Our submission to Birmingham City Council’s Active Travel Delivery Inquiry

Filed under: Campaign / Consultation / General

We submitted evidence to Birmingham City Council’s Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee inquiry into active travel delivery. We will attend a roundtable with the committee and other stakeholders on Thursday 7 September 2023.


About Better Streets for Birmingham

Better Streets for Birmingham campaigns for changes to our travel and planning infrastructure to improve the sustainability, efficiency and safety of our streets. By identifying, supporting and advocating for changes to our environment that enable car-free journeys, we aim to make active travel and public transport the default options for trips around our city.

We believe in a Birmingham where children can play safely in residential streets, where people improve their physical and mental wellbeing through active travel and where our environment is not sullied by acres of public space given over to private vehicle usage. By connecting this city to make car-free travel the easiest option, we will make it a more pleasant place to work, live and play.

We welcome and support the vision set out in the October 2021 Birmingham Transport Plan, which seeks to deliver “safe and attractive environments for active travel, and a high quality sustainable public transport system fit for all users.” We also support the 10 year plan set out in Birmingham’s 2020 Walking and Cycling Strategy, “to make walking and cycling the everyday choice for local journeys and leisure activities, as part of a safe and integrated transport network for Birmingham”. 

However the experience of people who walk, wheel, cycle or scoot in Birmingham is that this is a city which is largely hostile to active travel. There are a handful of protected cycle routes, and certainly no integrated network which facilitates safe travel by bike across the city. Birmingham’s streets are dominated by vehicular traffic both on our roads, as well as parking on our pavements, forcing pedestrians including disabled and partially sighted people; parents with babies and children in pushchairs; the elderly and vulnerable to walk onto the roads. It is clear that not enough space, design, thought or funding is given to making streets safer for active travel. As the Transport Plan states, “we cannot tackle the climate emergency without fundamental changes to the way people and goods move around our city.”

There is a fundamental mismatch between what the Council states as its vision for active travel as opposed to what has been delivered. Excuses about lack of staffing, funding cuts are given as a reason for planned projects not being delivered on time, despite them already being fully funded by the Department for Transport. We have a Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Transport who are both committed to active travel, yet the pace of change in Birmingham has been woefully slow as opposed to other cities in the region. Currently, the only project under construction is a long-running project on Dudley Road.

We hope this committee can identify why that is and recommend improvements in process and culture to facilitate change. The people of Birmingham deserve to be able to walk, wheel and cycle across our city without fear of being intimidated, maimed or killed on our roads.

Why we are submitting evidence

Our letter to the Council

In June 2023 we sent an open letter co-signed by 16 community organisations, to Birmingham City Council’s senior leadership team, the Council Leader and the Cabinet Member for Transport. We sent the letter following a spate of road violence which killed and seriously injured several people, including a four-year-old child. In the time between scheduling the letter and it being sent, news broke that 12-year-old Azaan Khan had been killed on the A45.

In the letter, we outlined three measures we would like to see the Council take in order to speed up the provision of already-funded cycling infrastructure.

Our first proposal was to “empower the Council’s transport project teams to be robust with consultancy partners when designing and implementing schemes, especially when defining timescales.” This is because we have seen grand plans being created by the Transport Planning side of the transport department: the Birmingham Transport Plan (BTP), which aims to be implemented by 2030, and Local Cycling and Walking Investment Plan (LCWIP) clearly shows there is ambition within the Council to rapidly provide active travel infrastructure. We also know there is money to be spent on plans and that there is a constraint with delivery.

The Council uses consultancy partners through the Council’s framework. We encourage the creation of capacity through the use of consultancies. It is therefore, we would suggest, within the Council’s gift to demand a faster pace of work from consultancies. We appreciate that schemes can be complex and have lots of considerations, however every scheme since 2021 has moved at a glacial pace.

Our second proposal was to “produce consultation reports faster. They can take six months to produce. This can and must be shorter. Consultations are an important part of scheme development, however, they can be made more efficient.” This evidence submission will largely centre around the consultation process and lack of communication from the Council. We want to see more efficient consultation, not, as the Cabinet Member for Transport suggested, less consultation. The A34 and A38 blue route consultations had over 1,000 responses yet were summarised and published in less than six months. We are still waiting for consultations from 2021 to be published.

