4th October 2021
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 284: Brum to kick out cars
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUEST: Cllr Waseem Zaffar
TOPICS: 45-minute interview with Birmingham’s city council’s transport lead Waseem Zaffar on the day the council launched its radical and potentially transformative transport plan. The UK’s motorway city is to prioritise people over cars, including adding more protected cycleways. If Britain’s Detroit can do it, any city can do it! This interview was used for a news story which appeared in The Guardian.
Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to episode 284 of the Spokesmen cycling Podcast. This show was engineered on Monday 4th October 2021.
David Bernstein 0:25
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA. Jenson USA where you will find a great selection of products at unbeatable prices with unparalleled customer service. Check them out at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast. And of course, I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast since 2006. For shownotes links and other information check out our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now here’s my fellow host and producer Carlton Reid and the Spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:11
Birmingham City Council has just launched its radical and potentially transformative transport plan. The UK is motorway city is to prioritise people over cars, including adding more protected cycleways. I’m Carlton Reid and in this 50-minute episode we hear from Birmingham city council’s transport lead Waseem Zaffar and the very personal reasons why he converted to pedalling from being a petrolhead.
If Britain’s Detroit can prioritise people over car, any city can do it. This interview formed the basis for a news story which I wrote for today’s Guardian and here’s Waseem.
Waseem, thank youever so much for for talking to me and thanks oOf course for for sending through the plan which is no longer a draft plan. It’s a real thing coming up
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 2:13
Absolutely long time coming. But we would have loved to have adopted this a lot sooner but the pandemic created some challenges particularly around resources and our priorities as a as a council is slightly shifted but in between we did have the emergency Birmingham transport plan which followed the same four key principles of the the development transport plan.
Carlton Reid 2:35
Now I’m going to compliment you here in that I could have written this. Tthis is the plan I would have written. I mean, I might have been a bit more radical here and there but not a great deal. So that says to me it’s quite radical.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 2:48
It is radical because Birmingham needs a radical shift in how people move across our city. We’ve we’ve got major challenges, we’ve got major environmental challenges, you’re know, our challenges around air quality are very well publicised, we’ve got major challenges like climate change, where the biggest gas emissions contributor in our city and across our country is transport more. More importantly, even that those are really important or more important than that Carlton, we have major health inequalities. So I see this less of a a transport project, but more as a project making our communities and our neighbourhoods a lot healthier through active travel, getting people at their cars and those short journeys and getting people walking, getting people cycling. You know, we’ve got the scooter trial as well. And this is all a shift from single occupancy private cars towards more sustainable transport then buses. You know, the the tram is really important to us. But it’s he hasn’t got the coverage anywhere near the coverage that we need. And local trains are really important. We’re expanding on them, but they’ve got nowhere near the coverage that we need. So the busses are absolutely vital I sit here, we have to give them the level of priority that that they need. So this this, this plan is about giving busses a greater level of priority in our city. And I’m absolutely convinced once we start to get this delivered some aspects we’ve been trialling through the emergency Birmingham transport plan. But once you start to get this delivered that the key principle driven across communities and start to recreate places in our neighbourhoods, which are more friendly to people over cars, we will see a real shift in how people’s patterns — there will be a cultural shift to more walking and cycling, which will make people live fitter and healthier and longer in our city.
Carlton Reid 4:37
Now you have the draft plan went out to public consultation you had 619 responses from individuals, 44 from organisations so just go into that 619 is that really representative because that’s 619 people in a city of lots of people?
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 4:57
So, Carlton, it is always a challenge in how people respond to our consultations. The council carves out consultations on a variety of things, often statutory consultations, and we don’t get anywhere near the response that we need. Obviously, some of the biggest consultations we’ve carried out have been linked to transport and environment, the Clean Air Zone was a 10,000+ response consultation, we had over 6,500 responses on our bus survey that we did a consultation that we did. So, you know, we were out there, we were talking about the Birmingham transport plan, we, we received a lot of local, regional, national and international coverage on this too. So we didn’t in a way, hide this consultation behind loads of pages on our website, this was very much out there. And and I’d like to think I’ve been very, very much out there myself, not hiding behind council officers, or the stakeholders talking about these plans, because these are, these are plans. I mean, you know, obviously the a lot of people have been part of this, but these are politicians, we’re making the decisions and, and I always believe firmly that popular unpopular politician need to front of these decisions.
