Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has announced plans for a cycle hire scheme for the entire region as part of a £260m investment and rebrand of its '500-mile cycling vision'.
Active travel routes across the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will be named the Starley Network, in honour of the Starley family of Coventry industrialists who pioneered bicycle manufacturing.
More than £260m will be spent on the vision over the coming years, TfWM said, with local authorities adding to that figure. The majority of schemes will primarily be delivered by local authorities.
On top of new routes already planned and funded – including the A45 Coventry Road in Birmingham, and the proposed Binley Road route between Coventry University and University Hospital – the network will feature:
- A new cycle hire scheme to serve the whole WMCA area, with further details to be released in the next few weeks
- New cycle routes to run along the same transport corridors as the planned Sprint Bus routes
- A series of new active travel routes along the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro tram line
- Pop-up cycling lanes that are being set-up by local authorities across the region
Local authorities have worked closely with TfWM to ensure the network links local plans, existing routes and towpaths, proposed new cycling infrastructure, and new pop-up lanes funded through the Emergency Active Travel Fund in the wake of COVID-19.
The hope is that more pop-up cycle lanes will follow after a multi-million pound bid for further funding was submitted to Government as part of the second tranche of the Emergency Active Travel Fund.
While the 'network' is not continuous, TfWM has released a map of the plans designed to create an 'easier-to-understand' regional active travel infrastructure.
The Starley Network covers 493 miles of routes that are either 'traffic free away from the highway, or within roads but physically separated from traffic'.
The news comes after the launch of TfWM's Roll & Stroll campaign, which aims to encourage active travel through a behavioural-change campaign that offers 'practical support for new cyclists and those returning, as well as safety advice'.
Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: 'Active travel has a critical role to play in our future transport plans for the West Midlands.
'Cycling has enormous benefits, both for people’s health and the environment. The more people who cycle the more we reduce air pollution, and the more we reduce the strain on our NHS through people getting fitter and healthier. That is why we have always been ambitious with our cycling plans, and the fact we set and met a £10 funding per head target is testament to that.
'However we have clearly not done a good enough job at communicating our ambition to the public, and many see us as a region that is not embracing the cycling revolution – something that couldn’t be further from the truth.
'So with more people taking to two wheels and their two feet following the coronavirus pandemic, we have taken the decision to reimagine and rebrand our initial cycling plans.'
Cllr Ian Ward, the WMCA’s portfolio holder for transport, said: 'What the Starley Network shows is how the seven metropolitan authorities, with the support of TfWM, have set out a vision for cycling across the region.
'It underlines the commitment of the seven councils to improving cycling facilities and infrastructure, and reinforces the work being carried out locally with the money secured by TfWM under the Emergency Active Travel Fund.'
John Kemp Starley
Mr Starley played a key role in the invention of the modern bicycle, producing the Rover Safety Cycle in 1885.
The Rover was a rear-wheel-drive, chain driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high wheeler designs like the penny farthing.
This invention paved the way and modern bicycles still utilise the same design. In the years that followed, the Starley family firm diversified and Rover eventually became world famous car manufacturer.