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"This will cost lives": Safety fears as key active travel role axed on same day cycling and walking commissioner resigns

A safe streets campaign group warned the "misstep" will "jeopardise delivery of a vital transport plan" and could see more vulnerable road users injured or killed...

In what some have predicted will be a hefty blow for active travel in the West Midlands, Birmingham City Council chiefs have opted to remove the separate transport and highways role from its cabinet — instead reverting it to the wider transport and environment brief that also includes projects such as waste and parks — the decision coming on the same day that Adam Tranter resigned as the region's walking and cycling commissioner in order to allow the new administration voted in at this month's local elections to "develop their own active travel plans".

Better Streets for Birmingham — a campaign group that had been one of 30 community organisations to sign a letter to newly elected Mayor of the West Midlands Richard Parker demanding a commitment to the cycling and walking commissioner role Tranter yesterday resigned from — said the loss of active travel figures "will cost lives".

Commenting on the re-merger of the transport and environment roles, the group said the role is "now too big" and "this misstep jeopardises delivery of the vital transport plan and will cost lives".

The news of the cabinet reshuffle was first reported by BirminghamLive, council leader Cllr John Cotton and deputy leader Cllr Sharon Thompson choosing to remove the transport and highways brief held by active travel advocate Liz Clements. Now, the transport and highways work will return to coming under the wider umbrella of transport and environment, removing some of the specific attention it was getting previously.

Walking away from the offer of a cabinet role in a finance brief, Cllr Clements said: "I was offered a different role in cabinet which I did not want, so I resigned. I have given my all to the transport and highways brief and wanted to continue, but it is the leader's job to pick his cabinet and assign roles. I will carry on campaigning for the London-style public transport network and safe walking and cycling routes Birmingham so urgently needs. It is what I've spent my political life doing and it is my passion."

The Labour-run council's leader addressed the axing of the more specific transport role by saying they are "creating a new cabinet portfolio focused on transformation, early intervention and prevention, which means we need a different balance of responsibilities across portfolios".

"After discussing this essential change with colleagues, Liz Clements decided to return to the backbenches. I'm grateful for Liz's leadership of the transport agenda over the last two years and I know she will continue to be an influential and tireless campaigner for active travel," Cllr Cotton said.

The reshuffle comes as Tranter yesterday resigned from his West Midlands Cycling and Walking Commissioner role following Andy Street's defeat in the region's mayoral election. Street lost his position to Labour's Richard Parker, the Conservative candidate having established Tranter's role back in 2021 in a bid to promote active travel interests in the West Midlands.

Andy Street (left) and Adam Tranter (right) (picture credit TfWM)

However, in a statement we shared on our live blog yesterday, Tranter said the role had been a "privilege" but he would "step aside for the new administration to be able to develop their own active travel plans".

"I'm assured that this agenda is an important one for the new mayor and I will be happy to support wherever I can," he added. "Working as Cycling & Walking Commissioner has been a tremendous privilege and a real opportunity to help make our streets both safer and better for walking and cycling. I'm especially grateful to Andy Street for his backing and support since my appointment in December 2021."

Reacting to the two losses, Better Streets for Birmingham continued: "Our streets remain just as unsafe as 12 months ago and just as the tide was beginning to turn through bold decisions and collaboration, this has been thrown into the air. The departure of both Liz Clements and Adam Tranter leaves a huge leadership void for road safety and active travel.

"We urgently need:⁠ ⁠The council leader to pivot on this error of judgment and reinstate a separate transport cabinet member [and]⁠ ⁠the new mayor of the West Midlands to appoint a new regional cycling and walking commissioner as a matter of urgency."

Responding to the concerns, Cllr Parker reportedly told the campaign group that it would not be the end of the cycling and walking commissioner role, although an immediate successor would not be appointed. Instead a decision is expected following consultation with other mayors and Active Travel England.

The council's leader also expressed a desire to see active travel routes made safer and committed to working with West Midlands Police to increase enforcement and reporting.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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eburtthebike | 1 month ago

The Labour-run council's leader addressed the axing of the more specific transport role by saying they are "creating a new cabinet portfolio focused on transformation, early intervention and prevention, which means we need a different balance of responsibilities across portfolios".

With such staggering levels of BS, two key resignations and AT being sidelined, I have absolutely no confidence that labour is going to be better than the party of the driver.

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