In September, Grand Central and the new concourse of New Street station were opened, and the new road layout around Hill Street and Station Street finished. The Hill Street contra-flow was re-instated, but there was a immediate problem: motor vehicles, especially buses, turning off Hill Street onto Station Street were sweeping over the cycle lane, putting cycle users at risk. Birmingham City Council reacted quickly to this issue, installing these bollards to protect the cycle lane. Further bollards have been installed at the entrance to the car park on the corner of Hinckley Street and Hill Street.
These bollards are very welcome, but it seems strange that these have been installed as an after-thought, narrowing an already narrow cycle lane. Why there is a need for two lanes of motor traffic here is unclear, as Ladywell Walk and Hurst Street next to the Hippodrome are going to be turned into an expanded pedestrianised area, cutting the heavy motor traffic flows that used to travel up Hurst Street and onto Hill Street. It seems that they have simply re-instated the previous traffic lanes, rather planning around future reduced traffic flows. Having one lane of motor traffic up to this point would have provided space for a wide contra-flow cycle lane, as well as widening the pavement to the same width as the build-out for the pedestrian crossing lights. The previous road layout also had physical protection for the cycle lane at this junction, so its omission is strange.
Further down the road, Hinckley Street has be restored to its previous direction, exiting onto Hill Street. This means that drivers need to look for cycle users coming down the contra-flow cycle lane, as well as motor traffic travelling up Hill Street. Temporary signs have been placed to warn drivers of the contra-flow cycle lane, as it has been several years since drivers have used this exit. This street should only be used for access to the properties, including waste collection, and access to car parks. It would be safer for Hinckley Street to feed from both ends to exit through Theatre Approach, so that motor vehicles turning into Hinckley Street could see, and be seen, by cycle users on the contra-flow, rather than emerging from behind a wall.
It is interesting to see these bollards deployed so quickly on Hill Street. Perhaps we can have more of these installed in Birmingham on cycle lanes which need some more protection. However if these are used on mandatory cycle lanes, they need to be installed inside the white line, so that it is clearly unbroken to avoid drivers trying to claim that they thought it was not a mandatory cycle lane. This means that the cycle lanes must have adequate width to incorporate the bollards for protection.