This is our response to the Moseley local centre public consultation that closes on 30 September 2022. If you agree with our response, you can respond to the consultation with a link to this page.
Better Streets for Birmingham recognises the vital importance of east-west cycle routes from the Moseley and Kings Heath LTNs, expanding the local active travel connectivity to link up with the current radial routes of National Cycle Network Route 5 (the Rea Valley Route) and the A38 blue route. We see this scheme as an important, if relatively short, part of that future east/west route and wholly support Birmingham’s intention on this broader point.
In respect of the details of the scheme; we have written this consultation response with reference to the Local Traffic Note 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design Guidance (LTN1/20), structuring our comments around the 5 core design principles: Is it cohesive, direct, safe, comfortable and attractive?
On the principle of cohesiveness, people cycling should be able to easily and safely join and navigate along different sections of the same route and between different routes in the network.
It is not easy to make clear comments on the connectivity due to the relative shortness of the route, and lack of available information on a strategic network (the Council’s published citywide network plan in the LCWIP does not assist in this, and we would support any Council plan to improve and update the LCWIP).
However; as noted above, for the purposes of this response we have assumed that this scheme is part of a future East/west continuous cycle route between the Moseley and Kings Heath (east side of the High St) LTNs, specifically the access point at Oxford Road which will hopefully be part of an LTN soon, all the way to the A38 blue route at the Priory Rd junction; via important destinations such as Moseley train station, Moseley Village, Chantry Rd historical LTN, Cannon Hill Park, the Rea Valley Route and Edgbaston Stadium. This scheme is only a small element of that route, however if fully completed it would be a strategic asset to a citywide cycling network.
On this assumption, the connection at the St Mary’s Row access point is poor and does not appear to comply with LTN1/20 due to the access to the cycle lane requiring people cycling to negotiate mixed traffic before waiting in a small central island to turn right against the flow of motor traffic heading East on St Mary’s Row (from both the main junction and slip road). Similar issues arise at exiting the cycle lane at the same point as it involves abruptly joining mixed motor traffic coming from both the main road and slip road.
This lack of safe access and egress will, in our view, feel unsafe for all but the most confident people cycling, having a significant negative impact on the connection at this point. This should be remedied with a high priority extension to the route to continue on the rest of St Mary’s Row, to potentially terminate at the new train station site with a safe LTN1/20 compliant junction to safely connect with the filtered Oxford Road. We are aware that Birmingham City Council is already aware of this issue and the required remedy, which is positive.
At the west end of the cycle lane where the access point is a section of shared space at the junction with Chantry Road, the connection is significantly better, with people cycling protected from motor traffic until a dropped kerb takes them onto (or from) Chantry Rd which is currently part of an LTN and therefore much quieter and safer for cycling.
We think it could still be improved; shared space is safe, but suboptimal for pedestrians and can cause an interruption to the journeys of people cycling. There appears to be sufficient space to continue the segregated cycle lane up to the junction of Chantry Road. This would be even better if the toucan crossing were replaced with a sparrow crossing; providing the greatest separation between, and therefore benefits to, pedestrians and people cycling. (What’s a sparrow crossing? We discuss the design and benefits of sparrow crossings under the comfort principle below.)
There is apparently a more fundamental cohesiveness issue that affects people cycling travelling south bound, away from town, on the A435 through Moseley that wish to continue straight on at the main crossroads or turn right down Salisbury Road: Once they have got on the cycle lane, there is no obvious way for them to avoid being channelled up the slip road and away from the direction they wish to travel.
We are not highways engineers, so only speak as lay-people, but potential remedies to this issue might include very clear signage (painted on the carriageway as well) at the commencement of the lane near the Co-op advising the cycle lane is only suitable for turning left whereas and straight on or turning right requires remaining in the motor vehicle carriage; or a design solution before the entrance of the slip road that allows people cycling to safely rejoin the carriageway at that point; or a design solution at the end of the slip road that allows people cycling to safely turn right at that point to head west bound on St Mary’s Row (though this option would present a directness penalty for people cycling).
There may be alternative remedies that we have not considered and we appreciate that bi-directional cycle lanes do intrinsically present issues of this nature; however we urge the design team resolves this issue with the minimum compromise for people cycling and pedestrians.
On a broader point, the LTNs in Moseley and Kings Heath need to be part of a much wider network of safe cycling routes to realise the full benefits. The east-west route from Oxford Road should be just the start.
On the principle of directness and the need to take the shortest route possible by distance; this scheme directly follows the east/west route described above. It does not deviate from the shortest road alternative eastwards (from Alcester Rd and up the slip road), and by allowing contraflow on the slip road is actually more direct than the shortest road alternative westwards. On these terms, this is a very direct route by distance and is excellent on this principle.
