Better Streets for Birmingham is a volunteer community group that campaigns for changes to our travel and planning infrastructure to improve the sustainability, efficiency and safety of our streets. By identifying, supporting and advocating for changes to our environment that enable car-free journeys, we aim to make active travel and public transport the default options for trips around our city.
This scheme aligns with our groups’ vision and we strongly support bus priority, and therefore shorter bus journeys for bus users travelling between Druids Heath and Kings Heath.
It is an important part of the A435 public transport improvements, with an earlier consultation for similar improvements in Balsall Heath, and part of the Cross City bus routes plan that can be seen on the Transport for West Midlands website:
The proposed southbound bus lane from Sladepool Farm Road to Stot Fold Road will work in combination with the proposed northbound bus lane from Idmiston Croft to Millpool Gardens.
We welcome all pedestrian improvements, including that afforded by the removal of overhung vegetation. We request that mature trees and bushes are retained, unless doing so would significantly hinder pedestrians, in which case any mature plants should be replaced with plants that will grow to at least the same size when mature.
The Monday to Saturday 7am – 7pm timed bus lane restrictions appear reasonable. We are glad that this is not made more complicated with different timings for north and south routes; as public transport priority must be enjoyed by people taking non-commuting trips throughout the day such as shopping trips between Kings Heath and Druids Heath and access to Cocks Moors Woods Leisure Centre. Furthermore, in our experience, keeping the bus lane timings as simple as possible increases compliance. It is better to reduce the need for enforcement where possible.
Regarding the right turn pockets into Broad Lane and the leisure centre, we support this design in these circumstances.
In normal circumstances we would question whether the provision of road space to facilitate the flow of private motor vehicle traffic is beneficial, given the proven effects of induced demand, and many other better purposes that road space can be used for (for example cycle lanes, road narrowing for traffic calming and pedestrian crossings). On this broad point we share some of the concerns that Steve McCabe MP raised in a recent video on his Facebook page, in which he talks to residents of Broad Lane about concerns including traffic speed and induced demand. We understand where Steve is coming from and are grateful that he is looking at issues around road danger in his constituency.
However; in this specific circumstance, we can see that there is a clear benefit afforded to public transport users by minimising delays caused to buses at this location. Even with the proposed lane widening, there appears to be insufficient width to provide bus lanes on both sides at this point. Therefore, it appears that right turn pockets at this junction will provide the best usage of road space to prevent buses being delayed by turning cars. We also note that there are no other elements of the scheme that would appear to induce private motor vehicle usage or speed. We take the view that this is a beneficial element for bus users.
As with all junction treatments, we strongly urge that the changes are combined with corner radius tightening and junction narrowing to slow the speed of motor vehicles turning into and out of the junctions (junctions being particularly dangerous parts of our roads) and to make it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross side roads. We believe that incorporating these improvements into all highways schemes wherever possible saves money overall and reduces the risk of injury and fatal crashes.
The proposed northbound bus lane between Appian Close and Featherstone Road appears to extend the already successful bus lane leading northbound towards the city, up to the traffic lights with Howard Road. We agree that this will be beneficial for bus users and therefore support it.
The current and proposed bus lane is only 7:30am to 10am, applying only to morning rush hour and providing no priority to bus users outside those hours. We would suggest that the bus lane timing is kept under review, with consideration given to queue length monitoring at other times to ascertain if any delay is caused to buses outside the proposed hours of operation. This may also become apparent if bus companies report delays. This could provide information to inform a decision as to whether to extend the hours. In purely anecdotal experience the current bus lane does not appear to be regularly obstructed during the day, possibly due to drivers instinctively staying in the right-hand lane towards the Howard Road lights. However, given the proposed right turn restriction onto Wheelers Lane, a greater number of drivers may wait to turn right at the Howard Rd junction, potentially increasing the queue in the bus lane. This is hypothetical at the moment, with simple extension of the hours of the bus lane as a potential future mitigation if found to be necessary.
The plan proposes three restrictions on cars turning in to (but not out of) side roads:
These side roads are all unclassified roads. The Department for Transport website explains the different uses that different classifications of road have:
Livingstone Road, the section of Wheelers Lane between the A435 and the roundabout with Howard and Featherstone Road are all unclassified roads and therefore ‘will generally have very low significance to traffic, and be of only very local importance’. In contrast, other local roads have different classifications and uses, such as A roads like the A435 Alcester Road, A4040 Howard Rd East and Wheelers Lane beyond the Howard Road roundabout; and unnumbered classified C roads Woodthorpe Road and Brandwood Road. (https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/downloads/file/2855/list_of_classified_roads_in_birmingham).[e][f]
Our overall opinion is these turn restrictions are very welcome as they remove current pockets where large areas of primary route road space are currently allocated solely to turning cars. These large areas of road are reallocated to provide faster and more prioritised bus services.
For example, the current pocket for right turns into Livingstone Road when viewed from the A435, north to south, looks like the photo below, and the new design is shown beneath it:
We can see from the plan that the proposed design removes the lane for right turns into Livingstone Road, and allocates the space to the bus lane, providing priority for bus passengers and two lanes for vehicle traffic that won’t be blocked by cars waiting to turn right.
Similarly, The pockets that facilitates drivers to turn right into Wheelers Lane and Featherstone from the A435, viewed from South to North, can be seen in the following two photos and plan excerpt:
In the same way as Livingstone Road further up the A435, we can see that removing the right turns means a large expanse of the road that is currently given over solely to assist drivers turning right, will be reallocated to a bus lane for the benefit of bus passengers.
In conclusion, Better Streets for Birmingham strongly supports this plan, and the wider plans being delivered by Transport for West Midlands and Birmingham City Council to improve bus services in Birmingham.
There are some areas where we think elements could be changed or improved, as laid out above. Nothing in this scheme appears to preclude further work on this corridor and adjoining side roads in the future, and we hope the public and local elected members supports these changes that will provide vital real benefits to bus users.