Carlton Reid 6:09
Now that in the report to cabinet, you say the response to those 619 responses and the 44, from organisations, were largely positive, including on the things that potentially you might think if you were incredibly pro car wouldn’t be so popular. So the cycling infrastructure, the walking infrastructure, and buses, all of these were actually quite popular. So what does that say about the kind of the trope out there that you can’t do these kind of things, because they’re not going to be popular?
So, Carlton, in the three and a half years I’ve been in this job tThe thing I’ve realised is that the challenge and the heartache is generally with the disruption that projects cause. Once you start, people, communities start to see the benefits of a project. They … And the long term benefits are probably they are very, very supportive. So I think it’s sort of looking beyond the actual delivery and implementation of a project and looking at the benefits that really work. I don’t know there’s people out there who you know … Our blue cycling lanes are probably the most one of the most popular things that council’s done in a long time we’ve got going on, I was talking to at the Ruth Cadbury MP at Labour Conference. She’s originally from Birmingham, she visits her mum in Birmingham, and she’s the chair of the all party parliamentary group, we’re walking outside, and she was travelling on those blue cycle lanes recently, and she was extremely positive about them. So I think people in our community as citizens of Birmingham, want these changes. It’s just whilst there’s all this work taking place in our city at the moment, and obviously the games the Commonwealth Games have been a catalyst for investment and a catalyst for change. This quarter, there’s quite a lot happening, which is creating some disruption, but I can assure them that you know, as we end this year, those projects will start to come to an end and then people will start to see the benefits on me so I think people are starting to understand because we’re out there talking to as many people as possible about the long term benefits of projects I think they are starting to get more support or what we’re doing and obviously there’s there’s some projects like the low traffic neighbourhoods in and we’ve seen the the issues in Kings Heath which some which are very very popular in some quarters and not so popular amongst others, but it’s about getting the balance right and ensuring that we do everything possible to bring everybody on this journey with us. And you might have noticed we’ve launched the consultation formal consultation for the the temporary measures in Kings Heath and also move forward to the expansion of the the the low traffic neighbourhoods over other areas and Kings Heath and Mosley too so where we one thing that certainly happens, around transport gets communities talking, it gets people you always got an opinion about a change in the way a road or a piece of highway currently exists or is moving into to a new way of doing things. So people always have an opinion.
Hmm very loud opinion sometimes now how much different is this plan compared to the 2020 draft one, in wording, how much has been changed?
To be honest with you because we’ve got we’ve got considerable support not just from people but also from key stakeholders it’s it’s the key principles are literally the same. The the project is this plan is very similar to the draft plan. The obviously COVID creating massive challenges but the one opportunity did create is we could we tested out some of these principles. We tested our low traffic neighbourhoods, we tested out pop-up cycle lanes. We tested out the city centre segment and you know that That gave us the ability, I’m not saying first time around all of those things absolute perfect, but when we start to embed them in permanently, we will get very, very close to the ideal, the ideal project with respect to that. So there has been that that mass opportunity but because and we’ve also obviously rolled out the Clean Air zone since then as well, which has been really successful in its first few months and I know it’s gonna get it’s going to success levels are going to increase and increase and increase until we don’t need a clean air zone. So it’s very, very, very similar to where we were.
Okay. So the current fuel shortages on the news all the time at the moment that it shows how reliant we — I’m saying we, people in general as it’s it appears from the media – are on on petrol and on dotting around in private cars, and how scared the government clearly are upsetting motorists. So the transport plan was clearly written long before the current woes but there’s all that TV and media coverage does that, does that keep you awake at night thinking I’m going to get so much stick here, when we start delivering on the ground.
