Safety issues when Boris Bikes arrive in Brum – with docking station at the pedestrian refuge
The West Midlands-wide ‘Boris Bike’ rental program was launched today in Birmingham.
Docking stations have been set up at more than 30 sites in and around the city center, including one at a busy pedestrian refuge.
Various locations were chosen, from Eden Place off Colmore Row to Fore Street off Corporation Street and from John Bright Street to Pershore Street.
Universities like Aston, Birmingham and BCU are all well served.
The program has already been introduced in Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Stourbridge, Solihull and Walsall where all bikes are available 24/7.
The bikes will then be launched in West Bromwich and eventually some 1,500 bikes will be available for hire, 150 of which will be electric motor bikes.
They will be parked in 170 fixed docking stations to prevent them from being left randomly on the sidewalks.
With the city’s Clean Air Zone charge launching a week away on June 1, Transport and Environment Cabinet member Cllr Waseem Zaffar said it was “an exciting day for Birmingham as we deploy the West Midlands Bike Share project.
“We continue to diversify our sustainable transport offering in a city plagued by health inequalities – cycling will play a major role in making our communities stronger and fitter.”
New dangers in the city
The bicycle rental program in the West Midlands follows the launch last September of the year-long Voi electric scooter trial which was previously criticized by Sarah Gayton, the street access campaigns coordinator for the Federation UK National Blind National, was less impressed. .
New parking spaces for Voi electric scooters are currently being installed at various locations around the city center, but Ms Gayton says they will not solve the problem of scooters left on sidewalks or driven recklessly.
Along with the new bicycle program generally introducing more bicycles to pedestrian areas, Ms Gayton said the West Midlands Cycle Hire docking station in the middle of a three-lane crosswalk on Pershore Street was particularly poorly located.
Posting a video of the site via her Twitter account @seaofchangefilm, Ms Gayton said: “I really think the parking racks for the new West Midlands Cycle Hire in Birmingham need to be redesigned.
“Placing them in an area reserved for pedestrians to cross the road is not safe.
“Why would you put bike racks where pedestrians will walk?
“It’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous to put bike racks in the middle of one, two, three sets of controlled crossings.
“So you will have cyclists going into that area and out of the area, getting used to cycling over the area, and then people actually trying to navigate this space that could be blind, visually impaired, deafblind.
“And then you have cyclists who can come to this area. Absolutely shocking.
Ms Gayton, who lives near Tamworth, added: ‘Car use in Birmingham city center is on the decline and the majority of people who use it now are pedestrians.
“But they see their space reduced now by motorcyclists and e-cyclists and that’s not fair.
“The authorities want to reduce dependence on the car, but pedestrians pay the price, especially mobility scooter users, walker users and anyone with a guide dog.
“For anyone with a visual impairment, being able to walk freely in a public space is a matter of trust and that is stripped down.
“I’m not against progress, but surely things have to be done the right way – it’s time for the authorities to step back to see what they’re really doing.”
BirminghamLive has asked the West Midlands Combined Authority / Transport for West Midlands for comment.
How the bicycle rental program works
Anyone able to download and then save their payment information with the Beryl application via a smartphone can then enjoy 30 free minutes for their first trip (the offer expires on November 20, 2021).
It costs £ 1 to unlock a West Midlands rental bike and 5p per minute to use one after that.
The cost then becomes £ 1.50 for ten minutes, £ 2 for 20 minutes or £ 2.50 for 30 minutes.
I recently did a 95 minute ride which cost me £ 5.75 in total – £ 4.75 for the ride and a £ 1 unlock fee.
Each bike comes with automatic front and rear lights, but no helmet.
Click here to read our review of an extended ride on one of the bikes.
Where are they?
The West Midlands Cycle Hire site does not appear to have a list of addresses where you can find a docking station.
But there is a map you can zoom in at.
This shows five docking stations in and around the main University of Birmingham campus, for example, with six more in the wider Edgbaston area.
There are about two dozen sites in the city center and half a dozen in or near Aston University and the BCU.
Although New Street has been pedestrianized since the 1990s, it is not as pedestrianized as you might think.
Cars, trucks and taxis still use the sweep between Pret A Manger and the Piccadilly Arcade where the sidewalk has been, until recently painted, an ill-defined regular travel hazard.
West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes will now join an ever growing mix of other modes of transport using all of these areas.
They include Voi e-scooters (and a fast tricycle that maintains them) as well as a host of currently unlawful private e-scooters.
Pedestrians in Birmingham city center should also look for private cyclists and Brompton folding bikes which are also available for hire at sites such as Moor Street Queensway, New Street and Colmore Row.
Another recent phenomenon has been the growth of Deliveroo cyclists who have now been joined by Just Eat cyclists.
On Sunday afternoon, two Just Eat riders on bicycles and another Just Eat livery on a Voi electric scooter all parted through the concourse of Birmingham New Street station when four teenagers did what a member of staff did to them. had asked to do and got off their big wheel bikes to walk towards a railway platform.
To that mix you can add people pulling suitcases on wheels – in November 2018, I did a 360 forward on one in Victoria Square during a FacebookLive broadcast to host Birmingham’s German Christmas Market.
And in addition to cones and concrete barriers, the city is now dressed with toothy vehicle attenuation devices – examples include Colmore Row, Eden Place and the top of New Street.
Local success story
The rental of hundreds of bikes in the streets of the West Midlands is the result of a collaboration between the main manufacturers in the regions.
The bikes are manufactured in Stratford-upon-Avon by Pashley Cycles, who will work Serco to supply the bikes for London and Edinburgh.
Supporting technology is provided by UK micromobility operator Beryl who also works with Serco in London.
Universal Fabrications in Nuneaton built the docks across the street which are used to keep bikes safe and tidy.
The locking system is produced by RDM Group based in Coventry and PHA Europe in West Bromwich.
Plastic moldings for bicycles and docks are made in Telford by LVS.