Nottingham City Council’s pioneering scheme to transform the city by funding greener transport through a workplace parking levy and Birmingham Big Bikes scheme have shared the 2017 Ashden Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities.
The Ashden Awards are presented to pioneers in sustainable energy and are a globally recognised measure of excellence. Along with 12 other organisations, Nottingham City Council will receive its award on Thursday 15 June at a prestigious ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Former US vice-president Al Gore is the keynote speaker and Channel 4 presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy is hosting the awards.
UK Ashden Award winners receive a prize of up to £10,000 along with tailored support to help scale up their work.
The workplace parking levy (WPL) works by requiring businesses with 11 or more employees parking on their premises to pay a yearly charge per parking space. The scheme has two aims: to reduce the number of cars coming into the city and to raise revenue for Nottingham’s integrated public transport system.
The WPL scheme has been a central factor in helping the city increase public transport usage by almost five million journeys a year since April 2013. Nottingham now lays claim to having the lowest emissions per head of population of all the large UK cities outside London.
According to the Ashden judges: “Nottingham City Council is a UK sustainable transport exemplar and on a par with top European cities. It has achieved full public transport integration and brought in a unique workplace parking levy and, in doing so, has succeeded in changing behaviour as well as transforming parts of the city into quieter, less polluted zones.”
The city’s integrated public transport system now includes trams on two cross-city routes spanning 34km, one of the biggest electric bus fleets in Europe and segregated cycle routes for bikes. New improvements include an Eco Expressway, which is currently being added to an existing road to the east of the city and will feature bike lanes and a priority lane for use by electric and biomethane buses and by ultra-low emission cars. Nottingham City Council is also a Go Ultra Low City, which means it is committed to becoming an exemplar for Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) to address local air quality and environmental health issues.
Passengers can pay for public transport journeys using the Robin Hood Card, a pay-as-you go smartcard. Thirty thousand cards have been issued to date, an indication of the popularity of the public transport network. Now other city councils, including Cambridge and Oxford, are approaching Nottingham City Council to talk about the scheme, hoping to replicate it in their own areas.
Councillor Jon Collins, Nottingham City Council’s leader and portfolio holder for strategic infrastructure, said: “The Ashden Awards are some of the most prestigious in the industry and so we are very honoured to have been awarded with the title of Clean Air in Towns and Cities. We are really proud of our achievements to make Nottingham’s transport greener, joined-up and easy to use. This award recognises the hard work and dedication of the teams who have worked with our partners to deliver real transport improvements and to provide a range of sustainable transport options that make it possible to leave the car at home.
“We know there is more to do to further improve air quality in Nottingham. We are up to the challenge and this prize fund and other funding opportunities will help us achieve these aims. I believe that Nottingham is on the road to becoming the greenest transport city in the UK.”
Big Birmingham Bikes (BBB) is a Birmingham City Council scheme designed to get the city’s residents onto two wheels. BBB offers free bicycles to Birmingham residents living in deprived areas. Recipients also receive basic training in cycle maintenance and BBB provide lessons for those who lack confidence in cycling or have never ridden a bike before.
The scheme is part of Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR), which aims to make cycling an everyday way to travel around the city, which in turn brings significant health and environmental benefits.
According to the Ashden judges: “This inspirational project is not only getting people out of their cars and onto their bikes but is also improving the health, wellbeing and mobility of an often hard-to-reach demographic. There is huge potential to replicate the scheme and other cities should take note as its simple pragmatism could really help to reframe the national environmental debate.”
BBB is targeting people in some of the most deprived areas of Birmingham and is linking up with community groups, including homeless and mental health charities, to ensure that the bikes reach those who will benefit from them most. Bike recipients are from a broad range of cultural groups including some for whom bike riding is unusual, particularly for women from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.
BBB’s work has led to the emergence of 11 new recreational cycling groups. BBB is also leading practice rides along popular commuter routes to encourage people to use the bikes as a means of transport as well as for enjoyment. The city council says this can be a big help for those looking for work as it can enable them to access training and job opportunities when no other transport options are available.
Additionally, fully segregated all-weather cycle lanes are being installed on both the A38 between the city centre and Selly Oak and the A34 between the city centre and Perry Barr as part of the next phase of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution to encourage more people to cycle in safety and confidence along two of the city’s most important commuter routes.
GPS devices are included in every bike and the data collected can be viewed by owners that want to track their rides. The data is also used to enable the council to provide infrastructure such as bike lanes or bike parking facilities where cyclists need it most.
So far 3,400 bikes have been given out to individuals as well as an additional 600 distributed to community groups and bike hubs, which are then loaned out free of charge. BBB plans to distribute around 1,500 bikes a year for the next four years, meaning that approximately 10,000 will be in use by the end of 2020.
Councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member with responsibility for air quality at Birmingham City Council, said: “Everyone has the right to clean air and in Birmingham we are working to improve air quality for those who visit, live and work in the city. A key part of this work is encouraging people to think about the way they travel and choose a cleaner, greener alternative, such as cycling. While Big Birmingham Bikes is primarily aimed at those for whom no other transport options are available, it is nevertheless an important part of the innovative work we are doing to promote and encourage a culture of cycling in our city, bringing benefits both to the environment and people’s health.”
2017 UK Ashden Award Winners
Since the Ashden Awards were founded in 2001, Ashden has rewarded more than 200 enterprises around the world that so far have collectively improved the lives of some 80 million people, saving more than ten million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
The 2017 Ashden Awards funders include Citi, Ecotricity, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Grosvenor, the IKEA Foundation, Impax Asset Management, Oak Foundation, UK aid, and the Waterloo Foundation.
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