This is one of the original motor cities — the car will always have a role within Birmingham. But it’s it’s the issue is the over reliance of coal in our city, particularly the overloads of single occupancy journeys in our car in using car and the fact that we’ve got 300,000 journeys every day. These are pre COVID figures obviously 300,000 journeys every day by car, which are less than one mile. That’s that’s not how I want Birmingham my city. Progress I want, I want people to be able to look going back to the health inequality I referred to earlier, I want people to be able to walk and cycle those journeys, enjoying their communities, enjoy their neighbourhoods enjoy the space around them. And for that, you need that that cultural shift. One of the things we’ve realised, particularly in the pandemic, people want clean air. And if we want to get cleaner air, we have to shift the way that we move across the city, there is no two ways of it. So whilst there, there are projects on the clean air zone that have made me very unpopular in the north of the city where I live in and represent, the A34 highways project made me unpopular. But I often say I didn’t, I didn’t come into politics to win popularity contests I came into politics to change lives for the better. And I’m convinced projects such as the Clean Air zone, which will save lives. It will ensure that kids who are currently living six months less in our city because of the levels of air pollution will grow up fitter and healthier. I’m convinced that Perry Bar in the north of Birmingham will be one of the most connected neighbourhoods around with segregated cycling, a new train station, a new bus interchange, a bus rapid transit route and bus priority like no other place in Birmingham, these are the changes we’re making to people’s lives that is just a start because this transport plan is about a vision for the foreseeable future. And looking at how we can create similar changes right across the city. So whilst at times I you know the the challenge and the criticism, and the trolling does have an impact on me, I’d like to say if he didn’t have he didn’t have an impact on me. But I look at the long term benefits. And this is about no matter what hugely privileged position to be able to change my city for the better. And this is my city, this is where I was born. This is where I’ve grown up, I’m the proudest Brummie there is and this is where my family will and my kids will grow up. And I you know, I want to look back at this exciting period of my career and say I was I was able to play a very small role in making Birmingham, that amazing place that it will be coming forward.
You’re not taking an all-modes or equal approach here. You know, you’re not boosting all modes, you know, adding cycleways but leaving motoring intact, you’re actively talking about reducing motoring. So that’s not just bold, isn’t that electoral suicide for a politician?
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 14:38
Carlton, if we’re going to reverse the health inequalities, if we’re going to tackle air quality, the 1000 people dying prematurely every year in Birmingham, because of air pollution if we’re going to become carbon neutral by 2030, there has to be some radical, bold and brave steps. And this Birmingham transport plan is one of them. I’m convinced I speak to people who drive, their challenges to public transport system isn’t good enough. People who use public transport tell me that isn’t reliable enough. So if we can increase the reliability of the public transport system, if we can get more zero emission buses, which we’re working on, we’ve got 20 hydrogen buses, we’ve got a bid for 200 through the Zebra route. You know, we got the greenest buses in Birmingham, we get more reliability in the bus services, people will decide to give up on their cars, people will decide to leave their cars at home and travel by by public transport. So I’m convinced that this is this is the right time for Birmingham to be making these bold moves so close to the games, the HS2 round the corner, we need to provide these integrated public transport solutions rather than making decisions, as we have for decades, which prioritise cars over everything else. And, you know, we’ve ended up with the gridlock city, we’ve ended up with the challenges that are referred to and with 150,000 more residents expected over the next few years here in our city iIf we don’t have this cultural shift away from private car and reduce the reliance of private car, we’re going to end up you’re if it’s gridlocked, already, God forbid what our city will look like, moving forward. So this change is needed, it will happen. And I’m convinced the people of this city will not will will not oppose these plans, electorally, or in any other way.
Carlton Reid 16:42
So you said “brave” and you said “bold” and then in the plan itself, there’s “radical,” there’s “transformative.” There’s “seismic.” These are scary words, for most people, because people don’t like change, even if it’s maybe potentially could improve their lives. It’s just they like to see things that they’ve always done. So why have you used such an effect triggering words in your in your document? Could you have not sugarcoated it a bit more, bring in the change slowly, perhaps even by stealth? So people didn’t notice the changes?