Our final proposal was to “Review internal council processes to improve efficiency. We were encouraged to hear at the Birmingham Transport Plan Delivery Plan launch that business cases will be combined into one Cabinet submission.” We appreciate there is a level of bureaucracy within the delivery of schemes and during our meetings with senior officers have been pleased to learn that the Council have been seeking to address this.

Ultimately, we will not achieve the Birmingham Transport Plan at today’s pace. We do not have confidence in the council’s transport project delivery function. As the Council appears to be bumbling along, passing funding deadlines as if they were meaningless, Birmingham will miss out on hefty funding pots.

Our letter to the Chair of this Committee

In conjunction with our letter to the Council, we wrote to the Chair of this Committee to request that the delivery of active travel projects be included as part of the Committee’s work programme. It is important that this is scrutinised properly and recommendations made for improving the Council’s delivery, from both looking inwardly and outwardly to other cities, regions and countries where active travel projects have been and are being delivered successfully..

In 2013, the then-Transport, Connectivity and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee held an inquiry called: Transforming Urban Movement through Cycling and Walking in Birmingham. While we are in a different place in terms of funding and policy for active travel, it was concerning that much of the written evidence, particularly that submitted by Pushbikes rings true today. Meanwhile, other areas of the country, and indeed our region, far exceeds Birmingham for delivering active travel infrastructure.

We thank the Committee for selecting this topic for its work programme, as well as the Task and Finish Group’s member’s time and the time of officers. We look forward to hearing its recommendations and would encourage the Task and Finish Group to submit its report to Full Council.

Our evidence submission

Our evidence centres around the consultation and communication of schemes. This is where we directly experience the service the Council delivers.

Showing how schemes have been funded

There is a general misunderstanding with how things are funded because funding streams are too complicated. The Government is requiring a “Funded by UK Government” logo to help the public identify centrally-funded projects. When the UK was part of the EU, projects funded by them required a logo.

Brum Breathes Fund mark, required on Brum Breathes Fund-funded projects
Funded by UK Government mark, required on government-funded projects
Co-funded by the European Union mark

In Birmingham, for projects funded through the Brums Breathes Fund, the Council is requiring use of a new mark. It might be more helpful to directly associate projects with funding from the Clean Air Zone if the Brum Breathes Fund instead said “Funded by Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone”. This would create a direct link between CAZ monies and local infrastructure projects.

Similarly, branding the new package of schemes as the Birmingham Cycling Revolution 2 is a wasted pursuit. This is something pursued by every level of government but in practice just means they end up spending money marketing their pet project name when their residents  just want infrastructure they can use.

Communication and consultation throughout the design and delivery of schemes

Communication of scheme updates

Updates about schemes are provided through:

Cycle Stakeholders Group

Better Streets for Birmingham is part of the Cycle Stakeholders Group. The group met infrequently but several times a year and was given scheme updates from the Birmingham Connected team. For example, a scheme might have been redesigned and about to have traffic regulation orders published online.

The meetings were generally a good source of information, however scheme updates were often already out of date and based on whether the Birmingham Connected team had managed to talk to project teams in the office. Any further questions from stakeholders generally could not be answered during meetings.

The last meeting of the Cycling Stakeholders Group was held on 14 December 2022. A subsequent meeting on 8 March 2023 was cancelled and no meetings have been scheduled since.

A stakeholder group workshop to review a refresh of the city’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan was held on 16 February 2023. The group was also invited to the Birmingham Transport Summit on 26 April 2023.

The stakeholder group was told that it would be involved in co-design workshops for major schemes like the A38 and A45, which are being delivered as part of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement 2022-27. This is yet to materialise and it is unclear as to whether this will be early public engagement or the chance to have a material impact on the design approach based on local knowledge.

Birmingham City Council’s website

The Council website is not kept up to date with scheme updates. For example, the Bristol Road enhancement scheme (converting the pop-up cycle lane in Selly Oak to a permanent lane) still points users to fill in a consultation that closed in July 2022.

