The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will create an opportunity to leave a transport legacy within the city and wider region. Sustrans believes that walking and cycling has the ability to play a key part in keeping the region moving during the event and in the years after it has finished.
We have some specific points listed below for which we would welcome consideration as part of the final strategic transport plan:
Forecasting, planning and investment in infrastructure
1. The draft Games transport plan includes no estimate of the expected extra number of journeys to be made by the 1m paying spectators. Noted that these will be in addition to the 8m normal daily journeys, or maybe slightly fewer during Games because they will be during school holidays and ‘industrial fortnight’.
2. There is no mention of the probable geographical spread of visitor accommodation. This will have a significant influence on the flow locations and volumes.
3. Section 7.1 refers to the growth of travel in the West Midlands by 2035. It refers to an extra 1.2m journeys on top of the existing 8m. This is an increase of 15%. However, it also refers to a projected growth of distance driven of 34%. This probably represents an increase in the modal share of driving, which is in direct contradiction to the aspirations (for the Games at least) for a shift towards more sustainable travel.
4. In future communications please spell out more simply why public transport, walking and cycling are necessary for big events: cars are simply too inefficient a use of space. That’s why there is congestion.
5. It’s not clear what will be done actively to discourage people from driving to events: p. 18 says that vehicle access will be restricted at venues so that only blue badge holders will be able to park at the venue, or nearby. However, it isn’t clear how this will be enforced, merely that it will be communicated to attendees at the ticketing stage. How will we ensure that traffic doesn’t get displaced?
6. Note the potential to use the games as a catalyst to enhance physical activity in The West Mids. Evidence from previous global events suggests that the Birmingham Commonwealth Games is likely to have no significant positive impact on physical activity levels or health at a population level via sporting inspiration or new facilities. McCartney et al found no evidence of health benefits in countries hosting previous mega-events.[i] Research by Sandercock et al examined the aerobic fitness of boys and girls living within 50km of the Olympic Park in London and found that fitness levels amongst children aged 12 were lower in 2013-14 (post games) compared to 2009 and physical activity levels were similar in girls and lower in boys post games.[ii] Therefore, if these Games wants to have a legacy in regards to physical activity levels and related health benefits, the games must be used as a catalyst to build significant amounts of new, high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure and deliver numerous initiatives that will change travel behaviour amongst the West Midlands population. The mentioned communication plan to encourage residents to change their journeys, car share, and use different routes does not refer to active travel or modal change (pg10). Birmingham City Council’s draft Walking and Cycling Strategy sets out a comprehensive network of routes, some of which could be delivered as part of the games, as well as a desire to implement low traffic neighbourhoods.
7. Investing in road widening and ‘road improvements’ to improve traffic flow is proven to only have short-term improvements in relation to congestion levels, this opposes the aim of delivering a green games and will discourage behaviour change to more sustainable and healthy methods of transportation. Improving cycling infrastructure is far cheaper in comparison, can move more people per hour for the space required, and has a much greater return on investment than other transport modes, especially car trips.
8. Any investment should be more clearly targeted at improvements that will have a much longer-term benefit, and the only real improvements that will do this are:
- those that discourage personal vehicle use
- those that improve areas of poor air quality and
- those that make it easier and safer (both perceived and actual safety) for people to cycle or walk.
Integration with other transport planning
9. What will be the role of the new, emerging Birmingham Transport Plan and how are connections being made to this?
10. The stated improvements to Midland Metro will only extend the system distances that most people could comfortably walk. This is quite unambitious, although time is now short for further metro extensions before 2022. Is there any possibility of bringing forward other Metro extensions?
11. Changes to traffic light timings have been proposed – will this include a review of wait times and green person timings (as is in the cycling and walking strategy) to ensure pedestrians can cross comfortably and safety. Sustrans has recently reviewed the timings of all crossings in the Tyburn area of Birmingham and is planning on trialling improvements early in 2020 and publishing a report with recommendations in June 2020; can there be a commitment that these recommendations will be implemented on routes to all venues?
