It goes without saying that cycling or walking to the hospitals should be encouraged. Are the existing routes and parking adequate at the new Queen Elizabeth (QE) hospital, or should they be improved? With the creation of the Selly Oak Green Travel District it is an opportune time to ask these questions.
Main QEHB Entrance
There are about forty Sheffield stands each capable of anchoring 2 bikes (photo top-right). The area is convenient, highly visible, covered by CCTV and mainly sheltered from rain. These racks are well used; additional capacity should be considered by infilling or extending the existing provision.
There are only four brackets fixed to the wall in a recess at the side of the building. They are poorly designed and offer inadequately safe parking at a secluded location unlikely to be covered by CCTV. Some cyclists lock bikes to the railings at the front of the building instead.
There are small, covered sites outside specialist departments that seem to be adequate though probably not covered by CCTV nor at highly visible locations.
Routes and directions
In general to be attractive to potential users all cycling routes should be convenient, continuous, well surfaced, segregated from motor traffic and with protected crossing points. Sign posts are important both to guide cyclists and pedestrians and inform other road users.
Vincent Drive (west)
This should be a popular route as it is mainly segregated and direct. Unfortunately there are following problems:
- A lack of a protected crossing and any signs warning road traffic of cyclists at the entrance to The Barberry.
- More importantly a similar lack of both protection and warnings at the very busy and complex Mindelsohn Way crossing.
- At Hospital Way ('Cyclists Dismount' sign) no protected crossing or sign post for pedestrians and cyclists and no warning sign for motor traffic.
- No dropped kerb or cycling route sign leading to the continuation of Vincent Drive (east).
Hospital Way Shared Path
From the junction with New Foss Way the cycle path ends 'End of Route'. There is no protected crossing at this very busy road leading to its re-establishment on the opposite path.
From here all the way to the hospital this shared path is hopeless! Narrow, busy with pedestrians, wheelchairs, waste bins, and bus stops. It is unsafe to cycle! A better solution, widening and segregating the path, must be a top priority. An alternative cycle route could be on the inbound roadway leading directly into the cycle parking area, though crossing the entrance to the visitors car park would need careful protection.
Some signs here are confusing; 'End of Route' and 'Cyclists Dismount' on the shared path.
Why is cycling on the path to University Station not permitted? Where are any signs to an alternative cycling route?
The continuation path linking the Main Entrance with the A&E Department/Women's Hospital is segregated (but mainly ignored) and marked with unnecessary 'End of Route' signs at a pedestrian crossing.
There are no obvious entrances to the hospitals for cars and cyclists from this road. At the south end (Selly Oak direction) cyclists can exit but not enter (sign: 'Buses and Emergency Vehicles Only', though this is ignored by many motorists).
A cyclist entering the hospital at these traffic lights will be expected to cycle on the carriageway which circuits the staff carpark. A better route would require the footway leading to the pedestrian entrance to this carpark (as on the photo) to be a shared path.
Further towards Harborne, beyond the Women's Hospital, there is a poor quality pedestrian path (notice: 'No disabled access') and difficult for cyclists with no dropped kerb and roadside parking. This could be simply and cheaply rectified.
University Station area
From this area Vincent Drive is marked as a shared path but with no sign post giving destinations and the alternative path, signposted QEHB, has 'Cyclists Dismount' sign. Confusing!
Vincent Drive (roadway from junction with Pritchatts Road)
This BCC designated parallel route is best avoided as it is narrow and busy. However the intrepid cyclist may choose to turn right up Mindelsohn Way to reach the old QE hospital and the Women's hospital. There are (of course) no signs to direct you. Alternatively you could continue and, provided you survive, turn on to the University Station area (as above).
It is disappointing that a complete network of cycle paths were not designed in and implemented during the recent construction of the new Queen Elizabeth hospital. However the fundamentals are still there if only they could be adequately improved. Most improvements (improved crossings and signage) need not be expensive.
The most obvious and important need is to widen the path on the east side of Hospital Way. The present layout would not pass a risk assessment. It will require some landfill on available land, but it would still be a relatively minor project that would make this area safer and much more pleasant for all hospital visitors, staff and patients. The other glaring omission is the lack of signage on most cycle and pedestrian path approaches. This could be easily corrected and would send a clear message to potential cyclists, pedestrians and other road users.