Consultation: A457 Dudley Road Improvements

Birmingham City Council (BCC) is consulting on proposed changes to Dudley Road between Spring Hill roundabout on the Middleway, to the junction with Icknield Port Road, just past Birmingham City Hospital. With 750 new homes planned on the Birmingham City Hospital site, and 700 on the Soho Loop Site opposite, there will be substantial changes to transport patterns in the area. BCC state that they hope these plans will improve the flow of people through the area to help meet the extra demand.

The consultation can be found here, and it closes on the 31st October.

Talking points for your response:

  1. The cycle route needs to connect the city centre to the residential areas along Dudley Road as directly as possible. When the cycle track reaches the Middleway, it needs to be kept in a straight line, rather than given a substantial detour onto a side road that is too busy to be a designated cycle route.
  2. Cycle routes need to be continuous, with as little stop-and-start as possible. The goal should be for cycle users on a cycle track to have as continuous a journey as a cycle user on the main carriageway. The current plans fail that test, as there are many more stops for cycle users on the cycle route than for cycle users on the road.
  3. Large junctions need to have facilities for cycle users to cross each arm quickly and comfortably. If cycle users have to use staggered crossings with pedestrians, it can double or triple the delay they face at that junction and increase conflict with people who are walking. When the cycle route is a bi-directional cycle track on one side of a major road, it is very important that cycle users on the other side of that road can cross easily and quickly to the cycle track.
  4. When money is spent to substantially rework a junction, including demolishing buildings, but space is only added for motor traffic, that is planning that is still stuck in the "Car City" mindset. The junction design at Dudley Road / Winson Green Road is a throwback to a style of planning that we should have moved beyond.
  5. Shared use pavements are a poor compromise for cycle users, and as much cycle track as possible should be installed. If the highway is being widened to make more space for motor traffic, but not for cycle traffic, then we are failing to adequately promote cycling as a serious transport choice.
  6. Cycle routes need to take people to local facilities. In this case, the cycle route diverts down Heath Road before it reaches the local shops and the Lidl supermarket on Dudley Road. This gap between the cycle route and the local facilities will discourage people from cycling.

Push Bikes general comments:

Dudley Road is a major route into Birmingham city centre, and it is often congested. At the same time, several of the junctions do not have safe crossing facilities for pedestrians, and there is no safe space for cycle users. With the increase in residential properties in the area, it is important to provide better cycling facilities to help more people to cycle. The distance from the new developments to the city centre is not very far, and cycling should be an important mode of transport for people living in the new developments.

It is good that a segregated cycle track is being proposed for part of this route, but the level of design is poor, with the cycle track stopping at each side road and shared use space at each bus stop and crossings. This falls below the standards that should be expected of cycle track designs, and shows the value of pre-consultation discussion between highways designers and cycle campaigners; these plans were not shown to Push Bikes before being released for consultation, otherwise we would have insisted that the designs be improved.

  • At each side road, it is important that the cycle track has continuity. Without continuity, cycle users will chose to continue using the main traffic lanes as they will be substantially faster than stopping and starting again and again. Here are some examples of how to take cycle tracks across minor side roads.
  • Cycle tracks should be continuous past bus stops and light-controlled crossing facilities. Having a clearly delineated cycle track provides predictability, so that people who are walking know where the cycle users will go past them. By having shared space at bus stops, for example, confusion is created as to who will go where.

Another issue is that the cycle track only carries on as far as the canal bridge, and after that cycle users will have to use shared use pavements for the rest of the journey. With the high level of residential housing planned in this area, it is likely that there will be many people walking to the bus stops in the areas next to the City Hospital site. It is better for cycle users to be able to continue in segregated cycle tracks rather than mixing with people who are walking. The consultation diagrams show the limits of the highways land with a dashed blue line. It is clear from the diagrams that there is some more space available, and some extra width could be added to most sections of the pavement to provide space for segregated cycle tracks. Cycle tracks will attract more people to cycle as they are a clear advertisement for cycling. Shared use pavements, on the other hand, are ambiguous and don't advertise themselves to new cycle users.