The website should be kept up to date with all funded schemes. This section of the website is also hard to navigate as schemes are not called the same thing depending on which system you look at.

We would like to see a page for each scheme available on the Council’s website, kept up-to-date with project updates as they become available. It would also help for the Council to have web content that explains the process of delivering a scheme.

Birmingham Connected newsletter

While a good update about transport in the city, this tends to promote consultations, roadworks, initiatives and finished schemes to the public. It is not so good for stakeholders who want to be closer to the details.

Birmingham Be Heard consultation platform

Consultations for schemes are published on the Birmingham Be Heard platform, which is a platform called Citizen Space developed by a company called Delib. Consultations become mixed up with other Council initiatives. Transport consultations are also for different reasons: strategy, scheme details, specific elements of in-progress schemes, statutory Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) consultations, or post-delivery feedback surveys. It is not unusual for one scheme to have several consultation pages throughout its lifecycle.

The Council does not utilise many of the functionalities available on Citizen Space. These include using mapping, publishing responses as they’re submitted (and moderated). The platform provider has a demonstration website for these features: https://uk-geo-demo.citizenspace.com/. The Council uses Citizen Space to run survey-based consultations. We would urge the Council to review this approach.

It can take years for the summary of consultations to be uploaded, whereas it is much faster for other parts of the Council. It has previously been possible for the Council to upload a consultation report within two months.

Table: Schemes with active travel elements consultation turnaround time,
data collated from Birmingham Be Heard consultation platform

SchemeConsultation deadlineResults publishedLead timeNo. of responses Scheme complete?
A38 Cycleway (Selly Oak to City Centre)24 March 201716 August 20175 months        1,000Yes – June 2019
A34 Cycleway (Perry Barr to City Centre)7 April 201727 March 2019, no details published23 months          137Yes – June 2019
Dudley Road Transport Improvements 131 October 201817 November 202025 months          168Partially
Highway Improvement Scheme at Pershore Road / Priory Road / Edgbaston Road Junction09 November 201811 November 202136 months          146Partially
A34 Perry Barr Highway Improvement Scheme2 August 201914 October 20192 months        1,590Yes – July 2022
Selly Oak Canal Ramp (Canals and Rivers Trust)16 August 2019Not publishedWithdrawn
Birmingham Transport Plan9 April 202001 June 202114 months          619N/A
Dudley Road Transport Improvements 215 December 202013 April 20215 months          104Partially
Birmingham City Centre Segments10 September 2021Not publishedPartially
A45 cycle lane30 November 202112 May 20226 months          202No
A457 Jewellery Quarter to City Hospital cycle lane30 November 2021February 2022, PDF uploaded on 12 May 20226 months          140No
Cannon Hill Park to Moseley cycle lane3 December 202111 February 20223 months          546No
Lozells Places for People17 December 2021Not publishedNo
Kings Heath local centre public consultation10 June 2022Not publishedNo
Tangmere Drive – proposed controlled pedestrian and cycle crossing24 June 2022Not publishedYes – July 2023
Selly Oak pop-up lane8 July 2022Not publishedNo
Kings Heath & Moseley Places for People – pink area22 September 2022Not publishedNo
Kings Heath & Moseley Places for People – light blue area26 September 2022Not publishedNo
Kings Heath & Moseley Places for People – grey area30 September 2022Not publishedNo
Moseley local centre public consultation30 September 2022Not publishedNo
Kings Heath & Moseley Places for People – west of High Street4 October 2022Not publishedNo
Kings Heath & Moseley Places for People – green and cream areas5 October 2022Not publishedNo
A435 Alcester Road South Bus Priority25 November 202214 April 20235 months        1,164No
City Centre & Snow Hill public realm improvements – Phases 2 and 3A6 March 2023Not publishedNo
Bournville and Cotteridge Places for People (consultation)3 June 2023Not publishedNo
Bournville and Cotteridge Places for People (initial engagement)August and September 2022Not publishedNo

It is important that consultation analysis is uploaded quickly. It helps to show that residents responding have been acknowledged.

