Opinion: Opinion: Where we’re at with Kings Heath LTN

Filed under: LTNs / Opinions

One BS4B member, Paul Manzotti, shares his take on the initial roll out of modal filters in Kings Heath, and a vision for where we need to go next as a city to build on their success… 


I live on a road inside one of the LTN cells. 

However, I would advocate for LTNs even if the council had installed one elsewhere first. 

There are too many cars on our roads. Vehicle pollution results in health issues and mortalities, costing the NHS £150m alone in Birmingham in 2018, and congestion causes loss of economic productivity, which in 2019 this cost the UK £6.9bn

We can’t keep building new roads in this city as this increases traffic, through induced demand, and road danger puts many off cycling here. Additionally, we are running out of places to park, with pavement parking and anti-social parking serious problems .

The status quo can’t continue. Not least because car ownership levels and miles driven in this city have grown continuously since the motor vehicle’s invention.

Politely asking people to drive less doesn’t work. Any plan to reduce our car dependency brings a measure of disruption. There isn’t a magical silver bullet for our problems. If you have one, please pipe up.

The history of the LTN

During the first Covid-19 wave in 2020, one government response was to announce Tranche 1 of an Active Travel Fund, part of a series of measures designed:

When the first wave of Covid hit in 2020, one of the government’s responses was to announce Tranche 1 of an Active Travel Fund, as part of a series of measures designed:

to make it easier for people to choose alternatives to public transport, a series of measures are being rolled out to encourage more people to cycle instead


This funding came with strict instructions to be spent quickly, so councils were allowed to introduce measures using Emergency Traffic Regulation Orders (ETRO), rather than Traffic Regulation Orders which mandate long consultations prior to works commencing. The consultation would be concurrent to the scheme, and changes could be made on the fly in response to feedback.

The Initial design 

This is how the modal filters were originally installed:

As soon as the planters went in on Grange Road and Bank Street, the modal filter was moved higher up Grange Road and removed entirely from Bank Street, following push-back from a local nursery, among others (from conversations with our local councillors).

An extra modal filter was installed on York Road, nearer the High Street, as the Hare & Hounds pointed out that people would just park there, making it impossible for bands to unload their equipment for gigs.

There were also alterations made to the timing of the traffic lights at the Vicarage Road/Howard Road/Grove Road junction to enable more vehicles through towards Stirchley.

Current implementation

This is almost the current implementation; it’s just missing the middle modal filter on York Road:

Effect on roads inside the LTN

Without question, roads inside the LTN are significantly quieter. Most were rat runs, and even at night, a regular stream of taxis used them as cut-throughs. Now, I have to check that the window is open at night, whereas before I’d only have to wait 30 seconds before I’d hear a car go past.

Traffic going in one direction would block traffic headed the other way, often resulting in shouting and aggressive threats. My car has dents in three out of its four corners from where it has been hit while parked on the street. 

I no longer worry about my children walking to school, like I did before.

There is, unfortunately, still some rat running, with some people using Grange > South > Balaclava > Silver > Highbury as a rat run to avoid Avenue Road.

Overall, the area feels safer, and therefore nicer, than before. I can’t imagine going back.

The effect on boundary roads

Avenue Road

Admittedly, the immediate period after implementation could have gone better! Severn Trent roadworks closed Shutlock Lane for about seven weeks. As this is a rat run, with traffic going up Dad’s Lane to get to Moseley and beyond, most of that traffic was funnelled up Dad’s Lane onto Avenue Road. With the previous rat run of Highbury Road unavailable, massive queues formed on Avenue Road. Once Shutlock Lane re-opened, the queues reduced significantly.

Anecdotally, traffic appears to have returned to pre-Covid levels, possibly lower. I haven’t seen traffic backed up to the railway bridge over Avenue Road as in those initial weeks.

Vicarage Road

Even in the most contentious section of the LTN, traffic levels have gradually improved. Lockdown may also have skewed people’s memories of what traffic was like on this road previously. There have always been periods when it was jammed up, normally when the High Street grinds to a halt. I do, however, think that more could be done to mitigate the situation for residents of that road – more on that later.

High Street

I’ve lived in Kings Heath since 2000, on roads off the High Street and I’ve always done my level best to avoid driving on it. It has always suffered from congestion. Indeed, the below photo from the Birmingham Mail shows it snarled up in 1998 so, I struggle to believe it is more congested since the LTN.

York Road

This has been a game-changer. Before, it was a glorified car park. When I worked in Shirley, this was my route home, and I’d often get stuck at the entrance to the road, waiting for the queue of traffic trying to go the other way to clear. It was horrible.

It is now a lovely destination, with hospitality establishments taking full advantage of the available space. This is especially true on a warm summer’s day, when the tables outside each venue are rammed full of people enjoying the sun. It feels like you’re on holiday.

Some of the businesses on the road are adamant that the LTN is destroying them. I’d ask how they can discount the impact of Covid-19 on shopping habits? It’s accelerated a move to online retail, that was already underway, with figures showing a jump from 20% of all sales to around 33% by the end of 2020. Unfortunately, online shopping is not a strong point of these businesses. You can’t buy anything online from the two biggest opponents to the scheme.

A qualified success

The LTN has been an overall success – but there is room for improvement. In the next post, I will detail some suggestions to deliver that.

Paul Manzotti

Worrying about my wife's daily cycle commute and the health of my born-and-bred-in-a-city children, I may have become slightly obsessed with creating a network of protected cycle lanes in Birmingham! Which includes LTNs.

In my defence, they can solve so many problems our country suffers from currently.