London is planning to embark on a £912m, ten-year program to transform cycle safety. This is – almost – no longer newsworthy. Oh, how far we have come in the last few years! Want to know what’s *really* newsworthy? Birmingham wants to ‘do a London’. Birmingham, the city throttled by double-decker motorways; Birmingham, the city which gave us spaghetti junction; Birmingham, the city designed for motorists.
If Birmingham has woken up to the potential of bicycling, we’ve really struck a chord. Of course, we’re not home and dry yet. Put the champagne on ice. Birmingham’s bicycling ambitions are less grandiose than London’s, and Britain’s second city will remain in thrall to the car for many years yet.
But that Birmingham City Council is planning a "cycle revolution" is very encouraging. Despite all the less than savoury cycling conditions in the city, there’s been a 75 percent increase in cycle mileage since 2005. Naturally, this is from a low base and the cycle modal share is still less than two percent, but from small acorns large oak trees do grow. If the city also throws into the (bull)ring some car curbing measures, it could be on the road to massively increased cycle usage.
Birmingham has submitted a £17m bid to the DfT’s Cycle City Ambition grant programme.
Chris Tunstall, Birmingham City Council’s interim director for sustainability and transport said: "The message is ‘If Birmingham can do this, any city can’."
The Birmingham Mail is throwing its editorial weight behind the city council’s cycling agenda: "Birmingham is on a cusp of a cycling revolution," claimed the newspaper. "This could have huge health and environmental benefits."
Birmingham hosted the first Cycle City conference in May, a 500-delegate event organised by the publisher of Local Transport Today, a major journal for local authority transport professionals. This fortnightly journal is devoting more and more space to cycling issues.
In a recent editorial, the magazine said "the reason we are writing a lot about cycling at the moment is that…a lot of people are pushing hard to get cycling much further up the political agenda."
The magazine imagined "it must be a good time to be a cycling advocate."
And, I hope, a good time to be a commuter-focussed bike shop. Even in Birmingham.