Carlton, when you put yourself forward for public office, when you put yourself forward to represent the people of a city like I have, you put your head above the parapet and you do that understanding the consequences. I’m I’m absolutely confident. I’ve got some of the best officers in local government working with me. I talk to stakeholders all the time, I talked to communities all the time, I listened to people who are critical of these plans and I listen to people who are supporting these plans. So I’m very routed back to where how this will impact on people. I absolutely believe that there’s two things a politician has to do. One you have to be open transparent, honest with people so sugarcoating is not the way I do things. I have to you have to front the decisions you’re making, you can’t hide behind council officers, you can’t hide behind press officers, you need to be a decision that’s got your name on it, you need to be able to sell it and convince people and if you can’t come to sell it and convince the people you should not be making that decision. And that I believe that you know those are very, very important values of how I operate as a politician. And and you know, I’m I also absolutely live what I what I say you know, I absolutely believe in in these things. I believe that the right things for for for, for me, my family who live in in the city, for my constituents and for the wider city. And I think you know, it’s like the clean air zone on leading up to the clean air zone, leading up to the clean air zone, my inbox was full of people challenging and criticising the project and they have every right to do that because I absolutely believe in freedom of speech and I believe in democracy which is about challenging and holding people to account, I believe in that. But with the level of the complaints diminished literally the moment we launched because a lot of people were obviously comparing the clean air zone onto the congestions on London’s thought they’re all going to be impacted by rather than just the polluting cars being impacted by by that project. And I’m I’m convinced that the the initiatives within this will bring about long term benefits to our communities and they will understand that
Were you a convert all these ideas or were you in your youth, were you a bit of a petrol head or have you always been this way minded?
So, Carlton, you couldn’t get me out my car four years ago I was I would, I would take those journeys less than one mile by car. I hadn’t been on a on a bus since my university days. And I never cycled never, ever cycled until the summer of 2018. So when I started to look at the consequences that people that the decisions I was making, that the impact that that was having on me and my health, I’m a Type2 diabetic. And my health was really diminishing a few years ago. And then I started to know … My father was a taxi driver in Birmingham. In 2009, February, he suddenly died at the age of 54. And every day, I think about the consequences of a him and his job being behind a wheel of a car, earning a living from me and my mum and my siblings to put bread on the table. How that led ultimately led to his untimely demise. Now he was his health, he was a Type2 diabetic, we had the under control, his health conditions pretty good. Just went overnight. So I absolutely think about this and I know one of the biggest groups that’s challenged me in the city has been taxi drivers. Before I became a councillor, I was a trade union rep for taxi drivers in Birmingham. And I often talk to them about the impact that sitting behind a wheel for the long hours they do in polluting areas has on their health, this is about reversing their health inequalities and making them live longer and stronger and healthier lives. So I’m absolutely a convert. I you know, there’s still a lot more I could do I could walk a lot more ironically, I was at Labour Conference. And I did a remarkable amount of steps during that during the conference which I found fascinating. I could do a lot more steps around you know, walk, I could do a lot more cycling. But I have absolutely, you know these changes will will will make people in our city healthier. No one needs to tell me about the health inequalities in our city because I represent the ward with the lowest male life expectancy. I represent the ward which had the least amount of resilience amongst its people and led to it being very badly hit during the COVID pandemic. We have to change people’s lives and this is one way of doing it.
Hmm. So you mentioned the Labour Conference there but the policies you’re bringing in perhaps bizarrely are actually an awful lot of them you can find in the Tory manifesto now so you know Labour and and and Tories maybe agree on these things it doesn’t doesn’t always happen in you know Tory councils and it has been the Labour councils that have been taking in effect Tory policies or the way that the Tories are now allowing councils to do these policies if they so choose so there’s there’s no conflict there’s no right or left in this any more, is there?