We would like to see a commitment that all consultation findings will be uploaded to Birmingham Be Heard and the Council’s website within three months of a consultation closing.

Emergency Active Travel Fund online platform

This platform is now largely defunct but was previously used for engagement as part of Emergency Active Travel Fund tranche 1 and 2 schemes. This platform has more functionality and there appeared to be more engagement and regular updates through it.

Birmingham City Council’s committee management information system (CMIS)

Formal board papers are submitted through the CMIS and this is what Better Streets for Birmingham has been relying on since stakeholder meetings ceased. 

Sometimes it can be hard to interpret these documents as they are operational documents for the Council – so not written to be understood by the public – and incorrect interpretations can be made. Sometimes things are not well-explained and there are mismatches for what schemes are called.

West Midlands Combined Authority’s CMIS

Regional updates on schemes are given via the WMCA’s Transport Delivery and Scrutiny Committee. These are infrequent and often the information is out of date due to board paper governance.

While board papers are essential for decision-making and scrutiny, we ask that plain English versions are made available, ideally through regularly updated scheme pages on the Council’s website.


Consultations are critical for ensuring that views are heard about schemes. Schemes make changes to the city’s communities and how residents navigate their everyday life.

The Council is committed to public consultations as part of its Constitution. There is no prescribed method or approach for consultation. The Local Government Association (LGA) has written guidance on how to run consultations: https://www.local.gov.uk/our-support/communications-and-community-engagement/resident-communications/understanding-views-2.

Previously, the cabinet member for Transport has stressed the need for consultation as a democratic organisation. Better Streets for Birmingham agrees with this, however has argued that consultation must be far more efficient with a step change in how projects commission, run, report and respond to research. This is evidenced in the earlier table of consultation turnaround times.

The current administration has a democratic mandate to implement the Birmingham Transport Plan. Therefore, the question of whether schemes should happen has been answered. Consultations should now be used to understand problems communities face and for feedback to iterate designs based on lived experience.

Responding to a consultation

Responding to consultations can be difficult as it requires a level of skill to understand scheme drawings, associated standards such as Local Transport Note 1/20 (LTN 1/20), as well as the constraints in place.

Schemes are usually poorly explained, which leads to confusion, rejection and sessions for questions being taken up by basic questions that could have been part of the accompanying information. In the Bournville and Cotteridge Places for People consultation, lots of people were confused about the scheme’s aims, which led to opposition despite acknowledging the need for less through-traffic.

While most of the time there is an overview plan to point out the changes, it would be useful to have explanatory notes to explain why a design decision has been made. For example, a section is a shared path because the highway is too narrow at this point to continue the protected cycle lane.

There are drop-in sessions both online and in-person, but often the scheme designers are not able to answer questions about elements of the scheme. In Places for People drop-in sessions, many residents noted that the people answering their questions were not familiar with the local area or streets they were changing. This is important to rectify as being able to discuss local needs can go some way towards persuading people about the benefits of a scheme. Often the timing of these sessions are inconvenient for workers and parents, though online consultations have made this easier.

Usually, consultations have designs that are far too developed for meaningful change. We tend to only see minor changes which materialise during the Full Business Case report or the Traffic Regulation Order statutory consultation. Any schemes put out for another consultation have a long delay between consultations and little communication as to why this delay has happened.

Alternative consultation models

We would like to see Birmingham City Council iterate its approach to consultation for transport schemes. We have looked at alternative models and provided a summary.

London Cycling Campaign report

In 2020, the London Cycling Campaign and Urban Movement made recommendations for improving consultations in a report called How to Talk to People About the Future of Their Streets. The report likens current consultations as referenda given they essentially offer a vote on a single, or series of options. Their suggested approach is more collaborative with the public.

