Birmingham Cycling Revolution

Until 2011 Birmingham spent just 25p per person per year on cycling.

 Only a minor percentage of this 25p was for off road cycling. 

 People did not cycle in Birmingham because they considered it unsafe. 

Paradoxically Birmingham has potentially one of the best off road cycling networks in the country with over 100 miles of Urban Greenways.  It is an excellent city for off road walking and cycling thanks to its legacy of canals, Victorian parks and the small rivers draining the Birmingham plateau.  At one time there were over 60 water mills in the area. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has pledged that as part of the Olympic legacy 35 kilometres of cycle routes will be constructed at the Queen Elizabeth Park in East London.  In Birmingham there is already approximately five times that amount.  Historically, the council has failed to invest in what could be a major tourist attraction.  


In September 2011 Birmingham City Council conducted a public consultation by the Transport, Connectivity, and Sustainability Overview and Security Committee. (TRACOS !)

This was well attended by large numbers of interested groups. Many participants, were sceptical that much would be achieved.  However, in April 2013, the committee produced a seminal 80 page report entitled 'Changing Gear'.  This listed recommendations for big improvements to cycling in Birmingham.

In January 2013 the Transport Secretary, Norman Baker, announced a new 'Cycling Ambition ' fund for major cities.   Birmingham had to demonstrate that any bid would form part of an ongoing sustainable transport strategy.   The council indicated that this would be the first step in a 20 year ambition to create a 'Cycling Revolution' for the city.

The bid was submitted at the end of April. The Changing Gear Report published in April 2013 supported an audacious £20 million bid for funding from the Cycling Ambition Fund.  In August 2013 £17 million was awarded from central government and the council topped this up with a further £7 million.  This £24 million has to be spent in time for the next election.

£8 million of this is now allocated for improvements to off road routes with approximately 25km of canal towpaths due to be resurfaced with resin based all-weather material.

Spending is increasing from £250,000 per year to £1 million per month.  

Walking and cycling is now at the heart of the new Birmingham Mobility Action Plan - a twenty year strategy to transform sustainable transport in Birmingham.  For full details and to watch Sir Albert Bore outlining the plans click on the attached video link:

Birmingham Mobility Action Plan:

In March 2014 Birmingham submitted the Cycle Revolution Phase 2 Bid for a further £8 million. 

This was successful and the funding was agreed in September 2014. Part of the money will be used to upgrade the Tame Valley Canal.

A further round of funding was announced in December 2014 and the Birmingham Cycle Revolution Phase 3 bid was awarded £30 million in February 2015.

Total funding for a five year period is now over £60 million. 

Background to the Greenways Map

In 2012 I drew up a simple map to show how you can walk or cycle across Birmingham from Galton Valley to Birmingham Airport or from Kings Norton to Sutton Park without the need to ever cycle on a main road.  The only roads were small sections of connecting side streets.  

Whilst I was developing the map I decided it might be fun to mark an X for the Staffordshire Hoard at Birmingham Art Gallery. My imagination started taking over and I began to realise that this could become a Discovery Map for young people; - The Romans, The Anglo Saxons, The Kingdom of Mercia, the Industrial Revoltution, where Spitfires were made, and so forth. 

In 2013 I produced a NODE ('KNOOPPUNTEN') Map with the aid of Paul Boston - a professional cartographer employed by Sustrans. This was a simple map based on the Dutch system of numbering junctions.

In 2014 I commissioned Heron Maps to produce the latest Greenways Map.  Heron Maps produce a wide range of excellent canal maps.   As Birmingham and the Black Country are at the heart of the U.K. canal system Heron's existing maps provided a basis for the development of a walking and cycling map.

You will be surprised at just how much greenery and wildlife exists in these Urban Greenways which are a world away from the A34, the A45, and the A456.   This is not surprising since when these canals were constructed much of the land outside Birmingham city centre was still very rural.  With a little imagination you can take your mind back to a simpler way of life - just as J.R.R. Tolkien did when he wrote the Hobbit. 


The main suburban railway lines are:

The Cross City Line which runs north to south through New Street.

The London Midland Service which runs east to west through New Street, Snowhill and Moor Street Stations.

Park and Ride facilities are available at stations on the network. 

N.B. You cannot take bicycles on the Midland Metro.

Tip - Use railway carriages with a disabled sticker - these are the ones which have space allocated for wheelchairs and bicycles.

Remember the basics:

Take a mobile phone; go with friends until you are familiar with the routes; wear long trousers to avoid getting stung; and if you are of a certain age (like me) invest in a gel saddle cover or consider wearing some padded cycling pants.   The vast majority of the paths are useable for the average hybrid bike. However, the quality does vary from newly laid tarmac right down to a small minority of paths which are more suitable for BMX bikes.  Generally most should be suitable for children of twelve years and upwards with a sense of adventure.  Most of the paths will be hard surfaced by the end of 2015. 

If you are thinking about taking very young children it is is sensible to check the route out first to ensure that you are confident they can cope.  In particular take extra care near water and be vigilant at dropped kerbs where small children can easily stray onto the road if unsupervised.   If you feel in danger on any road dismount and use the pavement.     

I have enjoyed cycling the canals of Birmingham for over 50 years.  I hope you get as much enjoyment from these routes as I have.

Have fun.


Roy Watson

Disclaimer: E.+O.E.

This website is for guidance only.  None of the statements should be taken as fact. You cycle at your own risk.

The software automatically produces the copyright sign at the bottom of each page.  Where I have included photographs /artwork which are clearly not mine I have tried to indicate these.  If I have inadvertently transgressed please let me know and I will remove any offending items or adjust the text accordingly.

contact:                                                  © 2015 Roy Watson