So I always say in politics we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. The Conservatives have taken different positions so the Birmingham Conservatives are very much opposed to our plans; they they are convinced that car needs to remain king in our city. They that’s their position they they’ve been opposed to the Clean Air zone to be repurposed to the emergency transport plan they opposed to the burden of transport plan and the principles within that they’ve taken a certain position and i’m i’m not a fan of Boris Johnson no no no prizes for guessing that right but one thing I I’ve got where I do agree with Boris is his views in some aspects on our active travel I know as a mayor of London he did a you know a lot of good stuff around that and I genuinely think your man Andrew Gilligan absolutely understand the importance of the shift from car to more sustainable mode of transport. So I think the the Conservatives nationally understand the importance of this better than the Birmingham Conservatives who I think
So can you not just hit them over the head with “this is what your leader says guys, why you opposing this, this is what your leader says, listen to your leader.”
I often do in the council chamber, stopped asking me questions. But then a totally different place and Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands and he’s stuck between the two. He’s done some good stuff around active travel too. But I know he he his position on the clean air zone shifted over time is is now more opposed to them supportive of it. But I think the local Conservatives are more concerned about what’s going to happen in the May 22 elections in Birmingham, rather than making sure our communities are living longer and fitter and healthier lives. So they’re more their price right now is the politics rather than the people of the city, which is a shame, because I’d rather all the parties came together to work on this very, very important agenda.
And I’m not saying you’re gonna get voted out here, because what you’ve said there before was these can be electorally popular, but theoretically, could all of this be reversed if the council flipped in 2022?
So we introduced Birmingham’s clean air zone on because we there was a ministry of direction and our modelling showed the only way to address the ministry direction was through the introduction of a CAZ D. The ministers signed that off the ministers and civil servants absolutely said this is the right way to do it. Local Conservatives right now are promising the people of Birmingham they’re going to reverse that. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I don’t know what modelling they’ve done, what alternatives they’ve have got, [wards?]. So they can promise they’re in opposition, they could promise anything and everything. But ultimately, the people of Birmingham will see beyond those false promises. The people of Birmingham will vote for a council and a political party that’s delivered for them and vote for a political party that has the right vision at this particular time for Birmingham because these things are needed based on urgency is absolutely the right way to work. And I’m convinced we will once again when comprehensive we’ve got a two thirds majority in the council chamber and I I can’t see that changing
so before it was him, you mentioned low traffic neighbourhoods and the ones you’ve brought in with the segmentation plan where each you know, part of the city is going to be different you can’t use it as a as a through route every segment would it be fair to call the central Birmingham one big LTN?
Um, it so the central Birmingham we’re prioritising cycling walking on public transport. And in essence, that is, that is the the, the key thing of a low traffic neighbourhoods. So there’s various versions of low traffic neighbourhoods, the version in Kings Health, two very different to the version and Lozells that I’m implementing where low traffic neighbourhoods are one, one way circulars that reduce the traffic flow in residential areas. And you can you can’t technically say that the city centre segment is about, it’s certainly about reducing car through traffic through travel. So he is reducing, he is in essence, reducing car journeys through through the system. So you could say it’s a low traffic neighbourhood. Yeah, you could, you could say it’s one big, low traffic neighbourhood.
Local press supportive, critical, neutral?
Em, depends depends on what gets the clicks these days. But I think there’s there’s been a lot of support for for some of these initiatives. And for some that has been challenged, you know, the, the you I still, when we launched the Clean Air zone. We did, we did a lot of media. How many interviews I did that particular day. It’s a record that will never ever be beaten. And I still remember one particular thing I did and that was the ITV central programme that did from the Fiveways Island at a hotel on the Fiveways Island, we spent the whole half an hour talking about the importance of cleaner air, improving air quality in the wider environmental challenges and I was I just walked away thinking thank you that was brilliant that is exactly that, how we need local media to support not just our efforts but to to really push forward the the environmental challenges and the health challenges that we’ve got in our city. I’ve also sat for a number of hour long audience phone callings with with BBC Radio locally. And that’s been very, very difficult. But I’ve sat down and listened and I’ve gone back and I’ve listened and I’ve responded as best as I can. So we’re out there we’re very open and you know where we don’t just have to hide behind the decisions and the policies that I bring forward. But I think people are starting to understand the importance of them. Hmm.
