraflow on the one-way streets.   Birmingham is building a mess that is not fit for purpose in the 21st century.   But I guess that's better than those cities still trying to maintain their centres as giant, multi-lane road junctions.

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