Towns and cities across the West Midlands will participate in Bike Life, the UK’s most comprehensive assessment of cycling development. Previously the report, produced by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans in partnership with Birmingham City Council, has focussed on one city. Thanks to increased funding by the Freshfield Foundation, and the cities and regions themselves, it’s now set to cover the whole of the West Midlands.
Local authorities in the seven districts of the West Midlands Combined Authority area (Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, and Wolverhampton) will be working with Sustrans to capture data on infrastructure, travel habits, public attitudes and the impact of cycling. The project is designed to help UK cities normalise cycling and reports will be published in 2020 and 2022.
Bike Life was founded in 2014 in seven major UK cities but has grown significantly since. Between 2018 and 2022, more cities and regions will participate in the project bringing the total to 14. Collectively they cover almost 14 million people or 20% of the entire UK population.
The approach taken by Bike Life mirrors the Copenhagen Bicycle Account which outlines the development in cycling, identifies challenges and informs planning at a local level. This helps local authorities to build the case for cycling whilst shaping the political and funding landscape for active travel across the UK.
In Birmingham the council has responded to the findings of Bike Life with a programme of investment to deliver cycle friendly canals and two new segregated cycle routes. Delivered through the ‘Birmingham Cycle Revolution’ the city is aiming to provide safe, attractive and accessible infrastructure to become a healthier and happier city.
Lead member for safe and sustainable travel on the WMCA transport delivery committee, Cllr Diana Holl-Allen, said: “Our sustainable travel team work very hard to promote cycling as a transport choice and we know there is real demand out there so we certainly welcome this initiative. Cycling is a key element of our sustainable travel work and our top level priorities of reducing road congestion and carbon footprint in the region.”
Sustrans Partnerships Manager, Midlands and East, Gavin Passmore said: “We’re really excited to be rolling Bike Life out across the West Midlands. It’s fantastic that the region’s local authorities have signed up to a larger programme. Inactivity, air quality and traffic congestion are issues that can no longer be ignored and we need national and local governments to rise to these challenges. In 2017 Bike Life revealed strong public support in Birmingham for cycling – with eight out of ten residents backing more investment in dedicated spaces for cyclists. An expanded programme will help to build political support amongst a wider audience bringing about the change we really need.”