Report from BCR stakeholders meeting April 2017

Every month, Push Bikes campaigners attend the Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) stakeholders meetings to discuss developments with the various BCR programmes. This is an update on some of the main points that I have taken away from the meeting in April. I intend to do regular updates on these meetings, so watch this space in the coming months.

Main road corridors:

The BCR team reiterated that the next 12 months will focus on implementation, especially with the two main road schemes (the A34 and A38) needing to be substantially completed by this time next year. The final £13 million from the DfT should be confirmed and deposited in BCC bank accounts during this month (May) to enable the building work to be paid for. The work will focus on: Green Travel Districts (GTDs); Signing strategy; the B2 20mph area; A38 & A34 routes. The BCR team warned that there might be a need to reallocate some funds from the other schemes - perhaps the GTDs? - to make sure that the main corridor routes are delivered to the highest standard. Whether this is necessary or not will depend on what bids come back when the work goes out to tender; the  BCR team want to make sure that the main corridor schemes are not compromised by lack of funds. I think that this is the right approach to take, as we need to ensure that the segregated cycle routes along the A43 and A38 are of the best quality possible to ensure that they are well used.

We were given an update on the level of response to the two consultations held in February and March: the Bristol Road (A38) consultation had over 1,000 responses, while Birchfield Road had about 250 responses. There were many positive responses to both schemes, showing strong public support for the schemes and the BCR team aim to get the cabinet member's report on the Bristol Road scheme signed off by the middle of May. It seems that the introduction of a right-turn for motor traffic onto Wellington Road will be included in that report. Push Bikes' response to the consultation was strongly opposed to this, and I'm disappointed that this option is still being considered for inclusion in the scheme. Local residents on Wellington Road are looking at whether or not they could challenge this decision, and last weekend I spoke to one local campaigner to discuss arguments that could be put forward on this. If the decision is challenged, it could slow down the schedule of the scheme by a couple of weeks, but I think that the BCR team would continue the preparations for the main cycle track in the scheme in the meantime. In the stakeholders' meeting, the BCR team said that they would be carrying out work to reduce the attractiveness of Wellington Road as a rat-run if the right turn is opened up, and we’ve asked to be consulted on those designs to make sure that an measures introduced don’t impact on cycle users as well as being effective in reducing the attractiveness of that route as a rat-run. Edgbaston is heavily congested during peak travel hours, and the answer is not to create more routes for cars, but to shift drivers out of cars and onto other sustainable forms of transport such as cycling and public transport.

During the Bristol Road consultation, the Elmhurst Ballet School raised objections about the loss of a u-turn facility to access the school, which the BCR team have taken on board and revised the plans to accommodate. We saw the revised plan, which keeps u-turns for the ballet school and for Pavenham Drive, but unfortunately the cycle track still crosses both of them. That’s not an issue with the Pavenham Drive u-turn which will have a very low volume of motor traffic, but Push Bikes' response to the consultation said that the cycle track should join the central reservation after the ballet school's u-turn facility, in order to improve safety during peak hours. The BCR team said that they would go back and look at that again. We were also shown a revised layout for Eastern Road junction which would give priority to the cycle track. Some of the attendees raised concerns about whether car drivers would be able to pay attention to the bi-directional cycle track as well as the oncoming motor traffic. Without a light-controlled crossing in the plans here, any solution put forward will have issues, I think.

I asked the BCR team if they were looking at future schemes that they could bid for funds for following the completion of the current schemes next year. They told us they've been in tentative talks with TfWM about incorporating cycle infrastructure in the works for the Sprint rapid transit corridor along the A45 to Birmingham airport. They also would like to go back to the initial main road schemes from the BCR programme and look at revising those plans to improve the quality of provision.

Canals and green routes:

The canal towpath works are almost complete, with only 2 sections of towpath left. The Canal and River Trust (CRT) is working on feasibility studies for several access points and for widening the towpath through Edgbaston Tunnel - those funds need to be mainly spent by 2018 as well, so CRT will need to have the feasibility studies completed soon.

Green routes in Woodgate Valley and Hatchford Brook are having reports drawn up for approval by the cabinet member to sign off on them, and 4 more green routes are being developed for consultation - A bridge and track in Woodgate Valley to increase connectivity; Bourne Brook; Castle Bromwich Hall; Yardley (from the canal to Sheldon Country Park).

Big Birmingham Bikes:

We had a presentation from the BBB team which we hope to be able to share on here soon, so I will just pick out some highlights for you.

Only 50 out of the 3,000 Big Birmingham Bikes (BBB) have been reported stolen, which is a lower level of theft than for regular bikes. In addition, GPS data has been used in at least one case to help recover stolen BBBs. The BBB team are continuing to support BBB recipients, contacting people whose GPS data shows that the bike has not been used recently. They told us about a case where someone had had a flat tyre and did not know how to fix it, so the BBB team helped them and got the bike back on the road. If you see a BBB locked up that has a broken part or a flat tyre, each BBB has a unique number on the seat post just below the crossbar, and if you pass on that number to the BBB team (email address at the bottom of this BBB page) along with details of where you saw the bike and what problem you thought it had, they can contact the recipient to ask if they need any help.

The BBB scheme is also about building up community knowledge and skills, and community cycling clubs have been set up. These are based at the BBB bike hubs, and are making sure that the free-hire bikes are getting used regularly. We were told that if funding did run out (which we hope it won't!) for keeping the BBB scheme going, these community clubs would be able to continue through the efforts of their volunteers.

Some statistics:

Ride Active sessions - These have become more popular than the led rides and the basic cycle training. Participation is 85% female and 86% BME - which is an incredible success. British Cycling is going to test this same model in 3 other cities to see if the successes can be replicated.

Clean air benefits - The BBB team have surveyed the impact of BBB ownership on car use, through self-reporting backed up by GPS data to show that the self-reporting is accurate. They’ve estimated that 40,000 miles of car journeys have been replaced by BBB use.

HSBC City Ride:

This will be taking place on Sunday 11th June, with a closed-road route starting from Victoria Square. We were told the likely route it would take, but as I can't find the route to be publicly available anywhere, I shouldn't share it here. I can say that the plans are to have a longer route than the closed-road circuit at the BikeFest last September. There will be entertainment in Victoria Square as well, similar to last September's BikeFest. Details are on the BikeWeek website here.

Bike Hire schemes:

Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM) are doing a feasibility study to look at the commercial aspects and modelling demand for a potential Bike Hire scheme, and are hoping to get some bids later this year with a view to delivering the first areas by summer 2018. There would be a couple of initial areas to begin with, including Birmingham city centre. I think that that is an ambitious target to complete the details of a sponsorship deal and get the docking station locations sorted out and installed. It would be good for them to be successful and have hire bikes available in Birmingham next summer.

The dockless model of bike hire, made famous through its implementation in China, is not something that TfWM are looking at. But Birmingham City Council (BCC) have been approached by a company wanting to deliver this style of scheme in Birmingham. The company have said that they’ll respect what BCC and TfWM are doing with developing a bike hire scheme. It does seem that Bristol are looking at this type of cycle hire scheme though. It was mentioned that the Chinese dockless model has provided a challenge to traditional European cycle hire companies, which may be good for innovation in the market.