We also think that the diversion that the route takes down George Street and onto the advisory route on Hingeston Street is too much of a diversion. Hingeston Street is not a quiet road, and has large buses and lorries using it regularly. It is unreasonable to expect novice cycle rides to use that road, despite its designation as an advisory cycle route. The natural desire line along Dudley Road and Spring Hill is to cross straight over to reach the city centre. While the plans do not include enough money to make substantial changes to Spring Hill Roundabout, we have to acknowledge that in the future it will be a route that ought to be available to cycle users. If the cycle route takes cycle users on too wide a detour, then it will not be used - in this case it is likely that cycle users will choose to cycle on the pavement around Spring Hill Roundabout, using the pedestrian crossings, rather than divert all the way over to Hingeston Street.

At the other end of the plans, where the cycle route crosses the canal, the cycle route is taken down Heath Street and Northbrook Street, rather than continuing along Dudley Road. Yet the section of Dudley Road between Heath Street and Winson Green Road has local shops and a Lidl supermarket. This local centre is an important destination for local cycle users, as well as Dudley Road itself being an important desire line for cycle users commuting into the city centre. Although space has been made for parking spaces on the highway here, there is no provision for cycle users. In countries that plan for cycling, local centres are more vibrant as local people are able to cycle to them, rather than driving to a more distant supermarket. In those countries, the cycle routes take people on a direct route to the front of the local supermarket and shops, to maximise convenience for cycle use to make it as attractive an option as possible. But as local centres have a high level of people walking, it is important to provide segregated space for cycle users, so that conflict between cycle users and people walking is minimised. These plans do not do that, and so they are perpetuating barriers to cycling.


Detailed comments:

Working from the end of the scheme at Icknield Port Road / Winson Green Road, here are some detailed comments:

Dudley Road / Icknield Port Road / Winson Green Road junction - The plans for this junction includes no provision for people on cycles. Money is being spent to upgrade this junction, with substantial space being added for motor traffic by demolishing adjacent buildings, but without any consideration for cycle users. This junction will continue to be a barrier to cycling, yet is located adjacent to a local centre. Local cycling levels will be suppressed until this junction is improved to provide comfortable and attractive space for cycle users. This junction has been planned only for motor traffic - an example of the "Car City" planning attitude that we are supposed to have gone beyond.

Local centre & Lidl - Between Winson Green Road and Heath Road, there is a local centre. The plans include no improvements for cycling, which will continue to suppress local cycling levels. Instead of providing parking spaces for a few cars, space should be made here for a segregated cycle track, to deliver cycle users directly to the local shops and to help cycle commuters to reach the city centre. If it is deemed too politically difficult to install segregated cycle tracks here, then at the very least the bus stop on the canal bridge should be relocated to the local centre where it belongs, replacing some of the parking spaces and opening up more space for cycling across the bridge.

Heath Road - The plans have a shared use pavement along one side of this road, but the road has a very significant problem with parking on pavements. A shared use pavement is not a good solution here, but in addition if there is a problem with pavement parking, then the cycle route will be unusable. The carriageway here should be narrowed down so that there is only 3 metres for each running lane - giving 6 metres in total to motor traffic. Double yellow lines should be laid down to stop parking, and the space taken away from motor traffic should be used to install a segregated cycle track. If space is needed for car parking, then the road could be made one-way, with parking bays installed so that the walking and cycling environment is not blocked by parked cars.

Canal Bridge - The two pavements here are being slightly narrowed to provide more space for motor traffic. There is a bus stop here that ought to be in the local centre, rather than the car parking currently provided, and relocating the bus stop would make this section easier for cycling along. A cycle track ought to be installed on the north side, with more of the southern pavement having space taken away. This would provide a good level of cycle provision on at least one side of the road, rather than a poor level of cycle provision on both sides.

