As part of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR), a new segregated cycle route from Birmingham city centre to the Heathfield Road junction is being consulted on now. (The BCR team will be drawing up plans for the next section to reach Perry Barr OneStop soon.) This consultation is the second of a pair of consultations - the other consultation is the A38 Bristol Road consultation. These two consultations are a result of a change in direction for the BCR programme (see our previous report) which Push Bikes is very happy to see. We believe that BCR will be most successful if it delivers cycle routes that are comfortable and attractive for cycle users of all ages and abilities. Looking at the A38 plans, while there are a couple of points we have picked up on (see below) we believe that the plans overall are very good.
We urge everyone to respond positively to these plans - if you are pressed for time, it is simply sufficient to respond that you strongly support the plans, but if you have the time to spare you may wish to respond to the plans in a little more detail (and for that, see our comments below). Here is a link to the consultation page. The consultation closes on the 7th April 2017.
Our detailed comments:
Continuity at side roads:
At Price Street and Wilson Road, it is not clear whether the cycle track has priority or the side road. Looking at the plans, at Wilson Road the cycle track should certainly have priority as drivers on Wilson Road have to give-way to get onto the A34. At Price Street, we also think that there should be priority given to the cycle track, with the cycle track ideally given the same treatment as at other side roads.
Overall, the treatment at side roads is promising, with the cycle track being taken slightly away from the main road, to give motor vehicles space to stop and give way to cycle users. However some of the angles of the cycletrack on the approaches to these side roads are too sharp, for example at Lower Tower Street and Brearley Street. At sharp corners, cycle users need more width in order to avoid conflicts with each other, but we recommend that the angles be smoothed out so that cycle users can maintain some more momentum on their journeys.
At Cecil Street and Milton Street, side-by-side pedestrian and cycle crossings are suggested. We think that these are a good idea as they provide good crossing facilities for people who are walking as well as catering for people who are cycling. We are interested to see how they operate in practice - it is good to see Birmingham City Council trying out these new infrastructure options.
At several points long the route, where the cycle track goes past a bus stop, the plans have suggested that the bus shelter be put at the back of the pavement, with the cycle track continuing along the pavement between the bus shelter and a section of pavement where bus passengers will get on and off the bus. These have be the subject of some debate among Push Bikes members. A couple of us are interested to see how these would work in practice - we know that in London there are a couple of places where cycle tracks have been built like this and TfL has recorded no complaints in almost 10 years. If these designs do work, then it might be a solution for other locations in Birmingham. However others of us would prefer to see the cycle track go behind a wider pedestrian area with the bus shelter next to where the bus passengers will get on and off.
An important issue that was raised in our discussion was the provision for people who are accessing buses in wheelchairs. In order for someone in a wheelchair to access a bus safely, they need sufficient flat pavement space to align themselves with the bus doors. In the plans as they stand, there may not be enough space for someone in a wheelchair to do that. We ask that the BCR design team evaluate the plans from that perspective and ensure that if the cycle track does pass that closely to the edge of the pavement, that there is minimal height difference there between the pavement and cycle track, so that wheelchair users are able to safely access buses.
Shared use pavements at light-controlled pedestrian crossings:
There are a couple of light-controlled crossings on the route where the cycle track ends for a short section of shared-use pavement. We are not very happy with this solution, as we believe that people who are walking will not know clearly where to stand in order to help cycle users get past easily. In places that have low volumes of people walking, this may not cause a significant problem, but in locations where many people are walking, it will be more of a problem. The better solution, we think, is to have the cycle track continue past the pedestrian crossing. Either the cycle track can be taken to the back of the pavement, so that it bypasses the crossing, or it can be given lights to stop cycle users when the crossing is green for pedestrians. By providing a clear continuous cycle track, people who are walking at able to predict where the people on cycles will go, and this increases comfort.
Access to closed-off side roads:
At several points along this route, there are side roads that have been closed off at the main road several years ago. This is a good feature which decreases permeability of the residential area for motor traffic while keeping permeability for people walking and cycling. At Hatchett Street, just next to the junction with New John Street West, the plans show a short link joining the cycle track to the side road. This is an important permeability feature for cycle users, enabling them to access the side roads without either riding up and down kerbs or getting off and pushing a couple of meters.
The same kind of short link is needed at the following roads: Princip Street (because of the one-way entrance to the two-way street); the new estate at New Croft, next to the junction with Newbury Road; Chain Walk; Salisbury Road; Hatfield Road; New Inn Road.
Some of these cul-de-sac side roads have a high level of on-street parking (particularly Salisbury Road and Hatfield Road) and it will be necessary to make sure that the cycle track is not accessible to cars at these points so that it does not become used for parking cars.
Junction with New John Street West:
It is good to see that there will be separate lights to hold the motor traffic turning across the cycle track. The junction appears to be well-designed.
Cycle link on to New John Street West (Middleway ring road):
We do not think that it is a good idea to build cycle infrastructure that takes cycle users onto the Middleway with the motor traffic on that road. The pavement alongside New John Street West is wide enough to be made shared-use as a stop-gap measure until there are funds to pay for a segregated cycle track along that road. At this location, we recommend that the crossings be toucan crossings and the pavement be signed as shared-use.
Newbury Road junction:
We are pleased to see that a new pedestrian crossing will be installed here as well as the cycle track. The existing pedestrian crossing is too far away from the junction to be convenient.
It is good to see that the cycle track will be given a single stage crossing here, and the rationalisation of the road space to reclaim under-used space is good. The angles for the cycle track going around the bottom of the bank are not ideal. We suspect that this is a cheaper option than remodelling the landscape and moving the earth from the bank here.
Lower Tower Street:
The plans show a two-way entrance to Lower Tower Street, despite it currently being only 1 way, with the mouth of the road having been remodelled to block exit by motor vehicles. We have asked whether this is a mistake on the plans, but have not received an answer. We think that it would be detrimental to the scheme to re-introduce a 2-way entrance on Lower Tower Street. The road mouth should be kept one-way only for motor vehicles.
The give way line for the exit from Corporation Street / Steelhouse Lane onto the Queensway needs to be before the cycle track. This exit is busy at rush hour, and if the give way line is such that motor vehicles, especially buses, stop on the cycle track, then it will be difficult to cycle along here. By having the give way line before the cycle track, drivers would be encouraged to let cycle users past.