Corporation Street trams and cycles

Looking down Corporation Street to New Street

This week there has been much confusion about 2 short sections of cycle route that have appeared on Corporation Street. The Birmingham Mail have even done a story on this, calling them the shortest sections of cycle lane in Birmingham. The reporter did try to contact Push Bikes, but we replied after her deadline, I think. This was unfortunate, as the person she spoke to at Birmingham City Council does not appear to have known that they form part of a planned cycle route from Bull Street to New Street Station. To set the record straight, although there are significant issues with the implementation of this route, the idea behind it does show consideration for cycle users.

A couple of years ago, Push Bikes campaigners attended a meeting with Centro and Birmingham City Council to look at ways to take cycle users around these tram tracks, and the route indicated in the map below shows what was agreed. Cannon Street is a good fit for a parallel route next to Corporation Street, away from the tram tracks and in a less crowded area. The section of Corporation Street with the tram tracks and cycle route together is flat, and as such presents fewer issues for mixing the two. Trams on Corporation Street will be moving slowly anyway due to the high volume of pedestrians, and most cycle users will be able to go faster - the main frustration being cycle users getting stuck behind trams at the tram stops.

So, having said that the route is a good one and shows some care for cycle users, let's deal with the issues.

Design failures:

Firstly, on the Corporation Street section of the route, cycles will have a narrow space between the vertical kerb and the tram rail. Vertical kerbs will knock off cycle users who try to cross them at a tight angle. With the large number of pedestrians in this area we can expect cycle users to have to dodge around people walking in the road, and having this vertical kerb will present a danger. It is possible to get kerbs that are angled, and these are much safer for cycle users to ride up at an angle. Angled kerbs should have been incorporated into the designs here and would have greatly improved safety for cycle users.

Secondly, at the Bull Street / Corporation Street cross-roads, trams, buses and pedestrians have been accommodated for, but cycle users have not. There are no cycle crossings here, despite cycle users wanting to use at least 3 of the 4 arms for through routes. The result will be that some cycle users will mix with the trams and buses while others will mix with the pedestrians. With no clear routes that are best for cycle users, they will ride everywhere, increasing their unpredictability. That is poor design and will frustrate tram and bus drivers.

Thirdly, where the cycle route crosses Corporation Street to join Cherry Street, the angle that cycle users will have to turn is too sharp and they are expected to dismount and push across the pedestrian crossing. This is an unacceptable design, considering that the whole road has been ripped up and resurfaced. There should have been a clear cycle crossing implemented here to make sure that the route was immediately understandable to cycle users who are not familiar with it. In addition, it is discriminatory to ask cycle users to get off and push, when there are people with disabilities who use their cycles as mobility aids.

Signage failures:

Firstly, the arrows for the two short sections of 'cycle lane' point at the start of the dropped kerbs. Cycle user who are not familiar with the route and are distracted (perhaps by all the pedestrians) may try to join the pavement too early, and be knocked off by the vertical kerb. The white lines and arrows should be burnt off and re-painted to give best guidance to cycle users as to where it is safest to join the pavement.

Secondly, at Bull Street, we were told that the pavement between Corporation Street and Temple Row would be shared-use pavement cycling. That clearly has not happened, although there is one shared-use sign that appears to be contradicted by all the other signs. Push Bikes has not received any updates on changes to this route, and so we are in the dark as to why the promise of shared-use pavement cycling was reneged on here.

Thirdly, at the entrance to Cannon Street there are no signs telling cycle users that they can legitimately cycle contra-flow. If the route is sign posted up that street, the long term effect will be to encourage cycle users to ignore other 'no entry' signs. Push Bikes is clear on this - 'no entry' signs are very important and should be obeyed by all road-users. We want to see wide spread use of contra-flow cycling, but with the appropriate 'except cyclists' signs so that when a 'no entry' sign really matters, everyone will pay attention to it.

Finally, the signs overall are very patchy. In several places I only knew where to go because of the meeting that I had been in a few years ago. Routes need to be clearly signposted and part of the work on the route should be for someone to cycle along it both ways who does not know where they should go. If they can not navigate from the signs alone, then more signs are needed. Birmingham City Council is working on a city centre strategy as part of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution, and a lot of that work will be thinking about what signs will be most effective and where. That will take time and so I don't expect brilliant signs across the city centre immediately. But surely at least this route could have had sufficient signs?



Birmingham city centre.jpg

Map of the cycle route along Corporation Street
This map shows the cycle route that goes from the crossroads of Bull Street and Corporation Street towards New Street Station. Notice the cycle route moves onto Canon Street as Corporation Street dips down the hill.


