A campaign group in Birmingham has criticised a decision by the city’s council to remove a cycle lane that was put in place on the A47 Nechells Parkway at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, with the total cost, including its recent removal, coming in at £430,000.
That sum was revealed following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by community group Better Streets for Birmingham, reports Birmingham Live.
In response, Birmingham City Council said that the pop-up cycle lane had cost £256,000 to plan and install, and £167,103 to remove and resurface the carriageway.
In an open letter published on its website, Better Streets for Birmingham said it was “extremely disappointed” at the news that the lane was to be removed, and that it was “hard to understand why this decision has been taken” coming as it does ahead of the publication of the Birmingham Transport Plan delivery plan.
“Last week, we recently attended a very enjoyable LCWIP [Local Cycling and Walking Investment Plans] workshop to help shape our city’s future cycling network. It was fantastic to see the future network map develop.
“This week, we have been extremely disappointed to learn that the A47 pop-up cycle lane has been closed and is being demolished without any consultation.
“In these cash-strapped times, when we are continually told that we do not have the finances to afford the active travel infrastructure this city so desperately needs, we question the use of our limited funding on removing existing infrastructure. It seems even more egregious, given the infrastructure served an area of relative deprivation, that we should remove it during a cost of living crisis.
“Furthermore, to remove infrastructure funded from a previous Active Travel Fund (ATF) tranche seems remarkably short-sighted. We are concerned that this will negatively impact Birmingham’s schemes in future tranches, including ATF4. The Council has created a record of delivering and subsequently dismantling ATF schemes, whereas other local authorities in the region have delivered and kept quality infrastructure.
“We find it hard to understand why this decision has been taken now, in the run up to the publishing of the Birmingham Transport Plan delivery plan. It is also difficult to see how this decision delivers on the Route to Zero aspiration.
“We know that we are not able to build all the active travel infrastructure we require in one go. We therefore have to slowly build the network out. This will result in sections that are initially underused, which was one of the reasons given for the dismantling. As the sections are expanded and joined to other parts of the network, as was seen during the trip to the continent with Adam Tranter, their usage will increase. Instead of removing, we ought to be iterating cycling infrastructure.
“We sincerely hope that this decision will be reversed,” the group added. “Failing that, we hope that the wide ranging disappointment will be remembered to ensure that we don’t lose more valuable safe cycling infrastructure again.”
Adam Tranter, West Midlands cycling and walking commissioner, said that the removal of the lane “sends out th wrong message” at a time when active travel needs to be encouraged.
“I’ve said before I think the decision from Birmingham City Council to remove the A47 cycle lane was a step back in terms of our shared ambition to make cycling and walking the natural first choice for short journeys,” he said.
“It certainly sends out the wrong message and the costs associated with its removal clearly outweigh the cost of maintaining the lane.
“I’m keen to move forward and support the city council on getting safe infrastructure in this area of Birmingham as quickly as possible,” added Tranter, who said he would be undertaking a site visit soon with Councillor Liz Clements, Birmingham’s cabinet member for transport.
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