On the question on directness of time, it is slightly harder to judge as we do not know what alternatives may have been considered. Clear positives include bypassing the main crossroads (a design element that likely results in shorter signal phases as people cycling do not have to share the same crossroads phases with cars and pedestrians) and the clear benefit of providing continuous cycle priority across the King Edward Road junction; both of these elements are likely to reduce delay and are welcomed.
There are questions regarding the potential wait to access the route by turning right across oncoming traffic on St Mary’s Row, with a strong potential for a lots of westbound motor traffic queuing for the lights being impossible to bypass, and eastbound traffic allowing few gaps to cross onto the cycle lane, creating delays. As mentioned earlier, the issues at this point of the scheme requires remedying with prompt extension up St Mary’s Row. We would also ask that the timing of the toucan crossing (or sparrow crossing if possible, see description below) for Chantry Road is optimised for pedestrian and cyclist priority, ideally with no wait between pressing the button and safe crossing.
On the principle of safety; as noted above the access point on St Mary’s Row poses the greatest risk (this point presents a recurring theme of negative impacts). People cycling waiting in the middle of the road to turn right onto the cycle lane are not afforded a safe space to avoid high volumes of motor traffic from behind. Furthermore, having to turn across oncoming traffic at the unsignalised point exposes people cycling to the risks of being hit from both directions. Exiting the cycle lane at this point results in a likely significant speed differential between people cycling leaving the lane to head up St Mary’s Row and motor traffic heading in the same direction. This is potentially exacerbated by the exit point’s proximity to the slip road junction with drivers looking over their shoulder/in their wing mirror behind them to join the main road and potentially not seeing people cycling joining the road immediately ahead of them. This point clearly requires a remedy such as the priority extension of the cycle lane as discussed above.
There is a further safety issue presented by the lack of provision and likely confusion for people cycling on the A435 away from town that wish to continue straight on or turn right onto Salisbury Road, as detailed above under the cohesiveness principle. As noted, this issue should be resolved.
On the plus side of the safety principle; avoiding the main crossroads junction removes the need for a complex design requiring users to process large amounts of information and will make it much safer to travel east/west. The bus stop bypass and cycle priority across the Kind Edward Road junction appear safe and well designed.
Furthermore, the continuous footway at King Edwards Road and pavement widening design at the Woodbridge Road junction provides clear and very positive safety benefits for pedestrians by slowing and deprioritising motor vehicles at these points in line with the hierarchy of road users (whereby more dangerous road users such as drivers have a greater responsibility to not cause harm to more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians).
On the principle of comfort; it would be desirable to replace the short shared space section with a cycle lane, and the toucan crossing with a sparrow crossing to minimise risk of conflict with pedestrians for the benefit of both.
Toucan crossings are used quite often in Birmingham’s new cycle lanes; we are concerned that the shared-space element of toucan crossings make them less than ideal, especially in areas like central Moseley where we can expect a lot of pedestrian and cycle traffic.
We believe a Sparrow crossing; where there are parallel signal controlled crossings that separate people cycling from pedestrians would be a better solution for this crossing. You can see a video about sparrow crossings from the Bee Network in Stockport, they are described LTN1/20 at paragraph 10.4.21. It would be brilliant if Birmingham installed slightly more novel infrastructure such as this.
On a more general note on comfort; we believe wayfinding signage for people cycling and pedestrians across Birmingham is poor. Though it may fall out of scope for this specific consultation, this scheme would provide an excellent test bed for improved wayfinding signage to point people cycling to the filtered Chantry Road LTN and the onward connections to Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston Stadium etc. to allow non-local people cycling to navigate without needing to refer to maps.
Moving on from the design principles, we are familiar with the concerns that active travel schemes can cause. LTN1/20 does not, unfortunately, discuss the best ways to deal with a common reluctance for change and general worry about unknown implications that schemes like this cause for some local members of the public and local business owners.
This scheme has clearly been designed with consideration given to the nature of Moseley Village with the compromise of the suspension of the cycle lane on the 12 days a year for the brilliant local farmer’s market, and only involves the removal of car parking spaces that were previously suspended during lockdown hence minimising fears of disruption. We do, however, ask that the suspension of the lane for the market still allows a shared-space safe route through for people cycling on those days, or a safe alternative route provided.
In conclusion, despite some concerns about a number of details, we support this scheme and urge Birmingham City Council to implement it and continue expanding the cycling network and pedestrian improvements across our city and quickly as possible.