Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Scrutiny Committee Report on Cycling

I didn't get called to speak, but here's the speech I would have given.

It has been a great introduction to the life of this council to have served as part of a group that has shown such cross-party agreement in setting a transformational direction for cycling and other forms of low-carbon transport in our city. In that mood, it seems appropriate today to borrow from the Thatcherite's Thatcherite, Norman Tebbit, as we encourage the people of Birmingham to get on their bikes. Indeed, only last weekend, one of my children went solo on his bike for the first time.

In particular, I welcome the recommendation that specific targets should be set - it was a criticism of the last strategy document that it was long on words, but short on measurable outcomes. This report has not made the same mistake and I welcome the executive commitment to take it through to delivery. We have a chance to build on the legacy of the Olympics, to seize the moment to take this city forward, but it takes commitment at the highest level amongst officers and executives to deliver on the ambitions.

This report is also about road safety - I would particularly encourage the spread of 20mph zones and limits across appropriate roads in the city. These will help make our neighbourhoods better places to live as well as delivering proven benefits in terms of reducing casualties and the severity of injuries. There is safety in numbers - the more people we can encourage to get on their bikes, the safer it becomes for them, as drivers get used to their presence, as Cllr Barnett pointed out.

A public outcry over road safety brought about a massive change in the Netherlands. They made the same mistakes that we did after the war, building cities and towns designed around car ownership. It was only at the start of the 1970s, following a rise in injuries to children, that they took a political decision to change direction and embarked on building the system that we see today. Make no mistake, this is a long term project that will take decades, but we need to make a start and this report is a good point.

As a committee, we have had sterling support from cycling evangelists like CTC and Sustrans, in the gallery today, as well as individual enthusiasts in the city, for which we are grateful, but the are not our target audience. We need to deliver, but not for those hundreds of indefatigable cyclists, who will resort to two wheels no matter how hard we, as a council have made it over the years. We need to deliver for those thousands, or tens of thousands, who will cycle if we make it easier and safer. We need to deliver on this for future generations.

Build it and they will come.

Location:Chamberlain Square,Birmingham,United Kingdom

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