Birmingham City Council is consulting on more green routes being paid for out of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution funds. On the whole, Push Bikes is keen to see any improvements to cycle facilities in Birmingham, and so these proposals are welcome. However there are a few points to be made about the routes on the plans, which we outline below. The links to the consultations are in each section. Please note that some sections have more than 1 consultation link in them.
River Rea route upgrades: Consultation deadline, Tuesday 12th January 2016.
The proposed work consists mainly of some resurfacing work and the widening of the path in parts of Balaam's Wood, which is welcome. There are, however, several badly placed and unnecessary barriers along the Kings Norton Nature Reserve section between Rubery Lane and Hollymoor Way (see photos below) which need removing. In addition the signage between Arden Road and Princess Diana Way, next to Balaam's Wood where NCN5 and the River Rea Valley path diverge, needs to be reassessed to make sure that the directions of the two routes are clear.
Highbury Park Walking and Cycling Route: Consultation deadline, Monday 18th January 2016.
There is only one section for this consultation: Highbury Park consultation.
This proposed work covers an existing path in Highbury Park that goes from the junction of Shutlock Lane and Moor Green Lane, past the fish ponds up to the main path through Highbury Park. While the main path is generally over 3 metres in width, the path past the fish ponds is between 2 and 2.5 metres wide, with a poor surface and regular flooding. The proposals are to widen the path, to 3 metres for half the length of the route, and 2.5 metres for the other half, and to provide some drainage work. There are also proposals to improve the signage throughout Highbury Park.
A response to this consultation has been written by David Papadopoulos, who is involved in Highbury Park Friends, with objections to the current proposals and a suggestion for an alternative new route. Push Bikes has read this response, and think that the suggestion for the alternative route is interesting. We agree with David that when cycle users go past pedestrians quickly, the pedestrians can feel uncomfortable, just as cycle users feel uncomfortable when motor vehicles go past them too quickly. However we disagree that keeping shared-use paths narrow will slow down cycle users, and instead we would argue that building paths that are of appropriate width (no less than 3 metres in width) gives space for cycle users and pedestrians to pass more comfortably.
Overall, Push Bikes is pleased with the original proposals for the consultation. However we feel that the alternative route suggested by David would be more beneficial for cycle users and pedestrians, by providing a straighter route for cycles without the flooding issues and width constraints and by providing an all-weather circular route for pedestrians. In addition, David's proposed access point at Dad's Lane would be better for cycle users than the plans in the consultation.
Woodgate Valley Country Park: Consultation deadline, Sunday 17th January 2016.
There are two consultations in this: The main Woodgate Valley Country Park Walking and Cycling route and an Optional Minton Road Link.
Overall the plans are good, with an all-weather 3 metre wide path being proposed along the length of the Bourn Brook through Woodgate Valley Country Park. There are sections where the path will drop below 3 metres, including a section which will only be 1.7 metres, but this is due to physical constraints that are unavoidable. These plans will add a good route for cycle users through this park, and Push Bikes welcomes them. The Optional Minton Road Link also looks like a useful link for a residential area to reach the route without having to carry cycles across a set of stepping stones.
There are just two issues with the plans, both of which are at the point where the route crosses the West Boulevard dual carriageway:
- The crossing at West Boulevard does not have any traffic lights at the moment, and this presents a hazard for people crossing this fast dual carriageway. We recommend that a signalised crossing is installed here to create a safe place to cross this dual carriageway and help this route to reach its full potential.
- The plans suggest replacing the existing farm gate at the mouth of the route here with a new gate and a chicane for pedestrians and cycle users. Chicanes create problems for anyone who is riding a non-standard cycle, such as a recumbent or with a trailer. Best practice is to install bollards rather than a chicane so that every cycle is able to access the route.
Sheldon Country Park Cycleway: Consultation deadline, Sunday 17th January 2016.
This route only has one consultation: the Sheldon Country Park Cycleway.
Overall the plans are good, however it is not clear from the plans if the path will be 3 metres wide along the whole route. The main issue with the plans is that there are new chicanes proposed at each entry point to the park which will create problems for anyone trying to use the route on a non-standard cycle. Push Bikes has been told that there are issues with off-road motorcycles in other green parks in the local area, so we understand that there will be concerns that installing bollards would open up Sheldon Country Park to similar abuse. Our comments on the plans are:
- Install simple bollards at the entry points to the park initially. This is low cost, and if issues with abuse by motorcycles becomes apparent later on. The disadvantages posed by chicanes mean that they should only be used as a last resort on cycle routes.
- The paths should all be a minimum of 3 metres wide unless physical constraints make the narrowing of some sections unavoidable.