A Guide to Cycling in Birmingham: Bike Hire, Cycling Routes + Where to Lock Your Bike
It’s the second-biggest country in England after London, with more than 1 million residents.
So surely there’s enough space in Birmingham for plenty of great cycle paths, bike shops and places to store your bicycle when not riding? Let’s explore…
Birmingham Cycling Statistics
In actual fact, the busier, more congested UK cities can be the worst place imaginable for a keen cyclist, primarily through the lack of accessibility and adequate provision. In that regard, Birmingham’s cycling infrastructure is, perhaps unsurprisingly, considered among the worst in the country.
A 2015 study published by Toothpick ranked all of the UK’s cities and towns based on how ‘bike-friendly’ they are, based on data from the Ministry of Transport and Sport England about the number of people cycling at least once a week in each place. Cities were ordered according to criteria including their own cycling culture, safety, and how well it accommodates cyclists.
In this study, Birmingham was given a feeble mark of 1,5/10, based on this annual survey data from the Department for Transport. So, if you are planning to take your two wheels out for a spin across the city, perhaps don’t expect the smoothest of rides, although there are always ways to reduce the chances of having a bicycle accident that you certainly don’t want.
Cycle Paths in Birmingham
Even though the city may not be the best-equipped in the country for cyclists, Birmingham still has a number of great paths for you to take your bike out for a spin on.
The Central Birmingham Canal Ring, for instance, allows you to take in many of the city’s most renowned sights on its route from the Barclaycard Arena, and then along the signposted Birmingham and Fazeley Canal route. A particularly great ride for families, you’ll pass such attractions as the BT tower, Farmers Bridge Locks and Ashtead Tunnel.
Or if you’re a tourist visiting Birmingham, why not head along River Rea towards the Worcester and Birmingham Canal? Again, you’ll pass plenty of iconic venues like Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Cadbury World and the city’s university.
And for the keen historians, you could hardly pick a better trail than along the Telford Canal up to Galton Valley, which encompasses some of the oldest canal locks in the UK – although note, the road sections are likely to be only suitable for competent cyclists at least.
Birmingham Bike Hire
Brompton Bike Hire operates in Birmingham, as it does in many UK cities. You can reserve a bay hire one of their foldable bicycles from as little as £3.50 a day from one of their five docks across the city centre, and then simply return it to any public dock when finished with it. Birmingham’s five docks are:
- Outside Moor Street Station entrance
- Opposite Snow Hill Station entrance (on Colmore Row)
- On New Street (by the junction with Corporation Street)
- Aston University (outside the main university building)
- Brindleyplace (Oozells Street)
Free daily bike hire is also open to adults with a Birmingham City Council leisure card at certain cycle centres. Those aged 17 or younger can also hire a bike, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and be able to competently ride an adult bicycle. As long as you have your leisure card, you’re good to go – although bikes must be returned by the time specified by that centre, often an hour before closing time, and can’t be kept overnight.
Bike Shops in Birmingham
As well as hosting the typical bigger chains like Cycle Republic and Evans Cycles, there are also a great number of independent bike shops in Birmingham, too.
If you need a full bike service, Birmingham has the answer for you with Northfield Cycles, which offers great-quality repairs, as well as offering a gear and brakes reset, a custom bike build, an oiling of all cables and chains, and much more. It also sells all sorts of spare parts for your bicycle, and always has more than 300 bikes, of all different types, in stock. A 20-minute drive outside the city centre, it’s well worth a visit no matter what you need.
Or if you’re keen on electric bikes, Birmingham is well-equipped with shops selling them, too, namely at On Your Bike, which offer a range of different models available to either buy or hire. But they’re far from a specific e-bike shop, though; they also sell BMX bikes, folding bikes, mountain and road bikes, to name only a few, and offer a free click and collect service for good measure.
And as for second-hand bikes, Birmingham’s best bet is The Bargain Centre, the city’s leading bicycle recycling shop. They trade on buying used models, refurbishing them, before selling them on at the lowest prices. With exceptional value for money, if you’re happy to settle for something not entirely in vogue, this is a great alternative. So, too, of course, is Bikesoup.com, a fantastic website for buying and selling old bicycles, with more than 3,000 currently on their market.
Where To Lock Your Bike in Birmingham
A city as busy as Birmingham is always going to be a hotspot for bike thieves, so if you’re leaving your own bicycle unattended there for a while, don’t leave anything to chance.
For instance, the B4 car park on Weaman Street in the city centre offers secure, 24-hour-accessible, CCTV-covered cycle lockers for people who wanting to leave their bike in a safe and weather-proof environment.
As well as the various bike racks planted in and around the city centre, you can also park your bicycle just as securely as the main train station in the area, New Street.
So, that’s Birmingham; certainly not the jewel in the crown of British cycling, but it still offers more than an enough to keep you satisfied while riding; at least in terms of pathways, shops, and locks, anyway.