Northbrook Street – A Car-free space we should all be proud of.

Filed under: Campaign / LTNs

Until 2020, Northbrook Street in Ladywood was like any other street in Birmingham: a danger zone of excessive speeds and congestion, as drivers used it to “rat-run” to other sections of the city. It was, just like many of our streets, a danger to pedestrians and residents through increased pollution and increased chance of fatal incidents.

With pandemic conditions, and more people choosing active transport as a mode of mental and physical well-being, Birmingham City Council experimented with “pop-up” style cycle lanes on Northbrook Street. Their temporary road fixtures did not eliminate the dangers which dominated Northbrook street. Yet, the benefits to local residents in terms of pollution and active physical mobility were beginning to become clear. Two years later and the permanent fixtures were in. Northbrook street has now a fully pedestrianised space, protected by permanent infrastructure. No more cars running through at excessive speeds and, consequently, an immensely reduced risk of incident for the local community.

The aim of Better Streets for Birmingham is to make the streets of Birmingham safer and healthier for all residents of our great city and too often we are campaigning on developments desperately needed in the city (see our newsletter for recent action). So, we wanted to take an afternoon to celebrate the development of Northbrook street and its new status of being a “car-free” space, highlighting to Brummies, council members and local community members the benefits of such a communal space. We brought together different groups from the local community: New Routes Bike Project kindly volunteered to set up a cycle maintenance stand, Central Coop provided healthy snacks, local residents led a planter-building workshop, and campaigners from Ladywood Unite, the Edgbaston Reservoir Collective, and the Big Ride for Palestine came along to share information about issues of great concern in and beyond Ladywood: climate crisis, gentrification, ensuring ongoing public access to the Edgbaston Reservoir, and the genocide in Gaza. 

The community event was a huge success, with Northbrook Street becoming alive with the buzz of people. Local Ladywood residents came down to meet fellow neighbours and discuss key communal issues which faced their area. Children and young people practised their rollerblading and cycling in a safe space, a concept so seldom found in Birmingham. Residents from Kings Heath and Moseley came by to get a real-life perspective on the possibilities found with LTNs. One particular example of the benefits was a local university student who came by with her friend. She got her bike fixed for free and received some advice on how to use her gears – for her, suddenly the possibility of using active travel to attend her place of study opened up, thanks to a supportive community, the right knowledge and, of course, well implemented infrastructure to keep her safe whilst travelling.

The example of Northbrook street shows how much freedom there is to gain when we reduce car priority: mental and physical well-being through active travel, access to truly local services, and an in-depth understanding on communal issues which your area could face. This space has changed and it continues to change for the better, but there is one thing Northbrook street demonstrates is achieved when we reduce the priority given to cars: a new type of community is fostered.

The fight for better streets is not over. Northbrook street is just a drop in the ocean compared to the issues faced by Birmingham. The data shows that all Brummies want to cycle more, so this celebration will not be the last. If you are interested in the reduction of traffic issues in your area and wish to create a safer, healthier environment for yourself, your children and your community members, get in touch through our free membership, or join us at one of our meetings.

Credits

A massive thank you to all involved in this project. All credit for images and videos goes to Lucia Quenya: without your hard work and dedication, the article would’ve never taken shape. And thank you to all members and non-members who came to the event – only with you can we make our streets safer. Written up by Max Crawshaw.

Avatar photo

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.