This is one of four cycle route consultations that Birmingham City Council are holding during November 2021, most of which are improving on routes introduced as pop-up cycle routes during 2020. The consultations all finish on 30th November 2021, and the link for this one is here. Please respond to it and make your opinion as a cycle user known (you can just say that you agree with Push Bikes' opinion), otherwise the council will just receive responses from entitled car drivers.
Overview of the Route
This route connects the city centre to the A45 route, which is also being consulted on this month. Bradford Street is going to be the main route for private motor traffic to access the Bull Ring car parks and Moor Street station after the tram works tear up Digbeth High Street. Despite the great width of Digbeth High Street, the city council has decided it's not wide enough to include a cycleway, so Bradford Street will also be the main cycle route out of the city in this direction. For those reasons, the cycle infrastructure that is provided here should be high quality and segregated from the motor traffic.
The pop-up cycle route that was put in in 2020 had a bidirectional cycle track on one side of the road. This received a lot of criticism for the lack of continuity at the traffic light controlled crossroads, where cycle users going up Bradford Street were directed onto the narrow pavements. The new design, with a unidirectional cycle track each side, avoids those issues, although there are a few places where cycle users are still taken on to the pavement; we’ll cover those in the detailed comments below.
These plans do provide segregated space for cycle users, which is definitely an improvement on the situation pre-2020, and they do provide better continuity at side road junctions, which is an improvement on the 2020 bidirectional cycle track.
Bus stop bypasses are used in the designs, which we consider to be better than shared-use pavements. We are pleased to see those, but care needs to be taken in their placement, as a bus stop can obscure cycle users from the view of motor vehicle drivers exiting side roads.
The scheme does not have sufficient funding to change all the traffic light junctions, so BCC will need to draw up some plans for those and seek further funding to improve those that aren't up to standard.
It is good to see the plans include details about Dutch-style side road entrances, but it is a shame that those are only being used for driveways, not the side roads. Driveways should never take precedence over the pavement and cycle track, so of course there should be continuity there, but we also want to see pavements given continuity across side roads, and drivers encouraged to stop and give people walking priority there.
Finally, the design's weakest point is at the crossing of Barford Street, where the cycle track has sharp turns and narrow traffic islands to cross over a road which it should have priority at. This is very disappointing; we’ll explain more in our detailed comments below, but it is very important that continuity is maintained at junctions like this, otherwise we will have cycle infrastructure that people don’t want to cycle on.
Moat Lane / Bradford Street Junction
The proposals don’t help cycle users to navigate this junction, but the long term plans for the redevelopment of the markets will see the gyratory system here removed, so any solution that was built would be soon torn up. We do note that there is a cycle track coming round from Digbeth High Street to Bradford Street, which might be part of the long-term plans, but as we’ve not seen details of the proposed new road layout, we don’t know.
This is an issue with many of Birmingham’s new highways schemes - we find that even the designers aren’t necessarily aware of what other schemes in the area will do in the future, which results in a lack of joined-up planning for cycle infrastructure, and also a ‘get out of jail free’ card for other schemes that end up blocking future cycle routes because the designers weren’t looking at other schemes. This needs to be done better.
Bradford Street / Barford Street Junction
As noted in the overview, this is very poor. Barford Street is going to be bus, taxi and cycle only, so it will be much quieter than before, and there will be no need to retain the same space for motor traffic as it had before. There is no reason why there needs to be two traffic lanes going onto Bradford Street, which results in the very narrow traffic island and wide road span that people walking and cycling have to cross.
The cycle track is taken through a ninety degree turn on to the pavement immediately before the junction, and then there are two sections of Barford Street to cross without any priority. The result of this will be that many more confident cycle users will join the general traffic lane just before the junction and go straight on. The reason for taking the cycle track onto the pavement here is presumably because of the buses and coaches that will be turning in and out of this junction and the blind spots that they have when turning. If we are worried about cycle users being in the blind spot of buses and coaches, then we need to design cycle infrastructure that everyone will want to use and stay on, rather than implementing something that will result in two-tier infrastructure and victim blaming if someone decides to not take the much slower route, but gets hit by a bus.
To attract people to use the cycle infrastructure, the cycle track needs to have priority over the turning motor traffic, and needs to have smooth turns that can be taken comfortably. The cycle track needs to be taken on to the pavement sooner (as it has been at the Alcester Road junction), with a mini zebra crossing to provide priority for people walking across it. The traffic island in the centre of Barford Street needs to be widened so that it can accommodate the full length of a tandem or cargo cycle, and priority given to the cycle track, so that buses and taxis need to give way to people using the cycle track.
The use of bus stop bypasses is very good, and we think that the mini zebra crossings will provide a clear message about priority for people walking across the cycle tracks. It is important that the ramps up to and down from the bus stop bypasses are smooth so that cycle users don’t get jarred each time they use them. The angles of the ramps with the pop-up route were far too steep and as a consequence the ramps were painful to use.
Side Road Junctions
For side roads such as Birchall Street and Lombard Street, we would like to see continuity for the pavement across those, to give clear priority to people walking along Bradford Street. This would further encourage drivers to take care when coming out of or turning into the side roads.
Alcester Street Junction
The angles for taking the cycle track onto the pavement here are ideal, with no sharp turns. The use of the mini zebra crossing will provide clear priority for people walking across the cycle track, and it is good to see the parallel crossing for cycle users, rather than a single toucan crossing. It is unfortunate that there isn’t enough space for a segregated cycle track on the other side of the junction but potential conflict with people walking here won’t be too great, so it is ok as part of an overall route that provides good segregation.
Camp Hill Junction
The proposed shared-use pavement crossings here are far from ideal, but we recognise that there isn’t enough funding in the scheme to re-engineer this entire junction. This junction will need to have separate plans developed for it and further funding sought to provide better infrastructure here for cycle users.