Birmingham City Council in 2,000 bike giveaway targeting people in deprived areas

3,000 more available for free hire in scheme designed to improve health plus access to employment

by Simon_MacMichael   June 17, 2014  

Birmingham.jpg

Birmingham City Council is to give away 2,000 bicycles and make an identical number available for free long-term hire for between six and 12 months in an attempt to get people living in deprived areas onto bikes to improve employment prospects and access to workplaces, as well as getting them more active.

The council, which last year won £17 million funding from the Cycle City Ambition Scheme from the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of its £24.3 million Birmingham Cycle Revolution, also plans 20 community hire hubs in the same parts of the city where a further 1,000 bikes will be available to borrow on a short-term basis, reports the Birmingham Post.

People using the scheme, called Big Birmingham Bikes, will be required to be live in the same area as the hubs – which will be sited in parks and at leisure centres – be in possession of a Birmingham Leisure Card, and take level 2 Bikeability training.

The council is looking for a corporate sponsor for the scheme, although according to the project manager, John Carrigan, the intention is firmly not to try and replicate the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme in London.

He said: “It’s nothing like the London scheme. We’re not looking at the heavy, bulky Boris bikes. Ours are going to be quality hybrids.

“I want the best bikes I can get so that people want them and enjoy using them.

“They will be colour coded bespoke to the project. There will be no sticky labels. They’ll be made to specification with all the logos on the bikes properly.”

The hubs, which are planned for locations including the National Indoor Arena, Ward End Park, the Nechells Leisure Centre, Aston Villa FC and Aston Park, Handsworth Park and Leisure Centre and Small Heath Park, will be open seven days a week.

They will have full-time, paid staff assisted by volunteers and will offer led rides as well as cycle training and maintenance classes. The contract for supply of bikes to the scheme is expected to be awarded next month.

According to Councillor James McKay, the council’s cabinet member for a green safe and smart city, the Big Birmingham Bikes scheme follows on from the city’s Be Active initiative, which provides free sessions at leisure and swimming lessons to Birmingham Leisure Card holder.

“That’s now an internationally recognised public health intervention,” he said. “Look at the figures: forty per cent of 11-year-olds are overweight and one-in-four is obese.

“There are barriers to cycling and not everyone can afford to go out and buy a bike straight away, but short-term loans, long-term loans and bike maintenance should help to break down those barriers.”

Several other cycling initiatives are currently taking place in Birmingham, including the upgrading of canal towpaths, the forthcoming introduction of Brompton Docks at New Street, Moor Street and Snow Hill stations, and the anticipated naming this month of funding for new cycle parking facilities for businesses considered “Top Cycle Locations.”

Professor David Cox, who is Chair of CTC Council and also chairs the South Birmingham Primary Care Trust, said the council’s views on cycling had undergone a transformation.

He told the Birmingham Post: “Where we are now is fantastic compared to where we were. When the scrutiny report was first published nothing seemed to really happen and when it did it was pretty pathetic.

“But this is a major plan and it’s not just a cycling plan, it’s a full public transport plan.

“For the first time in my experience the council is consulting thoroughly with the cycling community and they’ve also brought in some very good consultants.”

The council is also uploading images to its Be Heard website allowing residents to see the impact of schemes, and Professor Cox added: “People are seeing virtual footage of what the roads could look like and how they could be made more cycle-friendly.”

15 user comments

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This sounds sensible. I am very astonished, especially seeing some of the "great" cycling infrastructure Birmingham have put in historically, highlights include ASL without filter lanes, off road cycle lanes ending with an abrupt perpendicular turn, railings, posts, bus stops and all manner of other street furniture in shared cycle lanes.
Whilst I don't believe that a requirement of Level 2 Bikeability is strictly necessary, I think it is a good move in this case, as if they were already confident cyclists they may already be cycling, this way they learn how to do things properly and build up their confidence.
I am also pleased to see that the bikes will be hybrids and not those chunky monkey beasts from london. That should help with the cycling experiance.
Once they have tackled the cost of bike ownership, of course the big issue will be the provision of cycle parking and showering facilities once you arrive at work...

posted by Wolfshade [112 posts]
17th June 2014 - 11:09

20 Likes

quote: “There are barriers to cycling and not everyone can afford to go out and buy a bike straight away, but short-term loans, long-term loans and bike maintenance should help to break down those barriers.”

While I approve of the scheme, the main barrier to cycling in Birmingham is not affordability, it is the fact that Birmingham's roads are built around the car. Cycling in Birmingham is at best unpleasant and more usually, down right frightening. Birmingham has to do something on this by either creating a separate cycling infrastructure or making the roads more cycle friendly by lowering speed limits and installing of ambitious traffic management programs. Some initiatives, such as dedicated paths and the car2go, are very good but they are too small and too few to make a difference.

andybwhite's picture

posted by andybwhite [217 posts]
17th June 2014 - 13:23

25 Likes

andybwhite wrote:
Some initiatives, such as dedicated paths and the car2go, are very good but they are too small and too few to make a difference.

