Centro is consulting on a new tram route, to run from Bull Street to the Custard Factory in Digbeth. This route will connect the new HS2 Curzon Street Station and the coach station in Digbeth with Snow Hill and New Street stations. This will provide a useful link for public transport users between these stations, enabling people who can not walk the distance to make their connections without using taxis. This will benefit people with large or heavy luggage as well as people with disabilities or mobility impairments.
The consultation is on the Centro website, and there is also a PDF leaflet with information. The consultation has a very brief survey for people to fill in in response. The consultation runs until the end of May 2016.
Push Bikes' comments on the consultation:
Electric trams are a zero emission* form of public transport that helps to improve conditions for cycling through cleaner air and less motor traffic. (*zero emission at the tram site - the electricity generation process may not be zero emission.) Encouraging more use of public transport is important for reducing reliance on private motor traffic and freeing up more space for cycles. The tram links in the city centre between the various public transport nodes will help to reduce the use of taxis for short city centre journeys, which will be beneficial for cycling in the city centre.
However, tram tracks present a slipping hazard for cycle users, especially when crossing them in wet weather or at tight angles. In order to avoid these hazards, sometimes quite long and twisting cycle routes are designed by councils who are keen to avoid legal action for injuries suffered on tram tracks. In Birmingham we have seen recent controversy over badly designed cycle routes along Corporation Street which have used 'cyclists dismount' signs - so Push Bikes is concerned that new tram routes may also suffer from these problems.
At New Canal Street, the link under the railway will be closed to general motor traffic. This will have a positive impact on Eastside, around the BCU campus, and is something that Push Bikes supports. The Curzon Street HS2 Masterplan says on page 66 that New Canal Street will be a public transport, cycle and walking only route. In your response, you can ask that this is a cycling link, not a pushing link! There must be enough space for cycles as well as pedestrians alongside the tram tracks.
The main point of concern for Push Bikes is the effect of the tram route on Bull Street, where it goes down the hill towards Moorstreet Queensway. In this location, there is a contra-flow cycle lane going down the hill, while cycle users travel with the buses going up the hill. Centro have provided Push Bikes with the technical drawings for this section, which we have attached as a PDF below.
Downhill: We are very pleased to see that Centro have proposed to keep the cycle lane down the hill. This will be achieved by filling in the ramps for the old underpass, and bringing the cycle lane onto the pavement area. At the bottom of the hill, there are a couple of different directions that cycles can take. Turning left onto Dale End and then Albert Street is simple, and the best route to Moorstreet Queensway. Turning right to go onto the High Street, though, will be more difficult. The plans currently say that cycles who wish to turn onto the High Street can join the pavement and cross with pedestrians - and judging by the signs on Corporation Street, that means more 'cyclists dismount' signs.
Uphill: There does not appear to be any provision for cycles who wish to go up the hill, other than cycling between the bus stops and the tram tracks. This solution is not acceptable - when buses are pulling out of the bus stops, cycle users will have to be fast to react and stop. It will not be possible for cycle users to change course to go around the buses because of the angle at which they will be meeting the tram tracks. At the moment, Push Bikes can not support this uphill section for cycle users because it is too dangerous.
Bull Street / Corporation Street cross-roads: At the moment the only cycle provision is to retain the contra-flow cycle lane that turns left from Corporation Street to go down Bull Street. There does not appear to be any provision for cycles to continue straight along Corporation Street, nor for cycles to turn right onto Bull Street. This will work well if the goal is to keep cycle users out of the core city centre area, but it will not work well if we want to encourage people to cycle to the city centre.
What response can you make to this consultation?:
The consultation gives you three options to the question 'Do you support the extension to Digbeth?': Yes, No, Don't know. It is likely that responses that select 'don't know' will not be measured against the 'yes' and 'no' responses. It is best, therefore, to give a clear 'yes' or 'no'.
There are a lot of things to commend this new route, but from a cycling perspective, the new route will create more problems for access to the city centre. Push Bikes' response, as a cycling campaign, will be that without further plans to enable people to cycle (not push!) around the city centre, we will not support these plans. As a private individual, you will need to decide how the positive aspects weigh against the negative.
The consultation also has a space for you to make comments, and there are some comments that are important to make:
- The plans as they stand at the moment create barriers to cycling on Corporation Street and Bull Street. It is important that good cycle routes into the city centre are provided, but at the moment they are not. With the substantial roadworks that will be undertaken to put in this tram route, there is a golden opportunity to put in good quality cycle provision that helps cycle users to access the city centre at minimal cost. The route designers must meet with Push Bikes to discuss how best to achieve this, so that there are no 'cyclists dismount' signs.
- It is very good to see that the contra-flow cycle lane on Bull Street will be retained. This is very positive. But the junction with the High Street needs to be considered, so that cycle users can access the High Street without dismounting and pushing. Again, Push Bikes need to be consulted on how to achieve this.
- At the junction of Albert Street and Moor Street Queensway, there needs to be dedicated cycle infrastructure to take cycle users onto the south-bound side. We do not want cycle users to have to dismount and push alongside pedestrians again.
- The plans for New Canal Street are very positive, but it is important that cycle users have sufficient space. If they have a shared space with pedestrians, then minimum widths for shared space pavement cycling must be met. But the ideal solution is for cycle users to have their own space through this area.