Seven metropolitan authorities with the support of Transport for West Midlands have linked their local cycling plans into the Starley Network
Nearly 500 miles of existing, pop-up, and prospective cycle routes have been pulled together to form an enormous cycle network in the West Midlands, in a pioneering collaboration by seven local authorities geared at encouraging locals to embrace greener modes of transport in the wake of the pandemic.
The Starley Network was unveiled on Tuesday by politicians and transport officials in Coventry, who said it would usher in a "new era" of cycling for the region.
Named after James and John Kemp Starley, the 19th century Coventry-based inventors credited with the development of the modern bicycle, the network will link the local cycling plans of seven councils. All the routes on the network will be traffic-free and use routes that are physically separated from traffic.
The region-wide network incorporates 493 miles of existing cycle routes and towpaths, as well as proposed new cycling infrastructure and pop-up cycling lanes funded through the Emergency Active Travel Fund launched by the government in May.
The government's £250m Emergency Active Travel Fund supports local authorities to build walking and cycling infrastructure, in a bid to encourage citizens to avoid public transport and embrace greener travel in the socially-distanced era.
The West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the decision to "reimagine and rebrand" the region's original cycling plans had come after the coronavirus pandemic had spurred a surge in the number of people embracing active travel.
"Cycling has enormous benefits, both for people's health and the environment," he said. "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."
Street stressed that West Midlands County Authority (WMCA) was "utterly committed" to improving cycling infrastructure across the region and that active travel would be critical the region's future transport plans.
The WMCA's transport body, Transport for West Midlands, said it will invest more than £260m in the Starley Network over the coming years. The figure will then be topped up by local authorities as they invest in their local network.
And in order to set up more pop-up cycling lanes across the network, the partners said they had submitted a "multi-million pound" bid to the government's Emergency Active Travel Fund last week.
WMCA councillor and portfolio holder for transport Ian Ward said the plan "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."
The network is also set to feature a new cycle hire scheme that covers the whole region and a number of new cycle and active travel routes, according to WMCA.
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