Council Leader responds to Better Streets for Birmingham’s open letter

Filed under: Campaign

On Thursday 15 June, Councillor John Cotton responded to our open letter calling for funded infrastructure to be brought forward to 2025, not 2027.

We replied to Councillor John Cotton on Friday 16 June.

Dear Martin and Mat

Re: Better Streets for Birmingham letter dated 9 June 2023

Thank you for your letter on behalf of Better Streets for Birmingham regarding the accelerated delivery of active travel schemes.

The Council is horrified and saddened by the recent tragic incidents on the city’s roads involving cyclists and pedestrians. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.

We agree that we cannot wait for new infrastructure if we are to make the vision set out in the Birmingham Transport Plan a reality. An infrastructure-led approach to delivering behavioural and cultural change would be excessively expensive, slower to achieve, and ultimately doomed to failure. We need to move far more quickly if we are to meet the range of challenges currently facing the city.

The Birmingham Transport Plan makes clear that a significant reduction in vehicular traffic is necessary if we are to achieve Vision Zero in Birmingham, where users can walk and cycle along the city’s streets without fear of death or serious injury, and we can all enjoy clean air.

In this context, it is the Council’s view that environmental change, specifically through systemic reductions in the speed, volume and dominance of vehicular traffic must take a higher priority than the delivery of mode-specific infrastructure. This is because Birmingham already benefits from a dense network of well-constructed public highways. Transformation of these public spaces to prioritise people, rather than vehicles will deliver more rapid behavioural and societal change.

The Commonwealth Games provided an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Birmingham and the wider region to the world. Although the scale of funding and resource available to deliver this major sporting event was arguably unique, the cooperative approach of all the partners involved was something that we can and must replicate. To deliver the Birmingham Transport Plan and Vision Zero at the pace needed, we have to work together towards a common goal, particularly with our partners in West Midlands Police and Transport for the West Midlands. This is definitely a time for one team, one vision.

In pursuit of this, the Council is currently developing a detailed Delivery Plan to underpin the Birmingham Transport Plan (BTP:DP), together with a revised and fully aligned Road Safety Strategy and Network Management Plan. This multi-faceted approach includes a comprehensive review of the internal operations of the Transportation and Highways services (including governance, public consultation and engagement processes) to promote a one team, one vision approach in our delivery.

Additionally, as part of the refresh of the Road Safety Strategy, and in recognition of the urgent need for increased pace, a number of priorities are currently being accelerated for early delivery:

  1. The existing inefficient Road Safety Scheme prioritisation process has now been ceased, and no new schemes will be entered into this process. The Council will, however, honour any existing commitments where a strong business case for intervention has been identified;
  2. All existing urban 40mph roads in Birmingham will have their speed limits reduced to 30mph, to standardise the speed limit on arterial routes across the city, in preparation for enhanced enforcement;
  3. A pilot will be commenced to provide increased ‘green times’ for active travel modes at a number of signal controlled junctions and crossings;
  4. In partnership with West Midlands Police, the Council is now working towards a zero tolerance approach to enforcement, where inappropriately parked cars that cause an obstruction are towed away and significantly more speeding vehicles are caught, fined and prosecuted as part of a major uplift in pan-organisational enforcement capability; and
  5. In partnership with Transport for West Midlands and regional road safety partners, the Council will actively support the delivery of a major road safety / behavioural change campaign across the metropolitan area, to highlight the significant dangers posed by dangerous driver behaviours.

We note your reference to the CRSTS programme. The regional coordination of this significant funding stream is being led by Transport for West Midlands, with the Council and the other six metropolitan authorities working in partnership. The Council is actively engaged in this vital process, and making good progress with developing the range of schemes allocated for delivery across the city.

Whilst we welcome your writing to the Chair of the Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee, it should be noted that progress with the Birmingham Transport Plan: Delivery Plan is already a standing item for the work of that committee, which is inclusive of active travel modes and road safety. Requests to consider mode-specific infrastructure effectively act to unpackage the coordinated, multimodal approach set out in the Birmingham Transport Plan, potentially putting access to funding at risk.

Finally, I’d like to thank you for your continued advocacy and support for the Birmingham Transport Plan. The value of your campaigns cannot be underestimated in view of the scale of the challenge we face. We have to take people in the city with us on the journey towards a low traffic, liveable city with streets for people; with your help, constructive challenge and enthusiasm, I am confident we can achieve the changes our city needs.

Yours sincerely

Councillor John Cotton
Leader of Birmingham City Council

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Better Streets for Birmingham

Better Streets for Birmingham is a community group which campaigns for changes to our travel and planning infrastructure to improve the sustainability, efficiency and safety of our streets. We believe that through connecting Birmingham to reduce car dependency, we will make it a more pleasant place to work, live and play.