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60 miles of Black Country roads to get bike lanes in £136 million plan

By Pete Madeley | Transport | Published:

A £136 million plan has been unveiled to install more than 60 miles of cycle routes on roads across the Black Country.

The scheme would roads ripped up and revamped in a bid to encourage people to get on their bikes, a move bosses say will address the region's obesity crisis and clamp down on pollution levels.

On some routes 20mph limits would be brought in, with new sections of road built to segregate cyclists from moving traffic.

It has prompted concerns of more roadworks misery across the region, with one city councillor questioning whether there is widespread demand for cycle lanes.

How the work will be phased:

Proposed cycle routes across the Black Country

The plan – which involves a total of 26 roads across the West Midlands at a cost of £256.6m – is currently being considered by the West Midlands Combined Authority and the region's Mayor Andy Street.

Proposals include the A4124 from Wolverhampton city centre to Wednesfield, an eight mile route that would cost nearly £20m to redevelop.

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A 10 mile route from Old Hill to Halesowen is also under consideration at a cost of £13.7m, while installing cycle route along the A454 from Wolverhampton to Walsall – one of the region's busiest roads – would cost £7.8m.

Other options being looked at include:

  • A4123 through the Black Country (11 miles) – £22m
  • Smethwick to West Bromwich and Wednesbury (5.4 miles) – £11.3m
  • A34 Perry Barr to Walsall (6.2 miles) – £15m
  • B4152 Rushall to Brownhills (4.3 miles) – £9.1m
  • A449 through Wolverhampton (3.4 miles) – £7.2m

The plan would see work delivered in four phases. It was discussed at a meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority on Friday.

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Mr Street said: "We want to secure the cash for dedicated cycling routes for the future.

"If people cycle and walk it keeps them fit and healthy, and it is pollution free. We want to put the infrastructure in place to allow people to do what I personally think a lot of them want to do anyway."

However, Wolverhampton councillor Milkinder Jaspal, urged Mr Street to reconsider the plans, saying the upheaval would infuriate drivers already frustrated by gridlocked roads.

"He needs to take a step back and think whether it is worth spending such a lot of money on a scheme which will not be widely used," said Councillor Jaspa.

Mr Street insisted the plans were not anti-motorist.

"If more people make journeys that can be made by other forms of transport, then the roads are freed up for people who have to use them," he said.

"Let's take the journeys off the road that don't have to be there. The critical road investments in the West Midlands, such as the improvements to Birchley Island and Junction 10 of the M6, are still being made."

Mr Street recently launched the 'Nextbike' cycle share scheme, which will see 5,000 bikes available for hire across the region.

Mixed reaction to cycle routes plans

The plan to rip up roads across the region and install cycle routes has been backed by cycling champion Hugh Porter – but has left some up in arms.

Former four-time cycling world champion and Commonwealth gold medalist Mr Porter described the plans as ‘first class news’.

The 79-year-old, from Wolverhampton, said: “I think to have designated cycle paths for cyclists to use safely and clear of motorists has got to be really good, first class news.

“Obviously the motorists need to use the roads and we have a lot of traffic so to have separate paths for cyclists is absolutely brilliant.

“It is what lots of European countries do, such as Holland where I used to live and race, and Denmark. They have cycle paths leading into the main cities built into the transport infrastructure whereby they run alongside the main roads, even in some cases with their own traffic lights.

“This plan sounds like we’re going in the right direction.”

The RAC said it is ‘very supportive’ of the scheme as it believes cyclists should have segregated paths, but accepted there would be inevitable disruption for drivers as work was carried out.

A spokesman added: “It is a good thing and we are very supportive of the work.

“Inevitably there will be some disruption but hopefully the re-worked roads when finished will more than make up for it.”

However, not everyone is happy with Mr Street’s plan, with drivers facing up to the prospect of significant disruption across some of the Black Country’s main routes.

The Alliance of British Drivers has described the scheme as “potty” and “absolute nonsense”.

Founder member Hugh Bladon said: “The man (Mr Street) is mad, it is the most absurd idea.

“We have got nothing against cyclists. They do not seem to like us but we do not give a damn, in fact one more person cycling is one less car on the road which is good for congestion.

“But this kind of social engineering is potty. People drive cars because they need to and trying to stop them is just absolutely mad.”

Mr Street has defended the plans and insisted they are not anti-motorist.

“The critical road investments in the West Midlands, such as the improvements to Birchley Island and Junction 10 of the M6, are still being made,” he added.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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