The first canal cycling towpath route that is part of Birmingham City Council's ambitious cycling programme has been opened today (June 10).
The route, which stretches from St Vincent Street Bridge, near Brindley place to Winson Green kick-starts a raft of improvements and initiatives being carried out through the Birmingham Cycle Revolution project over the next 18 months.
The towpath, that is 2,228 metres long and runs up to the Sandwell and Birmingham border, is one of six canal routes the council is improving with the help of the Canal & River Trust. The work includes widening and resurfacing on some of the main cycling routes into the city.
This first one is one of the busiest with 50,153 cyclists counted along the stretch over a year, which averages 137 bikes passing per day. The busiest day recorded last year counted 364 cyclists.
Work on the canal towpaths is the first opportunity to see how the city is being transformed to encourage safer and more enjoyable cycling as part of the £24.3 million funded programme.
As Councillor James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City at Birmingham City Council, explained: “Our vision is to make cycling a mainstream form of transport over the next 20 years. We want 5 per cent of all trips in the city to be made by bike by 2023 and to double this again to 10 per cent by 2033.
“The canal improvements are the first of a number of initiatives we are implementing to create integrated cycling routes to make cycling around the city easier.
“These include creating green routes through parks and open spaces, highway improvements and encouraging people to cycle with more cycle parking hubs, planning routes and introducing led rides for groups.”
Vaughan Welch, member of the west midlands waterways partnership for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Canals are vibrant green corridors linking the city and the countryside and are great places to explore. Now we have this new resurfaced section of towpath it should make access easier for visitors to explore their local stretch of canal and see how wonderful the waterways really are.”
The council is in the process of securing 5,000 bikes that will be free to loan from leisure centres around Birmingham. These are part of a new Big Birmingham Bikes scheme that will run free cycling lessons and cycle maintenance programmes to support potential cyclists. The bikes will be available from centres from August this year.
The Canal & River Trust is working on the remaining towpaths, which will all be completed this year.
These include improvements along:
â€¢ City Centre - Birmingham & Fazeley Canal from Gas Street Basin to Aston Junction , and Digbeth Branch Canal from Aston Junction to Bordesley Junction
â€¢ North- East (1) - Birmingham & Fazeley Canal from Aston Junction to Salford Junction
â€¢ North- East (2) - Grand Union Canal from Bordesley Junction to Salford Junction and Tame Valley Canal from Salford Circus to Deykin Avenue
â€¢ South-East – Grand Union Canal from Bordesley Junction to the Cole Valley Route at The Ackers
â€¢ South-West - Worcester & Birmingham Canal from Gas Street Basin to Selly Oak and Bournville
â€¢ North-West -Birmingham Main Line Canal from Gas Street Basin to City Boundary at Heath Street - (north tow path only)
Work on improving some of the paths through parks and open spaces has started and will continue this year.
The council will start a number of local consultations in July on proposed highway improvements for the main corridors with work scheduled on these starting in the autumn.
These announcements lead up to Bike Week (14-21 June), when there will be activities to encourage cycling.
During the week, there will be organised cycle rides during lunchtimes across the city, a team visiting organisations to provide advice on route planning, free bike safety checks and employers are encouraged to provide those who cycle to work with a free breakfast on Friday 20 June.
For further details on Bike Week and the Birmingham Cycle Revolution programme, visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/bcr
Pictures from today’s launch event can be found on the Birminghamnewsroom Flickr feed.
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Notes to editors
Birmingham Cycle Revolution is a major initiative led by Birmingham City Council to increase cycling in the city.
The aim of the project is to make cycling an everyday form of transport over the next 20 years. For example, we want 5 per cent of all trips in the city to be made by bicycle by 2023 and to double this again to 10 per cent by 2033.
This revolution will help make Birmingham a greener, safer, less congested and healthier place to live.
To achieve this, Birmingham City Council has secured more than £ 24 million of funding, of which £17 million is a grant from the Government, to support an intensive programme of cycling improvements. The remainder is coming from other council sources.
This funding will be used initially to improve the cycling network within a 20 minute cycling time from Birmingham city centre, providing 95km of improvements to existing cycle routes and 115km of new routes.
This funding will be used to build new cycle lanes on popular commuter routes into the city centre, upgrade towpaths on canals, introduce “green routes” through parks, introduce 20mph speed limits within residential areas, provide secure cycle parking hubs and develop a cycle loan and hire scheme.