Visitors travelling to Birmingham and London
12. There is nothing on alternatives to driving to (rather than around) the city of Birmingham and London and other venues. For example additional rail services from elsewhere in the UK and promotion of all alternatives such as the National Cycle Network.
13. We suggest that the Games should be used as an opportunity to trial more alternative approaches, including:
- Innovative cross-city rail services including Walsall to Coventry and Walsall to Bromsgrove
- Light segregation cycle routes, for example the A38 segregated cycle lane could be extended south to Rubery with light segregation replacing the painted cycle lanes or shared use paths in use currently. Similar measures could be used along the Coventry Road to the NEC from Birmingham and in Coventry to improve access to the Ricoh Arena.
- Bike share on all cycle routes and at all large transport hubs and venues
- Free electric cycle charging points at all venues and transport hubs
14. Traffic restraint measures:
- Low Traffic Neighbourhoods e.g. Leamington Spa, Selly Oak, Sutton Coldfield
- Pedestrianisation of high streets and highways close to venues or restriction of personal vehicles. For example, Selly Oak High Street should be restricted to bus, pedestrian and cycle traffic
- Barriers to through-traffic to prevent ‘rat running’ in residential areas, especially those close to main venues.
15. Funding of ‘Cycling without Age’ groups or similar electric trishaws and storage of them at all venues with the ability for people to book free taxi services on them to get to venues.
16. All last mile deliveries of consumables to event venues to be made by electric cargo bike, unless items exceed weight or size capacity.
17. There have been difficulties in establishing a bike share scheme but there is still time for this to serve a significant role during the Games and take advantage of the mood for change, to trial new ways of travel and to be more active. The bike-share scheme should include e-bikes, adapted cycles for people of different abilities, cargo cycles and combinations of these e.g. e-cargo-bikes. A well-developed and accessible bike-share scheme will support the use of trial lanes/light segregation.
18. Removal of all barriers on all off-road infrastructure to ensure that the Transport Strategy delivers on the commitment to be accessible.
19. Provide a discount on ticket prices for those who also buy a monthly or annual travel pass or arrive at venues by bike.
20. Provide incentives to cycle to venues such as a refreshment voucher for people who attend venues by bike.
21. Allow bicycles to travel on the Metro throughout the games and monitor to see if the policy could be extended to certain times or days of the week beyond the games.
22. The stated route improvements for cycling are mostly completed already, leaving this section relatively unambitious. The plans that we have seen for the extension of the A34 segregated cycle route have several compromises, the games must ensure that the extension is of the highest quality. Plans already exist for a strategic cycling network and bringing forward at least some of the connections to Walsall, Sutton, the NEC, Longbridge and/or Bearwood would provide further direct connectivity to key Games venues.
23. No mention of additional cycle spaces on trains, comments have been made about the increase in rail passengers, but not in additional cycle spaces on trains. There are also current train station improvement proposals, such as those for Perry Barr Interchange that don’t include any cycling facilities or improved cycle routes to stations.
24. Sprint bus routes don’t include any cycling infrastructure, Metro isn’t cycle-friendly.
25. Will Park and Ride locations encourage park and ‘cycle ride’ – linking the park and ride locations to cycle infrastructure?
26. Cycle parking has been mentioned as being included ‘where possible’ – removing car parking spaces and replace with significant amounts of cycle parking should be a core policy.
Stakeholder and Community Engagement
27. Previously we have heard mention of the establishment of a stakeholder group for transport for the Games and told we would be invited to attend. Is there any further development of this, please?
28. We recommend recruitment and development of a network of Commonwealth Games Green Travel Champions across the region, trained in the benefits of active travel, and how to support a change in travel behaviour for people pre and post games.
[i] McCartney G, Thomas S, Thomson H, et al. The health and socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events: systematic review (1978-2008). BMJ 2010; 340:c2369.
[ii] Sandercock GRH, Beedie C, Mann S. Is Olympic inspiration associated with fitness and physical activity in English schoolchildren? A repeated cross-sectional comparison before and 18 months after London 2012 BMJ Open 2016; 6: e011670.