Councillor Attacks £23m Birmingham Bikes Scheme

Birmingham Mail, September 11, 2014

A £23 million scheme aiming to transform cycling in Birmingham has been blasted as discriminatory and a waste of money only catering for “white, young men”.

The Cycle City project, which hopes to get motorists to ditch their cars, will be backed by £6.3 million from the council, as well as a £17 million Department for Transport grant.

But Birmingham councillors described the plans as a “massive waste” and “absolute nonsense”, claiming such huge sums of public cash should not be spent on activities which exclude the elderly and some ethnic groups.

But at the Edgbaston District committee Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) said she was concerned such a large amount of effort and investment being spent on a mode of transport predominantly used by young men.

“The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men,” she said.

She added that, while there are exceptions, “most elderly people are not going to cycle, and it would be dangerous for them to start on our streets now”.

And she added that disabled people do not benefit from cycling and that “women of any ethnic group who wish to wear modest clothing, and I count myself in that category, are not going to cycle. It is a discriminatory form of transport”.

Under the cycle revolution, cash will be used buy 5,000 bikes and set up cycle hubs from which they can be rented or used for training.

Councillors were stunned to find out that 2,000 of them would be given away. Coun Matthew Gregson (Lab, Quinton) said: “My concern is that we are giving these bikes away to people who are not going to use them. This would be a waste of public money.”

As well as bike loan and free bikes, there will also be a training courses to give people the confidence to take up cycling. The aim of the policy is to double the number of trips made by bike from five per cent to ten per cent of the total in the city by 2033 – with the aim of making the city greener, healthier and safer.

Proposals are currently out for public consultation.

Coun James McKay (Lab, Harborne), a cyclist, defended the investment, saying: “Everyone accepts the model of us all getting around in single occupancy cars is broken. With a rising population, this will lead to gridlock so we have to change our way of doing things.”

He said government had recognised this in issuing the grant money. His colleague Coun Badley added: “We are going to have to move to a position where we have more people using bikes and we know that many people do not use bikes because they do not feel safe. While there are some reservations, this investment is generally a good thing.”

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