Kings Heath used to be my local shopping centre, but the motor traffic made the experience grim. Since it was a beautiful day I decided to take a bike ride over to Kings Heath to look at the LTN, to see what difference it made (and I was very far from the only person out on a bike).
I found the contrast between the roads with filtered permeability and those without stark. The high street is still awful for pedestrians and cyclists. Since the shops were closed, there could be no doubt that that most of the traffic is through traffic, not people bringing trade to the high street as some business owners believe. Part of York Road has been completely closed to motor traffic (picture left). The quiet was such that from some distance I was able to overhear a conversation between two people outside Grace and James. One of the two men said how until the road was closed to motor traffic he had been completely unaware of how much space there was outside the front of his establishment. He was saying that there was now somewhere for him to put out chairs and tables to create a pavement café. At a time of pandemic, eating outside is relatively safe, whereas eating inside could be a death sentence. For him, having no motor traffic outside his establishment is a business opportunity. Some shop owners in York Road were concerned about what would happen if pick-up or delivery required a motor vehicle, but this is still possible.
LTN measures have also been applied to residential roads, such as Hazelhurst Road and All Saints Road (pictured below). I happen to know some people who live in this part of Kings Heath. They tell me that the road on which they live used to be popular with rat runners and car cruisers, one of whom came down Hazelhurst Road and crashed into several cars on Abbots Road. When I was there looking at the LTN measures, two people came cycling up All Saints Road, and people stopped to talk to each other in the middle of the junction of Hazelhurst Road and Abbots Road (header photo). Apparently there was initially some foul-mouthed behaviour from motorists who found their way blocked, but that is now largely history. Also, people on surrounding streets have seen an increase in traffic, but experience elsewhere has shown that over time that too slowly becomes history, the rise in traffic being only very slight. This effect is known as traffic evaporation, and it occurs as people take advantage of the modal filters to walk and cycle local journeys.
Some of the motor traffic has redirected from the side streets on to the high street, and in my opinion the high street could and should be improved considerably to take away some of that traffic. That linked blog post dates back to 2015, and includes Chris Lowe's LTN suggestion for the streets either side of the high street. However, those streets should not be regarded as providing the solution to facilitating cycling between the two ends of the high street, firstly because they create a very convoluted route, and secondly because they take cyclists away from the high street where many want to and will spend their money. Cyclists stop and shop. Cars take up too much space for a significant number of drivers to do the same, and whilst they are shunting in and out of their parking place, they are holding up everyone else, including up to eighty people on each of the frequent buses.
I have shown my support for the Kings Heath LTN measures by signing the petition. There is also a consultation to which you can respond. It's important that those of us who want to end the extreme domination of Birmingham streets by motor traffic take the time to do this, and it only takes a few minutes. Let's build a better Birmingham.