Their recommendation was to run design and consultation in ten steps:

  1. Brief and purpose
  2. The Team
  3. Data, data, data
  4. Ask the residents (and businesses)
  5. Create principles
  6. Create scheme options
  7. Engage
  8. Create a final scheme
  9. Build, monitor, benefits
  10. Rapid mitigation and roll-out

Representative opinion polling

Currently, the Council asks for public opinion on its presented schemes through the consultation platform. This enables people who are opposed to any active travel measures in the UK to create a national campaign to oppose local schemes, which skews the results. The same can be said for pro-scheme campaigners. The question of implementing schemes in line with the Birmingham Transport Plan was answered in the 2022 local election.

Representative opinion polling, for example through YouGov, could help to understand the community’s acceptance of the radicalness of a scheme. This could be done after a conversation is held with the community to understand its challenges and needs.

Engagement with stakeholders through the current scheme delivery process

We would like to see early engagement with stakeholder groups and road users. This could take place after the constraints are understood through surveys and be part of a collaborative workshop. By having early conversations, it would help to de-risk the project from being rubbished by both people sympathetic to the scheme and those opposing it because sticking points could be designed out early on.

Co-design is an emerging approach to consultation in the public sector, however to co-design is to have an equitable relationship between the scheme designers, funders and road users. Co-design decisions must be made in the room and there must not be a power imbalance during these workshops. Better Streets for Birmingham fears that the planned co-design workshops would not achieve this.

Community-led consultation

Better Streets for Birmingham has recently engaged with neighbourhoods by funding and taking ward maps to community events. Improvements raised are being sent to ward councillors and Birmingham Connected. This engagement helps officers and councillors to understand where the most pressing issues are for road safety and anti-social behaviour. However, Better Streets for Birmingham does not have the volunteer resource to visit all wards or be present at all local events. 

During the pandemic, the Council opened an online map for residents to submit feedback about their streets. It was closed because the Council didn’t want residents to feel that because the issue had been identified, they would be funded and fixed.

However, this is a useful mass engagement tool and would help councillors to identify improvements for the Minor Ward Measures Fund and Brum Breathes Fund. By building community interest in what could improve communities, especially the ability for residents to upvote or downvote each other’s suggestions, it empowers the community to take ownership of local issues and is a good starting point for changes to neighbourhoods. This type of consultation would also help the approach outlined in the draft Birmingham Road Safety Strategy, which takes a neighbourhood approach to road safety interventions.

We would urge the Council to reopen this type of online platform with a disclaimer that suggestions are not guaranteed to be implemented.

Digital consultation approaches in other authorities

Most authorities have developed different approaches using one of three platforms: Commonplace, Citizen Space (Delib) or EngagementHQ (Granicus). Birmingham uses Citizen Space, however previously used Commonplace for Emergency Active Travel Fund schemes.

Where this has been done well, authorities have provided a single webpage for the scheme, throughout its design, development and delivery lifecycle. This means that everything is in one place, not spread across several websites and systems.

A scheme consultation page tends to include:

This level of information and interaction would greatly improve the Council’s consultations and delivery process.


In this response, we have focused on consultation as this is where we mainly interface with scheme development. Consultation is a communication exercise and we find the Council’s communication to be insufficient: schemes go into a black box and some come out of the other end with spades in the ground.

The Council must greatly improve its approach to communicating about schemes and initiatives, as well as become far more collaborative with neighbourhoods when redesigning travel. This is crucial for delivering the changes needed to achieve the aims of the Birmingham Transport Plan by 2030.

We ask the Task and Finish Group to consider recommending:

  1. The Council revises their consultation approach to allow for meaningful input, a quicker pace and more informed officers and contractors for engagement events
  2. Greater transparency from the Council on scheme progress, published online and kept up-to-date
  3. Clearer communications about the details and benefits of schemes, written in plain English

As we have stated throughout this document, we want to see the full implementation of the Birmingham Transport Plan. This is necessary and urgent. We now need to see a comprehensive and new approach from the Council to speed up delivery.

We stand ready to help in any way we can.

Martin Price

I'm the Policy Lead for Better Streets for Birmingham - getting into the detail of committee documents, strategies and political manifestos.

I'm a design consultant interested in system change for transport. I currently work in digital government and used to work in the transport sector.

I live in Northfield and want to see a Birmingham where people have different choices instead of driving everywhere.