Every voter in the West Midlands Combined Authority area should have received the 'Election of Mayor for the West Midlands Combined Authority' booklet recently, with information about the election and a 2-page advert from each candidate. It is a bit of a mess because each candidates submits their own copy in different styles and formats and they or their party has paid about £5,000 to be included in addition to their election deposit. The booklet like many of the leaflets coming through the door also includes the usual party political digs at other candidates. As it happens there are no direct references to cycling, apart from the phrase "last mile solutions" used by one candidate.
Push Bikes, like the Bike West Midlands Network, is not party political of course, but we do regard this as an important election and would urge everyone to get involved and vote. From our lobbying work and contacts with all six candidates we know that they have all signed up to the West Midlands Cycling Charter which specifies a spend of £10 per head per year on cycling. Essentially this will enable the roll out of the Birmingham Cycling Revolution across the whole region. This would be a major step forward and a positive outcome from our years of lobbying with Transport for West Midlands (previously Centro) and the West Midlands City Councils.
We have attended various Hustings events and met and corresponded with all of the candidates or their advisers. They have all responded willingly and positively to our questions and requests. Four of the candidates are joining us at the Big Bike Picnic on the 22 April 1.30 Cannon Hill Park and three of them will ride down National Cycle Route 5 from Victoria Square to try out some of the current infrastructure! The other two candidates have genuine prior engagements but are sending representatives and messages of support. Please come along with family and friends on bikes, scooters or on foot to celebrate cycling and meet the candidates.
The election trail has been long and exhausting but all of the candidates are serious about giving the West Midlands the leadership that it needs. I have found their presentations and responses to questions thoughtful, intelligent and competent and beneath the party political posturing there is a fair degree of consensus on the issues which face the new Combined Authority like devolution from Whitehall, the local economy, skills and jobs, transport, housing, planning and of course space for cycling and active travel. Much to my surprise this election has gone a long way to restore my faith in politics after a very depressing 2016.
The Midlands Engine will have pedals - come to the Picnic if you can and please vote so there is a good turnout and whoever is elected Mayor will have a mandate to carryout their promises on cycling and know that we who WALK CYCLE and VOTE will both be supporting their efforts and holding them to account when in office.