Aberdeen Road - This road provides a parallel route to Heath Road for motor traffic, giving a very dense network of through-routes available to motor traffic. The junction mouth is wide and restricts the space available to install cycle infrastructure, while the through motor-traffic route attracts a high volume of cars using this junction. There should be a bus gate installed here to close off this route to through motor traffic, so that people walking and cycling can cross this junction mouth much more easily. There is space to install a cycle track here if the full width of land available for highway schemes is used.

City Hospital Site - The plans show that there is still some land available for highways improvements, and if you look closely at the plans, you can see that a cycle track was included along part of the pavement here, but then the designers changed their minds. The full width of the available land should be used, and a segregated cycle track provided for cycle users. The space in front of the hospital is currently a car park - the reallocation of space to active transport should not be politically difficult. At the entrance to the hospital car park, cycle users need to be given a continuous route so that the route remains attractive in comparison to cycling on the main carriageway. The cycle track should be set back from the road, with the length of a car available so that people can cross the cycle track and then think about the motor traffic, rather than looking for cycle users and motor traffic at the same time.

Junction with Western Road - There should be a segregated cycle track on this junction, providing a good level of continuity for the cycle route. There is substantial land available for highways on the south side of the junction, and that should be utilised to provide more space for cycle users on the north side. There also needs to be provision made for people cycling from the new development in the Soho Loop site to cross this junction and access the cycle route on the north side of the road. The Ranty Highwayman has a good blog post showing how a simultaneous green for cycles junction could be implemented in the UK, which would provide the necessary facilities here for cycle users. The designs would need some modification to account for the cycle track along the north side of Dudley Road, but the principle would still work. In a location like this where there is a lot of space available for highway, we should be trying out solutions like this.

Canal bridge - The canal bridge at the top of Spring Hill is a genuine pinch point, and the use of shared use pavements here is the only solution. This is one of the few locations on this route where a shared use pavement is acceptable. There is a small access driveway next to the bridge for the adjacent park. The plans show that the cycle track stops at that driveway - it is important that the pavement / cycle track are taken across that driveway and given priority. There is no reason at all why that driveway should be allowed to create a break in the pavement.

Junctions with George Street and College Street - The current plans show that the cycle track will have give-way lines at both of these side-roads. In doing so, the plans will actively discourage cycle users from using the cycle track because of too many stops and starts. The cycle track should be set back from the road - built using the land taken from the grass verge. This would coincidentally save money, as the pavement could be left as it is, rather than resurfacing the pavement and creating a new pavement. At the two road mouths, the cycle track should be arranged with 1 car length between the cycle track and the main road, so that people driving cars can cross the cycle track before they have to worry about looking for motor traffic on the main road. By moving the cycle track to the back of the pavement, the cycle track could also have continuity past the bus stops and the crossings, rather than the shared use arrangements currently in the plans.

Ellen Street - Ellen Street does provide a useful link for cycling, but Hingeston Street is not suitable for routing cycle traffic on to. It is not a quiet road and it should never have been designated as an advisory route. It is not fit for purpose. No money should be wasted on painting bicycle symbols on the road, as these provide no benefits to people who cycle. Signs are useful, but this is not an appropriate route to the city centre, and so no signs should be installed suggesting that it is. The link on to Hingeston Street is useful, but do not claim that it forms part of any cycle route.

Camden Street presents the best route at this point into the city centre, but it needs to have contra-flow cycling permitted along it and through motor traffic cut out. There should be a modal filter at Powell Street - 5 removable bollards placed diagonally across the junction might be sufficient. Cycle users can be taken alongside the Tesco, and then across the light-controlled crossing of the Middleway. The crossings there could be improved to make them better for cycle users. There would need to be a link from the crossing to the mouth of Camden Street - in the short term, a shared use pavement would be acceptable, but in the long term a segregated cycle track could be installed.

The other long term option is to create a cycle track alongside Summer Hill Road, but that is substantially more expensive. It would also link up to the light-controlled crossing, so money spent on that would be well used.