Twin consultations Holyhead Traffic Management Schemes

One way sign on a British street.

Birmingham City Council has two consultations out on proposals for 20mph zones and one-way streets in the Holyhead area (in Handsworth) that aim to tackle rat-running. These two consultations finish on the 10th Dec 2023.

Please take the time to respond to these two consultations (links below). You can give your own feedback on the proposals, or you can say that you support Push Bikes' comments.

Links to the consultations:

Our response in a nutshell:

We object to the introduction of one-way streets without permitting cycle users to contra-flow. One-way streets increase the distance that cycle users have to travel, and that discourages people from cycling. They are not a good solution for promoting active travel.

We want to see the use of filtered permeability in this area, to cut out routes for cars while maintaining connectivity for cycles through the area. 

We do, however, support the introduction of more 20 mph speed limits.

Text of our response:

We object to these consultations as the one-way streets that are proposed will have a negative impact on cycling in the area.

We think that the proposed 20 mph speed limits are good, but we object to the introduction of one-way streets that do not permit contra-flow cycling. Birmingham's Interim 2023 LCWIP says that filtered permeability will be used in local areas, alongside slower speeds and parking controls, to reduce the dominance of motor traffic (see page 21). The use of one-way streets without contra-flow cycling does not meet the criteria for filtered permeability, and as such these schemes do not meet the requirements of Birmingham's LCWIP. It is important that all highway schemes across Birmingham meet the standards laid out by Birmingham City Council in order to be able to achieve the active travel targets that BCC has set.

Why are one-way streets without contra-flow cycling not filtered permeability?

When one-way systems are implemented, cycle users have to take the same long diversions that car drivers do. The impact of sending cycle users on long diversions results in reducing the attractiveness of cycling, and will have the opposite effect on cycling than these proposals intend. In order to encourage cycling, we have to give cycle use a time and convenience advantage over driving cars, and so we must provide direct cycle routes where cars have to take diversions.

Several councils in the UK, such as Lambeth, are moving to contra-flow cycling on one-way streets as the default option. LTN 1/20, section 7.3.2, lays out a range of available options for reducing motor traffic, and for one-way streets it specifically states that they need 'two-way cycle access'. The use of one-way streets without contra-flow cycling is discouraged, with section 7.3.4 stating that contra-flow cycling options should always be considered. Recent research has found that contra-flow cycling is safe on narrow one-way streets like those in the areas covered by the consultation (see "Contraflows and cycling safety: Evidence from 22 years of data involving 508 one-way streets" by Tait, Beecham, Lovelace & Barber).

Will the proposed one-way streets eliminate rat-running?

It is unlikely that the proposals in these two consultations will have any significant impact on rat-running through these areas. There are direct routes from one side of the residential area to the other on Regent Street and Westborne Street for the south scheme and Uplands Road and Newcombe Road for the north scheme. While each street is one-way, it has a complimentary partner that allows cars to drive in the opposite direction, and because cars will not be trying to squeeze past cars coming the opposite way, they may even be travelling faster than they do now.

If one-way streets are being used to eliminate rat-running, it is important to stop car drivers from crossing from one side of the area to the other. This can be done by having only one motor vehicle exit from the area, and making sure there is no straight direct route to that exit from any of the entrances. The goal is that should take noticeably longer to drive through the residential area, so that nobody tries to make that journey. But when there is a lot of congestion on the surrounding roads, it is almost impossible to design a one-way system with enough time disadvantage to outweigh time delay of the congestion. 

What is our preferred alternative?

Rather than relying only on one-way streets, we think that using modal filters strategically placed in the centre of the residential areas would be more effective. This could completely block any routes for motor traffic from one side to the other, but allow the rest of the streets to remain bi-directional, so that residents can still have easy motor vehicle access to their homes. These could be done as part of an experimental traffic order, with a review after 18 months, with the option for them to be removed if the residents prefer the rat running motor traffic to the modal filters.