Now in the, in the in the plan, I can only find one I might have might not have got this there might be somewhere else but I can only find one of autonomous vehicles, many other places. And even if you listen to Grant Shapps at times, you know, autonomous vehicles and, and electric cars, but certainly autonomous vehicles, you know, that’s the future. That’s that’s what’s going to rescue us, that’s going to be the thing that gets everybody out of their cars, because they’ll just be these autonomous cars darting around. But you see, you have mentioned it and you’re you say, you know, the technology is being developed in part in the Birmingham region. But then you haven’t made it on autonomous vehicles there. So would it be right to think that you’re quite ambivalent towards how quickly these can actually be brought in? And certainly not within, you know, the nine year framework you’ve got to work to
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 30:45
That technology is, is developing really, really quickly. And I’m really excited about all sorts of developments and autonomous vehicles is certainly one of those. I think we are we’re absolutely on board, we’re absolutely committed, working very closely with the combined authority and transport systems with a combined authority, and other partners, the local university of looking at how we can benefit from being a 5G pilot city as well, looking at how better communication can can also help some of the technological advances that will be made. So absolutely, we’re not trying to water the future for autonomous vehicles, we’re actually excited by it. And maybe if we had asked you to write this transport plan for us, you would have made it far greater than we have.
Carlton Reid 31:37
No, no, I’m pretty much dead against it. I don’t think we’re going to exist for all sorts of different reasons. Anyway, maybe trucks on motorways, but that’s it. So so one of the things that you’ve you’re saying there is the removal of footway parking, which absolutely is another one of those, you know, touching the third rail, sort of things. But doesn’t that require national legislation, and I know that, you know, the 1834 Highway Act gives people the powers but you still need central government to back you up here.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 32:09
Absolutely, we need central government to back us up in two ways, give us extra powers, and, and also give us the resources to to implement some of these things. You know, parking on on pavements is is something which blight a lot of communities. And I sometimes get really frustrated, particularly with those people who have accessibility issues, or moms have got problems with their babies, and I’m causing the way he just frustrates me, angers me. And I’ve always said, the amount of space that we waste with parked vehicles is also a major challenge. So as we move forward, we want those extra powers. But I also think this plan will help reset the relationship between the citizens of Birmingham and car. And I hope people will become less reliant on cars. And you got some households with no cars in the city, you got some household with four or five cars in the city. And that is the sort of place we really absolutely need to reset that. So hopefully, people won’t need that amount of cars in a household and we could start to get away from God. I remember reducing a coin is I sold my car back in I think 2018. And I sometimes have to drive and borrow my wife’s car, other times I walk cycle, get the bus or even get an E scooter. So it’s about how we can manage and design our lives in a different way. Where is the whole focus in cars? But yes, the pavement, we do need those extra powers from government to be able to do a lot more. And I think it’s
Carlton Reid 33:49
A case of just sorry, it’s just him. Isn’t it a case of just getting the police on board because the powers are there. You can get you can you can book motorists for obstruction of the footway, if the police are involved it when it’s you know, civil enforcement, that doesn’t work. But it’s when the police or the police generally around the country have problems from London where the rules are very different. They can enforce this should they choose to do so. So if it’s, you know, local politicians, say to Westminster police right from now on you, you give somebody a ticket if they’re parked on the pavement, so what more powers Do you need, the powers are there they’re just not currently use by the police.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 34:29
Carlton, I’m not sure if my Sergeant who 10 years ago had twice the number of officers he’s got now. I’m not sure I could tell him to go and book those cars parked in the pavement or find those people who are creating major.
Carlton Reid 34:46
It had a lot of money we’re seeing if you started booking people for parking, the payment. It’s so endemic, you’d be in billions in credit very soon,
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 34:54
But they just made the lot the cuts that we’ve had to the Wes Midlands Police and police forces up and down this country has, has really hindered their ability to do some of the very important basic things that they need to be doing. I’m somebody who’s, I’ve made it very clear, I will never criticise police officers, because the politicians have made decisions have really hindered their ability to carry out this carry out the service that they want to do, and they can do so. You know, I meet regularly with senior police officers, I’m meeting the Police and Crime Commissioner next week. And we’re talking about some of these issues that you brought up, but there’s a real lack of resources. You know, I’ve got a serious issue right now around the enforcement against poverty scooters, you know, which which is, which is a challenge in our city. But again, where do where do I get the resources to the police to be able to do that. So I think that the government really need to look at how they’re resourcing the police in the wider public sector to do the things that desperately need in our community. The answer is called dancer is a clear style of government investing into our communities and investing into neighbourhood policing. The way that the last Labour government did, that was the level of investment we need in our in our policing.
