Key West Midlands Mayoral candidates have pledged an active travel revolution in the region after signing up to a series of ambitious asks from active travel organisations and local campaign groups.
I have worked with leading active travel organisations Sustrans, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Living Streets and Push Bikes Birmingham to ask West Midlands Metro Mayor candidates for their support on specific pledges to transform cycling and walking in the UK.
We are pleased to report that:
Incumbent Mayor Andy Street (Conservative), Labour candidate Liam Byrne MP and Liberal Democrat candidate Jenny Wilkinson have all backed each of the five pledges – committing to what active travel advocates believe is essential to realise a cycling and walking revolution in the region.
(or read the news story below)
The next Mayor of the West Midlands has to lead the region’s recovery after one of the biggest public health emergencies in our modern history. Since early 2020, global cities have rapidly reallocated road space to enable active travel because of reduced capacity on public transport and to meet the demand of people who discovered cycling since the first lockdown.
Adam Tranter, Coventry’s Bicycle Mayor – an independent position to champion cycling in Coventry – joined forces with Sustrans West Midlands, Living Streets, Cycling UK, British Cycling and Push Bikes Birmingham to create five key asks of the candidates which will accelerate active travel in the West Midlands.
The key asks were:
1. Pledge to meet the Government’s targets to double levels of cycling by 2025 and for 50% of all journeys in West Midlands towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030.
2. Only commit funding to projects that provide high-quality active travel provision in line with LTN1/20 guidance. This provision should be assessed by an independent peer review board.
3. Work with Local Authorities to fund and create a comprehensive West Midlands LCWIP (Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan), updating the current high level version. Future funding should largely be allocated to achieve the LCWIPs.
4. Sign up to the Vision Zero ambition to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from the streets of the West Midlands.
Support the local implementation of active neighbourhoods, enabling safe and more active communities. Launch a publicly-stated target and plan to reduce car dependency in the West Midlands.
5. Appoint an Active Travel Commissioner to lead the West Midlands cycling and walking revolution; providing them with the political support and funding to achieve real change.
The West Midlands has huge potential for active travel and embracing it will lead to a healthier, happier, better connected and more prosperous region. 10% of residents cycle at least once a week; 30% don’t cycle but would like to (Source: Sustrans Bike Life Report 2019). The majority say that cycle safety needs improving and, only with bold action and commitment, the West Midlands can reach its potential for active travel.
Just 9% of Britons want life to return to ‘normal’ once lockdown is over with people noticing significant changes during the lockdown, including cleaner air, more wildlife and stronger communities. The challenge for the next elected Mayor of the region is to lock these benefits in for a long-term green future.
Andy Street, Conservative candidate said: “The healthiest, most environmentally-friendly ways to travel around the West Midlands are on foot or on a bike. We have made some good progress in the last four years, with more money committed to cycling infrastructure, new segregated cycle routes under construction, and projects to encourage people to get active. But to overcome years of underinvestment, and significant opposition to prioritising road space for cycling and walking, we must redouble our efforts.”
Liam Byrne MP, Labour candidate said: “Rapidly expanding cycling and walking is a central part of my plans and it will help achieve modal shift, decarbonise transport and bring health benefits. Our region has huge levels of unmet cycling demand which we want to meet. I want our region to lead green Britain, and as Mayor I will be at the forefront of championing active travel covering citizens from all backgrounds.”
Jenny Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat candidate said: “Active travel, with the additional health benefits it provides, is a key element of my plans for the West Midlands transport network. It must be fully considered and integrated throughout our transport plans – not just a nice-to-have add on. As Mayor, I would place a high priority on encouraging and facilitating both walking and cycling, providing dedicated safe cycling lanes, re-modelled cycle and pedestrian priority junctions, increased space for pedestrians and a 20mph speed limit in urban areas.”
The Green Party candidate, Steve Caudwell, said he “supported these aims” and already featured many of the pledges in his Manifesto but did not wish to formally sign up because of his concern “of the growth of pledge politics”. The Reform UK candidate, Pete Durnell, said that he “supported active travel” but that his party did not sign up to pledges as a matter of policy.
Adam Tranter, active travel advocate and Bicycle Mayor for Coventry, who coordinated the pledges, said: “Enabling a shift to walking and cycling for short journeys is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential to clean up the region’s toxic air, tackle climate change and to build a more equitable and healthy transport system. We need to reduce our car dependency and the time for change is now; the next elected Mayor of the West Midlands needs to not only have a bold vision but a desire to act immediately to realise the region’s active travel potential.”