I’ve always loved riding bikes, and as I’ve got older have realised you will always have one to suit your current circumstance. My mountain biking days are pretty much behind me now (I don’t bounce off the floor like I used to when I was 18), and after a brief flirtation with long course racing in Triathlon, I currently find myself happily ensconced in the gravel bike community. That ‘go anywhere’ ability not only fulfils rides in the woods, but, as of the last couple of years, a commute into work.
Living in South Birmingham I am pretty lucky with the facilities on offer. The network of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Kings Heath can safely navigate me through to cycle lanes in Cannon Hill Park, and onto the A38 Blue Line that takes me all the way into town. Alternatively (more often than not) the Worcestershire and Birmingham Canal, that runs from Hawkesley all the way to Brindley Place is another option.
Before I transitioned into Urban Design I never really gave much thought about the infrastructure required to make cycling a success, and on a recent study trip to Utrecht in the Netherlands, riding through amazing urban developments on dedicated cycle lanes next to beautiful lakes and parkland with the sun shining, I could have moved there in a heartbeat. Don’t get me wrong, the canal into Birmingham isn’t quite the same ambiance, but the smell of chocolate as I head through Bournville past Cadburys, the runners, cyclists and canoers swarming around The University & the regular faces of barge owners, elderly residents feeding ducks or general commuters walking and cycling into Brindley Place, make for a pretty good trip to work.
Observing (and being part of) this new cycle revolution constantly inspires my work, especially on new communities – all of which are conceived around highly permeable networks of walking and cycling corridors, rich in green infrastructure that allow people to easily navigate from one location to another.
Fasttrack, at Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent is a good example – and can be found in our projects section here.
The demand is also there. Recent studies by Sustrans found the West Midlands has some 30% of people that would cycle more if they felt safer, and 76% said they wanted to see more physically protected bike routes. Birmingham has made a really good start, they just need to keep the ball rolling.
I’m constantly disappointed by the unnecessary feud between cyclists and motorists in the media. Sometimes, you just need to get out on your bike and explore how good things really are for yourself.