Birmingham Transport Plan plans ‘fundamental change’ & backs active travel

While there are many good arguments for councils to invest in active travel, few have turned them to action (indeed active travel budgets were cut last month).

Now however, Birmingham City Council has opened consultation on a significant set of measures, including curbing car through traffic in the city centre and prioritising active travel in local neighbourhoods.

The ‘Birmingham Transport Plan’ has been designed to tackle transport-created damage to the environment, make roads safer for Birmingham’s 2.5 million population, support the city’s carbon-neutral-by-2030 commitment, prioritise people over cars, connecting people with job opportunities and revitalise the city centre and local centres.

Four key moves have been singled out in the plan, which will go out to public consultation from 28 Jan (subject to Cabinet approval on 21 Jan):

Reallocating road space: Promising a ‘fundamental change’ in how people and goods move about the city, the plan will support public transport and ‘move away’ from single occupancy private cars.

Transforming the city centre: Pedestrian streets and public spaces integrated with public transport and cycling infrastructure are sketched out here. Private car access to the city centre is to be limited, with no through trips.

Prioritising active travel in local neighbourhoods: Cars are to “no longer dominate street life around homes and schools” with 20mph limits as standard on all local roads and residential neighbourhoods and local centres – where people will be put first. One key statement reads: “Walking and cycling will become people’s preferred mode for travelling around their locality.”

Managing demand through parking measures: Parking will be used to manage demand for travel by car through availability, pricing and restrictions.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: “As a city, we have been over-reliant on private cars for too long and with more people choosing to live and work in Birmingham, we need to find innovative new ways to keep the city moving in an efficient but sustainable way.

“The more journeys we take by walking and cycling, the more we will improve air quality and our health and the more we will reduce congestion. For longer journeys, buses, trams and trains will be the backbone of a new, go-anywhere transport system.

“Good transport is the most important ingredient in ensuring that the benefits of Birmingham’s growth are felt in every part of the city. To unlock the potential of transport, we need to fundamentally change the way people and goods move around the city.

“Birmingham has already started to redress the balance and build a future in which the car will no longer be king. The introduction of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone will reinforce our commitment to establish a zero emissions city. On the ground, we have started to put things right through investments in projects including the city’s first fully segregated cycle ways, extensions to the Metro tram network and introduction of 20mph speed limits on residential streets.

“The Birmingham Transport Plan, once adopted, will continue to build on these strong foundations, future-proofing our transport system and ensuring that we are able to move around our city in a faster, more efficient way with cleaner air and less congestion.”

Despite the UK’s council and governmental sluggishness in supporting active travel, there are encouraging signs to be found in Manchester, York and Sheffield, among other cities and conurbations.