Carlton Reid 36:18
Hmm. So that your plan says the growth in the number of vehicles on the road needs to be contained. That’s pretty explosive. But isn’t it every English persons right to drive where they want when they want? You’re taking away with you’re taking away people’s freedom.?
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 36:40
So I’m not stopping people from driving. The clean air zones hasn’t stopped doing we’re driving into the city centre, the the city centre segments will still you could still get to everybody on the city centre bar the one or two extra expansions on the pedestrianisation that we’re making the the low traffic neighbourhood, we bought it, you can still get to every single house or shop within the city with the exception of small pedestrianisation we’ve done so we’re not stopping anybody. But what we’re saying is we need to rebalance the use of car. And one way of doing that is looking at other alternatives. So right now you can you can, you can walk, you can use a variety of different modes of public transport, you can use e-scooters, you can hire a West Midlands bike share about a cycle on the West Midlands Bike Share project. So there’s a whole range of alternatives we’ve got to increase the obviously the cycling issues due to infrastructure, particularly segregated cycling to make it safer for people to do so we’ve got to improve the reliability. So the alternatives are there, and the alternatives grow and grow. So we’re not stopping anybody from driving. But we’re just encouraging them to look at modal shift in particular modal shift to more sustainable modes of transport.
Carlton Reid 38:08
So if the if this plan doesn’t get voted through so that’s that’s option three, what’s going to happen to Birmingham?
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 38:17
I’m very confident that this plan will be voted through by the Cabinet because this is not me on my own who’s worked on this project I’ve got the very strong support of the leader of of the Council and all my cabinet colleagues and in fact, I’ve got support from the Labour group and the Labour Party who are absolutely determined that this is the right decision at the right time for our city and decisions which are absolutely needed these days no other alternative and I’m confident that the people of this city when they start to witness on live the benefits of this project will actually appreciate that we will be making the right decision for the city of Birmingham
Carlton Reid 38:58
And that’s a key point we’re seeing so when so I noticed there’s a something called I like the fact they’ve got two words in here, the Birmingham transport plan delivery plan. But when I read through that I couldn’t actually see the when I didn’t see you know, when physically these things are going to be put on the ground. And for instance, is the segmentation plan is that all going to go in overnight like like happening gained, or are these things going to be built and done over a longer period of time.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 39:33
So we want to deliver a lot you know, we’ve got some quick wins. And as I said earlier, the emergency transport plan and the the active travel resource that we’ve got from the government has enabled us to trial some of these things out. So some aspects of these will be implemented really, really quickly. We’re looking at making a lot of the pop-up cycle lanes that we introduce permanent very very quickly. The city centre segments I think will move really quickly. And I think, you know, obviously, embedding all the changes in at the same time can be challenging. But we will, you know, there’s a likelihood a lot of that can happen really quickly because we’ve trialled out a lot of this through the emergency transport plan measures. But the low traffic neighbourhoods will, you know, there’s been some, it’s not been all straightforward, and we need to, we need to ensure that we do, right, and we do with the people of Birmingham rather than to the people of Birmingham. And I’ve always said, we will engage, engage, engage, and then through the engagement called design and co produce, and then carry out the statutory consultations or we want to work with local communities to get this absolutely right. So some things will happen really quickly, some things will take a lot of time. And but I’m very confident that the key principles around this plan will, will be we’ll we’ll kind of keep us focused on what we’re doing and how we’re doing in the city. Resources are really important. So getting there and some of these things cost a lot of money to deliver. So you know, we’ll go with the big and bold government every opportunity to ask them for the resources to be able to do this, I’ll actually go back to Boris, I’m confident that Boris and Grant Shapps and Andrew Gilligan will understand that Birmingham was actually on a on a journey that they will support. So a Conservative government and a Labour council working together to deliver this could be could happen for the next couple of years that this conservative government’s in office.
