It seems odd to ask what the problem with a bus gate is - cycles can use bus gates, and anything that helps improve public transport should be good, right? But in this case, the bus gate cuts across a Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) cycle route and breaks West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) policy. Because of this, I want you to email firstname.lastname@example.org now and tell them that you object to the Bath Row bus gate plans because the plans ignore the cycle route (also tell them that you want a contra-flow cycle lane on Cambridge Street and better pedestrian crossing facilities on St Vincent Street while you are at it).
Don't delay - the consultation finishes on the 21st March 2018!
Why are the plans so bad?
Good quality cycle routes should give the same kind of continuity that we enjoy on the roads - if cycle routes include too many stops, then we won't choose to cycle on them, and will use the road instead. In these plans, someone on a cycle would have to dismount and wait at 3 crossings - compared to staying on their bike and having only 1 traffic light if they stay on the Middleway. The crossings are designed for pedestrians, so they are not wide enough and have too many sharp turns for cycles even if they were converted to toucan crossings. Infrastructure like this is worse than nothing, because many people will still choose to cycle on the road, and then they will risk abuse for not being on the 'cycle route'.
What does Push Bikes want?
We want a cycle track that goes directly across the mouth of Bath Row, with no tight turns, that will join up later with the other parts of this cycle route when they are built. This is the most direct route from Five Ways to Bristol Street and will form an important link in Birmingham's cycle route network. The cycle track should have only a maximum of two traffic lights - there is absolutely no reason for cars to exit Bath Row onto the Middleway when they can use Wheeleys Lane instead.
What WMCA policy do the plans break?
The WMCA cycling charter, signed off by all the West Midlands councils, states that highway schemes should not need later "expensive retrofitting" of cycle infrastructure and that "cyclists [will be] given a higher priority than in the past, utilising the User Hierarchy as a guiding principle." (See item 3.3.1 of this DfT document from 2004 - the hierarchy puts pedestrians at the top then cyclists.) This bus gate is on a cycle route and to get a high quality cycle route along here in the future, the road will have to be torn up again. The plans, as they stand, will force Birmingham City Council to waste money putting in infrastructure that should have been planned in from the start - it is an utter waste of money.
What was that about a contra-flow cycle lane on Cambridge Street?
The consultation also includes other highways changes including making the first section of Cambridge Street one-way (next to Paradise and the multi-storey car park). It has been one-way for the last 2 years with the road-works, but cycles have been able to use the coned-off area to contra-flow down to Paradise. This has been a God-send with the chaos created by the building works, but the proposals will prevent that. When any event takes over Victoria Square and the surrounding areas, Cambridge Street provides a welcome by-pass, so it is important to keep a cycle contra-flow there. Please include that in your comments.
And what about the better pedestrian crossings on St Vincent Street?
The consultation proposes a new bus gate on Sheepcote Street, which is a good thing, but in changing the junction at St Vincent Street, the situation will be made worse for pedestrians. The current layout at the junction provides safe crossing for pedestrians because of the traffic restrictions and the sharp turn for motor traffic. The new layout will be faster and more dangerous. We want the junction to either have a mini-roundabout and pedestrian crossing islands on each arm of the junction, like the design outside the car park entrance, or to have toucan crossings. There is a high density of housing in the immediate area and a high pedestrian footfall, especially of parents walking their children to the local primary schools.