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Birmingham – more canals than Venice and cyclists than Copenhagen?

Sustainability West Midlands were asked to comment about the Mayor of Copenhagen’s vision for his city and what Birmingham could learn.

Can Birmingham get the Copenhagen effect?

The Mayor of Copenhagen Klaus Bondam visited Birmingham yesterday to expand his vision of an Eco Metropolis. MADE chief executive Julia Ellis asked experts about Klaus’s views and to comment on Birmingham’s achievements and aspirations.

Dr Simon Slater, Executive Director of Sustainability West Midlands

“The vision for Copenhagen is inspiring and realistic, and similar to the vision for a low carbon West Midlands in 2020 we launch later this month.

“Birmingham also has many similarities with the Copenhagen vision. Our city also has challenging carbon reduction targets and strategies, the beginnings of a decentralised energy network, emerging sustainable construction standards and checklists following through to key sites such as New Street and Longbridge, and a track record of reclaiming the public realm and improving the city’s reuse of waste.

“But as we are never going to get similar investment in new fixed rail transport systems, we have to manage with what we have got, but could we learn from Copenhagen’s investment in cycling, walking, and urban greening?

“Could we aim to have not just more canals than Venice, but also more cyclists than Copenhagen, and the least grey city from Google Earth?

“Imagine from the heart of the city centre green roofs and street level greenery providing shade, shelter, wildlife, food, fuel and urban cooling, spreading out with an ever growing root system of linked green parks, canals, footpaths and cycleways, all meeting good practice in designing out crime and promoting community interaction, with the remaining road space freed up for business traffic of predominantly electric vehicles. Can’t be done? Look at pictures of our dying city centre 20 years ago and the dynamic one now.

“This could also form part of our city’s ‘new green deal’ of getting people into temporary public works programmes until the economy readjusts.

“Imagine being asked in ten years time as you check your daughter’s bike for a trip into town, past the electric van factory and ‘green roofs to go’, “Daddy what did you do during the great credit crunch?” “I worked with others to make our city green and the most popular green route into town…now off we go…”

(Adapted from Birmingham Post Article, 7th April 2009)

 What do you think?

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