Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is consulting on improvements to part of Hagley Road from the junction with Monument Road to the Middleway, in preparation for a Sprint bus route in the future. This is part of the 7 Sprint routes that TfWM is proposing to complete before 2026. There is also currently a consultation on 3 Sprint routes to Birmingham Airport, Walsall and Sutton Coldfield from Birmingham city centre at the moment - see our blog post on those plans for more details. Both consultations close on October 5th 2018.
Overview of the Hagley Road proposals:
These proposals are intended to create some bus lanes to give Sprint buses an advantage over the general motor traffic. There is a new bus lane on the outbound carriageway from just past Morrisons until the Monument Road junction, with space found from the pavement between Highfield Road and Morrisons, and from space reallocated from the general traffic lanes between Highfield Road and Monument Road. On the inbound side, there will be a new section of bus lane leading up to the Monument Road junction, but after that the buses will stay with the general motor traffic on the two existing lanes.
Where space has been taken from the pavement to create a new bus lane, the plans propose buying part of the frontages of the adjacent buildings, to ensure that the pavement retains the same width as now. There are no facilities in the plans for cycle users. Those cycle users who are comfortable using bus lanes will find there is some benefit from these plans, although once Sprint buses have been introduced, there will be added risk from being overtaken by a very long articulated bus, but no new cycle users will be attracted to cycling by these plans.
Hagley Road is a major route for traffic coming in and out of Birmingham city centre, and is a desire line for cycle users as well as other road users. It is direct and has a consistent gradient, whereas the parallel route to the south is undulating and the possible routes to the north zig-zag through residential areas. I was recently told by a colleague who is an experienced cycle user that he no longer commutes by cycle down Hagley Road because of the hostile road environment, and instead takes the bus. He said that he was put off by the number of times that he had been clipped by wing-mirrors and felt it was too intimidating. There is great potential for many people to cycle along Hagley Road from residential areas, but currently the road environment is too hostile. There is generally a good width along Hagley Road between the actual buildings, as most of the buildings have large front gardens or car parks, although a few real pinch points exist, such as at the Plough and Harrow Hotel. However, purchasing private land to construct a cycle track is expensive, and the funds for this scheme are insufficient for doing so.
The provision of bus lanes to give an advantage for public transport over private motor traffic is very important, and so we support that. But cycles need to be included as an important part of the public transport offer. From Monument Road to the city centre is at most 10 minutes by cycle, yet bus passengers still queue at the Monument Road bus stop to sit in a bus stuck in motor traffic for 10 or 20 minutes. When congestion is bad, it is often faster to walk into the city centre than catch the bus after Monument Road, and in the morning, most buses are standing room only by this point. The provision of attractive and direct cycle facilities along this stretch of road would help to ease pressure on public transport, enabling passengers taking longer journeys to be accommodated more comfortably.
Between Morrisons and Highfield Road, land will be purchased from the private land owners in order to restore the pavement to its current width. We propose that sufficient land is purchased to provide a 3 metre segregated cycle track alongside a 2 meter wide pavement. At the Highfield Road junction, a kerbed island can be installed to assist people cycling and walking to cross the road mouth, and then a shared-use pavement can be signed between Highfield Road and Vicarage Road. At a later date when the funds are available, the land can be bought to construct a cycle track.
The Monument Road junction presents a significant barrier to people cycling along this route, and the proposals for the junction include no provision for people on cycles. There could be a segregated cycle track across the south side of the junction, using the large traffic island as a stopping point between signal phases, and having a single continuous stretch across the mouth of Chad Road. Space can be made for this by moving the pedestrian crossing from the small island in the middle of the mouth of Chad Road (which is not large enough for the number of people who use it) closer to the Kenilworth Court Access drive. Motor traffic turning left out of Chad Road can be held when pedestrians use that crossing - as the left-turning traffic can run at the same time as motor traffic turning right into Vicarage Road and motor traffic exiting Chad Road. After Chad Road, cycle users would need to join the bus lane past Kenilworth Court, but a shared use pavement beyond there, when the bus lane disappears, could be looked at. It is important that cycle infrastructure is included in the new design for this junction now because of the substantial work that is being done to the junction - it is cheaper to install a cycle track now than to have to dig up the junction again at a later date.
Toucan crossings are needed to help cycle users cross the junction from north to south, and this is another reason to move the current crossing point on the south side, as the island is too small to accommodate cycle users and people walking. This location is a local centre as well as a main road, and the shops on the north side serve residential areas both on the north and south of Hagley Road. Good crossing facilities for cycle users are important here.
On the north side of Hagley Road, the pavement is already used by many people on cycles, and making it shared use would formalise that use. The developers of the land between the Plough and Harrow Hotel and Francis Road should be encouraged to provide space for a segregated cycle track, but that is an issue for their planning applications.