Carlton Reid 41:38
I’ll go back to the when I know it’s difficult because it is something that has to be worked through and there is a plan for the plan. But when I did that Guardian article, and as a couple years ago when did that Guardian article, so the the deputy mayor of Ghent when I asked him what you know what, what would be your advice to Birmingham when they’re doing this this traffic segmentation plan and I’m sure you remember he said, as well as you know, you’ll hear birdsong and you gotta bring every with you blah, blah, blah, blah, it was you’ve got to do it overnight. You just got a you can’t pussyfoot around you can’t take six months to do this, you do it overnight. So that the segmentation plan is that something that you think might have to be done in the same way you do. Sunday Night is when it’s done and Monday morning is when it is all in place.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 42:32
So Carlton, in the in terms of the segment plan most of you I think, is already in place through the through the the the short term measures we brought in during COVID it’s about making it permanent very quickly. So I think a lot of the citizens this will not come as a surprise when we recently launched a consultation around this I think some of the residents and some of the people visiting our city would thinking these are further measures that we’re bringing in there are some further measures from the original so I know my officers are working very closely with a wide range of stakeholders I know they’re spoken to people in get and other places too. But Birmingham is different so we will make the right decision but I absolutely understand what the what the Ghent deputy mayor saidy and if required we will do that. But I think most of the segments are already in place.
Carlton Reid 43:31
And those those segments that are there and it is generally that ring road that’s kind of great fantastic for those those segments and they’ll eventually gain the the clean air and and health benefits, etc, etc. But isn’t it the suburbs? Isn’t it like, you know, the 7, 10 miles out, that’s where the real car use takes place. So So how are you going to affect change, in Erdington and in places that way beyond the city centre?
Cllr Waseem Zaffar 44:04
That’s a very valid question. And this transport plan is not by the city centre, these transport plan is about the entire city. And I know historically at times the local authority has been perceived or possibly rightly solid to be very city centre focus. And the citizen is absolutely important. You know, you create employment, there’s a massive visitor economy. And there’s there’s this great private sector there. And our city centre is is one of the best city centres in the country. It’s a fascinating place, but I want clean air in every single neighbourhood in Birmingham. I want active travel in every single neighbourhood in Birmingham. And to do that we’ve got to expand the basis on the measures around recreating neighbourhoods and ensuring that we support initiatives right across Birmingham is really really important. So actually travelling every every neighbourhood, expanding our segregated cycling infrastructure right across this city so it doesn’t come to a stop at a particular place or at least starts when you get close to the city centre, we need to ensure that it goes right across the city and public transport, zero emission public transport right across our city. So the we’re introducing a number of cross city bus routes. But the most important bus route in Birmingham is not a bus route that actually goes into the city where it’s the 11 route that goes across in a city Birmingham, right all the way around is the longest route in Europe. It goes past 300 schools. Now I don’t want the bus providers to be putting all the clean green buses coming to the city centre and putting the old polluting vehicles on that 11 route on the 8 Route which is also goes across the inner city run the city of Birmingham, I want our green especially that’s why when when Boris announces the zebra funding for buses moving forward, I want to ensure that when Birmingham gets those 200 hydrogen buses that I’m confident that we will get we’ll put some of those onto the 11 and the Eighth Route to ensure that we’ve got zero emission buses operated there. So this is a this isn’t a plan for the city centre. This is a plan with some key principles or how we’ll move forward in the delivery of our transport projects right across the city and I want to ensure that we’ve got a good balance of investment right across this city. So no no neighbourhood is left behind.
Carlton Reid 46:36
Thanks to Councillor Waseem Zaffar. There’s a photo of him and a link to Brum’s plan and my Guardian article on the show’s website which is at the-spokesmen.com. Later this afternoon I’ll be talking to multiple Tour de France winner Chris Froome and Pieter Morgan CEO and founder of Hammerhead — that show will be in your feed real soon but meanwhile get out there and ride.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai