A dedicated cycle lane has opened to fanfare as part of a push to get more people ‘active’ commuting rather than in cars after Birmingham City Council suddenly shut down to Covid.
The problem only came to light after a cyclist discovered that he was being ‘ripped off’. The council has confirmed that it is permanently closing the A47 cycle path which runs along Nechells Parkway.
He has made the decision to do so while resurfacing the road, ironically to make the route more attractive to motorists using their cars, as one cyclist pointed out.
Commuter Luke flagged the bike lane closure after arriving on the route only to find that it had been cut into a cone shape and work was underway to break it up yesterday. (Thursday, February 23)
He posted on Twitter: “The A47 cycle path in Birmingham has been closed and started to be torn up. Please tell me this is temporary otherwise I will be forced to drive again.”
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The route originally ran along the A47 Jennens Road and Nechells Parkway, from the James Watt Queensway and the B4132 and was opened with funding from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.
The council had pledged to work to make the route permanent when it carried out a review of the measures in 2021. It adjusted the route and closed a section after complaints from bus operators last year.
Responding to the news, cycling commissioner Adam Tranter, appointed by the West Midlands Combined Authority as part of the region’s commitment to active travel, said he had investigated and learned that the council was indeed closing the route. He doesn’t seem to have consulted before doing so.
Mr Tranter said of the decision: “I am very disappointed by this, given that (the council’s) own report recommended retaining and improving the emerging cycle path. I have written to the council for assurance on their plans to allow safe cycling on this Runner back ASAP.
“I am also concerned that the removal of capital projects financed by the Active Travel Fund will give the wrong impression, given our stated objectives, and could lead to a reduction in government funding in the future.”
The news was greeted with dismay by cyclists commuting to work. One said: “Just started driving this lane. The road is very dangerous without it. Really disappointed and just can’t understand the thought.” Another said it was “deeply discouraging.”
Tim, who campaigns for active travel measures in Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham, and is a local representative for Cycling UK, said of the decision: “I’m not sure how they went from ‘retain and improve’ to ‘rip it off without any discussion’. Hard to see how we can have a city-wide network if obvious places for bike lanes are removed.”
Responding to the complaints, Cllr Liz Clements, a transport cabinet member and regular cyclist, said: “I’ve ridden the A47 pop-up lane a number of times myself, so I know we need a high-quality cycle route to east Birmingham. .
“Nechells Parkway is in poor condition and is being repaved. There is no point in replacing the popup lane with another temporary lane, we need to focus on designing a high quality segregated route and delivering it when funds are available. That is what my officers are now doing and will cooperate closely with Adam Tranter, our West Midlands Walking and Cycling Commissioner.”
Birmingham Connected, the council arm that oversees the active travel strategy, proclaims on its social media that: “We want to make travel more accessible, reliable, safe and healthy for all.”
In a thread on Twitter responding to Mr Tranter’s concerns, they wrote: “The A47 pop-up cycle lane has been installed under the Emergency Active Travel Fund for temporary measures to support cycling as we emerge from lockdown. While some Additional funding to make the schemes permanent has been provided, it is not enough for all the emerging cycle lanes.”
The removal of a section last year following “concerns raised by Transport for WM and bus operators” meant the lane was no longer linked to the wider cycle network. “Unfortunately, we are unable to continue to maintain these temporary measures, which have been in place for over two years, so they will now be removed ahead of further enhancements as they may progress.”
They added: “The A47 remains a priority cycle route for future development. This corridor has also received significant funding for future priority bus measures over the next five years. We are keen to see an integrated approach to these improvements that also benefits cycling “. “
They also say they hope to work together with partners to “find a way to offer a high-quality, permanent cycle path at this location as soon as possible.”
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