Opened 27 August 2021. Closes 24 September 2021
The stated overview of this consultation is:
Work started in April 2021 to create a new public square outside the Hippodrome and to improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists in the area. The Southside Public Realm improvement scheme will create better connections and a cultural heart for Southside to further promote the area, whilst celebrating and highlighting a huge range of local talent. This consultation is about the Traffic Regulation Orders (the legal documents required to make changes to the status of the road) associated with Southside Public Realm improvement.
The TROs within this consultation affect a section of National Cycle Network Route 5, which is also the main route to cycling into the city centre from both the Rea Valley section of Route 5 and the A38 "blue route". Therefore, this consultation has a significant impact on a cycling route of strategic importance that will take an increased volume of cycle traffic in line with Birmingham City Council's and West Midlands Combined Authority's stated cycling targets. Push Bikes' response to this consultation should be considered against the background of the importance of this specific location to active travel in Birmingham. This response refers to the latest DfT guidance for local authorities on designing high-quality, safe cycle infrastructure: LTN 1/20; the overall design principles of which are:
1.5.2 Networks and routes should be Coherent; Direct; Safe; Comfortable and Attractive.
Schemes that do not follow LTN 1/20 risk creating cycling infrastructure that is substandard and most importantly, unsafe.
There are 4 TROs under consultation. Each TRO is listed below, with a copy or excerpt of the plan, and comments from Push Bikes:
TRO 1: To introduce permanently a no right turn movement (shown by grey hatching on the traffic movement variation plan) from Hurst Street into Smallbrook Queensway
This TRO applies a no right turn on the Hurst Street carriageway that does not carry an exemption for bicycles. Confirmation has been provided by the project lead that the TRO does not apply to bicycles turning right from the two-way kerbed bicycle track on Hurst St, i.e. cyclists can still turn right or left, or proceed straight on, from the cycle track, and the current traffic signals, with a demand dependent cycle phase, will be retained.
The TRO will result in two changes for cyclists:
Potential conflict and risk will be reduced by the restriction on motor vehicles turning right.
Cyclists will be incentivised to use the two-way cycle track as the option to turn right from the carriageway will be removed.
These changes are positive and supported by Push Bikes. There is a residual concern that, whilst not directly in scope of this TRO, could be addressed at the same time as other changes are being made: when going straight on from the Hurst St 2-way cycle track onto Hill St, cyclists have to cross 4 lanes on traffic diagonally to get from the right hand side to the left hand side of the carriageway due to the Hill St cycle lane being 1-way only. This transition benefits from the risk reduction provided by the cycle phase of the lights; however, it is a confusing transition, especially for cyclists that have not used the junction before, and as such would benefit from a design intervention (potentially road markings and/or signage) to a make it clearer.
TRO2: To introduce permanently and consolidate waiting and loading restrictions, and to introduce permanently and amend the Hackney Carriage stands
This TRO does not appear to have a significant impact of cycling through the area. Push Bikes makes a general suggestion that Birmingham City Council considers all TROs with reference to increased numbers of cyclists in the near future and the provisions of LTN 1/20 and ensures proposed changes are 'future-proofed' as far as reasonably possible. However, there are no specific comments regarding this TRO.
TRO3: To introduce pedestrian zone restrictions (shown in green hatching on the pedestrian zone variation plan)
This applies to Ladywell Walk and Hurst Street.
There is no indication on the plan for any distinction between areas for cyclists and pedestrians in this pedestrian zone. LTN 1/20 is completely clear on this point in its summary principles at paragraph 1.6.1 2):
Shared use routes in streets with high pedestrian or cyclist flows should not be used. Instead, in these sorts of spaces distinct tracks for cyclists should be made, using sloping, pedestrian-friendly kerbs and/or different surfacing.
Push Bikes is of the view that the TRO and design for this area of pedestrian zone is contrary to LTN 1/20; will create conflict, discomfort and risk for pedestrians and cyclists; and will dissuade people from using bicycles to travel to and around the city centre.
TRO4: To introduce permanently a section of shared use footway and cycle track (shown in blue hatching on the shared use footway plan)
The purpose of this TRO is not clear from the consultation documents; however an explanation has been kindly provided by the project lead. The original purpose of the shared use footway was to facilitate cyclists heading West on Smallbrook Queensway to turn left onto the Hurst St cycle track.
However, this manoeuvre is now facilitated by an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETO) implemented under the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) which allows cyclists to take the same left turn, but to make it without leaving the carriageway. The Council is planning to make the ETO solution permanent (there are procedural steps that need to be carried out before this can be formally confirmed, though it appears an uncontentious ETO); which would in turn make this TRO essentially redundant.
Push Bikes welcomes and supports this proposal due to the issues with shared use space detailed in our response to the pedestrian zone scheme above.
Push Bikes understands and values the huge value of the Southside district. It is a diverse and vibrant area with the potential to become even more important to the city with the implementation of high-quality public realm improvements. These public realm improvements can and must be designed to improve the area in a way that facilitates travel to and through the area for pedestrians and cyclists; with specific regard to people with disabilities. This will, in turn, provide maximum benefit for the businesses and other stakeholders in the Southside district and wider city.
In Push Bikes' opinion, the proposed TROs go some way to meet that standard; however we have concerns that the planned design of the shared use space across a cycle route of significant importance to the city risks creating detrimental impacts for the reasons detailed above and will compromise Birmingham's work to achieve the authority's positive active travel and carbon reduction targets.
Please respond to the consultation, at least just saying that you support the opinion of Push Bikes. The more responses there are saying the same thing, the more likely we can effect change.