Big Birmingham Bikes (BBB), a pioneering Birmingham City Council scheme to get residents onto two wheels, has jointly won the 2017 Ashden Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities.
BBB offers free bicycles to Birmingham residents living in deprived areas. Recipients also receive basic training in cycle maintenance and BBB provide lessons for those who lack confidence in cycling or have never ridden a bike before. The scheme is part of Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR), which aims to make cycling an everyday way to travel around the city, which in turn brings significant health and environmental benefits.
The Ashden Awards are given to pioneers in sustainable energy and are a globally recognised measure of excellence. Along with 12 other organisations, BBB will receive its Award on Thursday June 15 at a prestigious ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Former Vice-President of the US Al Gore is the keynote speaker and Channel 4 presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy will host the Awards.
BBB shares its Award with Nottingham City Council, which is funding greener transport through a workplace parking levy.
According to the Ashden judges: “This inspirational project is not only getting people out of their cars and onto their bikes but is also improving the health, wellbeing and mobility of an often hard-to-reach demographic. There is huge potential to replicate the scheme and other cities should take note as its simple pragmatism could really help to reframe the national environmental debate.”
BBB is targeting people in some of the most deprived areas of Birmingham and is linking up with community groups, including homeless and mental health charities, to ensure that the bikes reach those who will benefit from them most. Bike recipients are from a broad range of cultural groups including some for whom bike riding is uncommon, particularly for women from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.
Thanks to BBB’s work, 11 new recreational cycling groups have sprung up. BBB is also leading practice rides along popular commuter routes to encourage people to use the bikes as a means of transport as well as for enjoyment. This can be a big help for those looking for work as it can enable them to access training and job opportunities when no other transport options are available. Additionally, fully segregated all-weather cycle lanes are being installed on both the A38 between the city centre and Selly Oak and the A34 between the city centre and Perry Barr as part of the next phase of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution to encourage more people to cycle in safety and confidence along two of the city’s most important commuter routes.