Birmingham is moving closer to banning through motor traffic from its city-centre and surrounding areas, with councillors due to vote through plans later this month to in effect create seven large low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) or, “traffic cells,” as the council calls them.
Under the plans, which were first announced last year, motorists would be able to move between the zones by exiting and entering each of them via the city’s ring road, but moving directly between the areas will not be possible.
The ambitious proposals to restrict the movement of motor vehicles within the UK’s second largest city are likely to be studied by local authorities elsewhere in the country, with the government committed to reducing traffic and encourage active travel.
Writing in the Guardian, transport author and journalist Carlton Reid says that the Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council will vote on the measures, which were put out to consultation early in 2020, next month and councillors are expected to back the proposals.
As well as introducing zero-emission buses, the plans also include creating a network of segregated cycle lanes, as well as further pedestrianisation of the city centre.
When the scheme was first unveiled as part of the Birmingham Transport Plan 2031, the council said it would bring an end to what it termed “the golden age of cars,” and that the city “is now entering a new cycle of change which will be different because no single mode of transport will be dominant.
It pointed out that one in four car journeys in the city – which hosts the Commonwealth Games next year and will also be transformed in the next few years due to the arrival of HS2 – are one mile or less, and wants to discourage those shorter trips.
“Instead, members of the travelling public will have a choice between a range of modes of transport – each of them accessible, viable and sustainable – which together will form a go-anywhere, anytime integrated transport system,” added the council, which .
The council’s cabinet member for transport and the environment, Waseem Zaffar, told Reid that “the key principles are the same” as those consulted on last year, and that “people want these changes.”
The son of a taxi driver, Zaffar admitted that he used to drive everywhere but now cycles around the city as well as using its public hire electric scooters and also aims to use buses more.
“Introducing the blue cycling lanes was probably the most popular thing the council has done in a long time,” he said.
You couldn’t get me out of my car four years ago. I would take journeys of less than one mile by car; I hadn’t been on a bus since my university days, and I had never cycled until the summer of 2018, added Zaffar, who confessed, “I should also walk more.”
Consultation into the plans closed in March 2020 just as the first national lockdown in England came into force, and several months before LTNs – or rather, opposition to them – became an issue seized upon by some elements of the media, and Zaffar expects there to be some battles ahead as Birmingham translates its vision into reality.
However, underlining that the council’s transport plan is a “radical, bold and brave” move, he added: “I didn’t come into politics to win popularity contests; I came into politics to change lives for the better.”
Following publication of the Guardian’s article, Reid also tweeted a map showing the location of the planned
My @guardian article now has a graphic showing how Birmingham will soon become one big low-traffic neighbourhood. And goal is to massively reduce motoring far into the suburbs, too. https://t.co/TWw7CGKYXV pic.twitter.com/d1ezi8NKKB
— Carlton Reid (@carltonreid) October 4, 2021
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.