The car2go is now gone. Ended in May as the city had a "culture of single car ownership".
I would echo your comments about the road, trying to go cross city is a bit of a nightmare, lovely layouts for cars, but you need your balls on tight and wits around you when you need to get and use middle and right hand lanes.
I did once try using the toe paths, but it was unsuitable for my road bike that is before taking into account the little barriers...

posted by Wolfshade [112 posts]
17th June 2014 - 14:47

23 Likes

Ive been to Birmingham many many times and it has suddenly dawned on me i dont think i have ever seen anyone riding a bike in the time i have been there.
I cannot think of a more cycle unfriendly city outside London.

posted by Some Fella [824 posts]
17th June 2014 - 15:55

13 Likes

I work in Central Birmingham and would like to commute by bike. After an exploratory ride in one Saturday morning I decided it wasn't viable due to aforementioned scary roads - really didn't fancy the tunnels - and the limited options for bike storage. Still haven't found anywhere that inspires a great deal of confidence that bike would stay where I left it.

posted by richcc [45 posts]
17th June 2014 - 16:47

28 Likes

Some Fella wrote:
Ive been to Birmingham many many times and it has suddenly dawned on me i dont think i have ever seen anyone riding a bike in the time i have been there.
I cannot think of a more cycle unfriendly city outside London.

Leeds

posted by bikebot [789 posts]
17th June 2014 - 17:33

16 Likes

Quote:
I did once try using the toe paths, but it was unsuitable for my road bike that is before taking into account the little barriers…

I agree with this. There's no harm in using tow paths for cycling, but often they're not practical for commuting. If you don't live by the canal, you have to get there first. The paths are sometimes rough, and only suitable for a hybrid or mountain bike. And there are a lot of inconvenient bits by bridges etc, where the path is narrow, or you have to cart your bike up steps.

posted by HarrogateSpa [133 posts]
17th June 2014 - 17:59

18 Likes

A few years ago, I suggested to the council that they could tarmac the path along the old railway line from Harborne to Hagley Road, so it could be used by cycle commuters. They were interested in doing it, but someone from the Harborne Society was dead against it, and persuaded them not to.

I'm encouraged to see that this idea has been resurrected as part of Cycle Revolution.

posted by HarrogateSpa [133 posts]
17th June 2014 - 18:02

5 Likes

HarrogateSpa wrote:
They were interested in doing it, but someone from the Harborne Society was dead against it, and persuaded them not to.

Any idea who that person was? I believe this is the reason it's called the Harborne Walkway and has no shared use signs, even though it appears on the council cycle route maps.

This is good news, but as said elsewhere a lot of the cities roads are not fit for cycling on.

Things do seem to gradually be moving in the right direction, although BCC still aren't getting the message about proper separated cycle route infrastructure with priority for cycles not motor vehicles.

The new tow path surfaces are great but as said elsewhere, access isn't. Plus they are obviously leisure spaces and not ideal commuting spaces.

Now where do I sign for the free bikes?

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [135 posts]
17th June 2014 - 19:17

14 Likes

My concern is that many of the bikes will go missing or be neglected. Hope not.

posted by james123 [9 posts]
18th June 2014 - 4:10

3 Likes

Can't wait to see these bikes ON FLEA_BAY Devil

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [605 posts]
18th June 2014 - 5:28

5 Likes

This is absolutely typical of the headline grabbing approach of Birmingham City Council ahead of actually putting in place a decent cycling infrastructure. I regularly cycle in from the South of Birmingham into the city centre and it's thoroughly depressing - poorly enforced bus lanes and parking restrictions being the two main issues. Cycling along the A38 with cars ignoring the 30mph speed limit in the run up to the tunnels isn't great for novice cyclists. When you can actually get off the road, many shared cycling paths are in a pretty poor state too.

I've been cycling in Brum long enough to gain a bit of confidence on the main roads but for a new cyclist it must be incredibly intimidating.

I genuinely don't think this is a step in the right direction as it smacks of entering the Tour de France before the council has learnt to use a balance bike. Get the basics right, then offer bikes up for hire.

posted by barongreenback [20 posts]
18th June 2014 - 6:22

7 Likes

Quote:
Any idea who that person was?

This was in 2008. The Harborne Society responded to a consultation by the City Council, saying they didn't mind a few cyclists using the route on an informal basis, but didn't want anything more than that. They objected to a tarmac surface. The person I heard from was Phil Stokes, because he was secretary of the society at that time.

posted by HarrogateSpa [133 posts]
18th June 2014 - 7:44

9 Likes

HarrogateSpa wrote:
Quote:
Any idea who that person was?

This was in 2008. The Harborne Society responded to a consultation by the City Council, saying they didn't mind a few cyclists using the route on an informal basis, but didn't want anything more than that. They objected to a tarmac surface. The person I heard from was Phil Stokes, because he was secretary of the society at that time.

Thanks, might ask if this can be reconsidered now then, it's a good link to the tow path for an off road route to the city centre and it's pretty popular for cycling.

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [135 posts]
18th June 2014 - 10:14

11 Likes

rich22222 wrote:
HarrogateSpa wrote:
Quote:
Any idea who that person was?

This was in 2008. The Harborne Society responded to a consultation by the City Council, saying they didn't mind a few cyclists using the route on an informal basis, but didn't want anything more than that. They objected to a tarmac surface. The person I heard from was Phil Stokes, because he was secretary of the society at that time.

Thanks, might ask if this can be reconsidered now then, it's a good link to the tow path for an off road route to the city centre and it's pretty popular for cycling.


There is national cycle route 5 (Rea Valley) nearby which isn't too bad with only one bit of canal toe path and that dumps you by New Street Station.

posted by Wolfshade [112 posts]
18th June 2014 - 10:43

5 Likes