Kay Davies tells us about her first ride out with Cycle Birmingham, Push Bikes' rides group:
Despite paying for a Pushbikes membership for some years now, on Sunday 18th October 2015 I went on my first Pushbikes ride. I met the group at the junction with the Soho canal loop where the views from the Victorian canal bridge were breathtaking. The autumn leaves were stunning, the heron fished majestically. We rode along the newly surfaced canal towpath to the old Smethwick Galton Bridge, a stunning Victorian wrought iron structure high above the canal. The engineering is amazing, and at a time when technology and machine labour were limited.
Moving on, we crossed a very busy road (The Kendrick Way, A4182) on a level crossing. Until this minute of the ride we were completely unaware that we were in the middle of the city. Continuing on paths and minor roads, we reached Sandwell Valley where unfortunately the visitor centre forces you to pay admission to the Heritage centre before you are allowed to buy a cup of coffee. There was a unanimous “No, thank you!”
After stopping to use the toilet behind Valley Cycles, we continued once again along pleasant cycle trails. After a photo opportunity overlooking Swan Pool we decided to cross in to Hilltop Park and visit a new bike lane. It would have been quite awkward to get from the Sandwell Valley bike path to the Hilltop bike path. There was no direct connection unless you hauled your bike on your shoulder cyclocross style and went through the undergrowth to the road. The others didn’t seem keen! Doubling back up the hill, we found a gate to the narrow and very busy Park Lane, which we rode down for a short distance. The turning into Hilltop had no signs for the bike path at all, and the route from the entrance to Hilltop Golf course to the path was also not signposted with a one-way road and 'no entry' sign blocking the obvious route. We wove our way around a car park to find the cycle path, although the botched ramp on the kerb was too steep for a bike, and scraped my Ultegra front mech because there was too little clearance.
Finally reaching the beautiful new pristine path, we realised we had seen no cars using the one-way road. Why no contra-flow bike lane for us? Anyway, off we went. This new sections a really nice path but towards the end of the path we encountered a pack of about 10 dogs, which I found quite scary despite being a dog fan. Apparently there were travellers occupying the adjacent field who made no attempt to control this pack of dogs. This could be terrifying for a young family using the cycle path.
Oh well! Having outrun the pack, we went to Mr Singhs vegetarian Pizza for lunch and discussed cycling issues in Birmingham, before cycling back to Birmingham city centre.