Image 1.JPG

End of Route sign on Temple Row
This is at location 1. This sign is confusing as at the consultation the pavement on the right, leading to Corporation Street, was supposed to be shared-use pavement cycling. The justification for this was that the pavement had ample width for cycles and pedestrians to share.


Image 2.JPG

Shared use sign at the Corporation Street & Bull Street crossroads
This photo was taken at location 2. This pavement was all supposed to be shared use pavement cycling, but it seems that the shared use bit starts at this sign. Which is confusing as there is no sign facing the other direction that indicates a shared use pavement, so perhaps the pavement is only shared use in one direction?


Image 3.JPG

End of cycle route sign on Bull Street
This photo is at location 2, facing in the opposite direction to photo 2. The 'shared use' sign in photo 2 is behind this 'end of cycle route' sign. This pavement was supposed to be shared-use pavement cycling, as it has an ample width (not shown well in this photo). Despite the area I am standing on being shared space, the crossing you can see on the left is only for pedestrians.


Image 4.JPG

Looking down Corporation Street to New Street
This photo was taken at location 3. The photo is looking down Corporation Street from Bull Street to New Street. The cycle route indicated by these signs is between the tram track and the edge of the pavement. The pavement has a short kerb, but it is vertical so cycles can not ride up it at a sharp angle easily.


Image 7.JPG

The cycle route leaves Corporation Street
This is at location 4. The short cycle lane indicates to cycle users where they need to leave the carriageway and join the pavement. Almost immediately upon joining the pavement, they are instructed to get off their cycles. There are no visible signs telling them that they need to cross the road to the right to continue on the cycle route.


Image 8.JPG

Detail of exit from the carriageway
Photo taken at location 4. This shows the details of the dropped kerb. Notice that the arrow indicating the left turn is pointing at the very start of the dropped kerb, which continues for some distance past the white line. This is dangerous - if a cycle user follows this arrow and fails to notice where the kerb is flush with the carriageway, their wheels may come into contact with the raised kerb and knock the cycle user off their cycle. This white paint needs to be burnt off and re-painted so that the arrow shows the safest point for cycle users to join the pavement. Care needs to be taken when taking cycle routes on and off pavements that raised kerbs do not put anyone in danger.


Image 11.JPG

Contra flow cycle signs on Cannon Street
This photo is at location 6. These contra flow signs tell road users that they can expect to meet cycle users coming up Cannon Street in the 'wrong' direction. This is excellent, and all one-way streets should be contra-flow for cycle users as a default, meaning that there has to be good reason for them not to be contra-flow, rather than the opposite. Note that from location 4, this is the first sign in this direction that tells you that this is a cycle route. And it doesn't even have the destinations.


Image 12.JPG

End of Cannon Street
Taken at location 7. While motor traffic has to turn right here, cycles have signs indicating that they can turn left or right. Unfortunately there is no 'New Street Station' sign up the road to the right to direction you to the front of the station. So from here, you are on your own.


Image 13.JPG

Signs on New Street
Taken at location 7. See image 14 for description.


Image 14.JPG

Cycle signs on New Street photo 2
Taken at location 7. This is a remarkably good set of signs, giving clear directions for cycle users approaching in any of the three directions. Good work here.


Image 15.JPG

No entry signs on Cannon Street
Taken at location 7. Now we turn around to head back up the cycle route, and the first immediate issue is that we do not appear to be legally able to cycle contra-flow up here. Except that we know that we can because we've seen the signs warning people of contra-flow cycle users, at location 6. These no entry signs need extra 'except cycles' signs adding to them.


Image 10.JPG

Cycle route sign on Cherry Street
Taken at close to location 5, at the junction of Cherry Street and Cannon Street. The most confusing thing about this sign is that it has a pedestrian, not a cycle, on it. It is a pedestrian sign for a cycle route, and we know this because there is no need to sign-post a pedestrian route up Cannon Street as a parallel route to Corporation Street.


Image 9.JPG

Cycle sign to Law Courts on Corporation Street
This was taken at location 5. Here the signs point you towards the Law Courts, and an extra sign tells you to be careful of the tram tracks. Good to see we have cycles on the signs here.


Image 6.JPG

Cycle signs at the Bull Street, Corporation Street crossroads
Taken at location 2. Here we can see a similar situation as at location 4, with a short section of paint showing cycle users where to re-join the pavement. Notice the signs telling cycle users to dismount, despite the sign in photo 2 telling cycle users that this is a shared-use pavement. I also could not see any signs giving directions beyond this point, leaving cycle users potentially confused as to where to go next. Also, the arrow appears to be in the wrong location as at location 4 (although I forgot to check carefully here).