Russell Road is a dangerous road despite having a 20mph speed limit. It is choked with traffic during rush hour and suffers from horrendous speeding. Drivers adhering to the speed limit are regularly tailgated and overtaken. Cycling on it results in a litany of illegally close passes. There is a clear and obvious need to do something about this and we welcome the Council’s focus on making Russell Road safer.
Many of the proposed changes will slow traffic and provide benefits for pedestrians which are big positives. However, we suggest that several of the design interventions are contrary to cycle infrastructure design guidance LTN 1/20 (referred to simply as ‘the design guidance’ in this response) and will actually result in cycling on Russell Road becoming even more dangerous than it already is. We submit this response with reference to Birmingham City Council’s transport plan that states:
The vision for Birmingham’s transport is for a sustainable, green, inclusive, go-anywhere network. Safe and healthy environments will make active travel – walking and cycling – the first choice for people making short journeysBirmingham Transport Plan, p.23
Birmingham City Council has also declared a climate emergency. The Council’s website states:
On 25 June 2019 the council’s Cabinet agreed to add a new priority to the Council Plan which states that Birmingham will be “a city that takes a leading role in tackling climate change”. This commitment will embed climate action in the council’s decision-making process to make sure that all service areas contribute to the R20 journey.https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20015/environment/2026/climate_emergency/3
One of the priorities in the Council Plan is:
Priority 4: We will develop our transport infrastructure, keeping the city moving through walking, cycling and improved public transport.”Birmingham Council Plan 2018-2022, p.16
We believe that making Russell Road more dangerous to cycle on is clearly in direct conflict with the Council’s vision for better active travel provision in Birmingham; and its commitments to tackle the climate emergency.
The proposal has three options. Our comments on the three options are below.
We support the zebra crossing element of this proposal. The main element is proposed speed humps along the length of Russell Rd. We are concerned that the plans make no mention of making the speed humps suitable for cyclists. The design guidance states:
Sinusoidal ramps have a smooth transition profile on both sides of the hump … They are more comfortable for cyclists and should normally be used where on-carriageway cycling is anticipated. Any difficulties in achieving the sinusoidal profile may be overcome by using preformed sections.LTN 1/20, Section 7.6.5, page 81
A separate cycle bypass allows the hump to be avoided altogether (with 1.5m spacing between anyLTN 1/20, Section 7.6.7, page 82
kerbs). Where cyclists have no choice but to travel over humps, care should be taken to ensure that the
transition from road to hump has no upstand
With reference to the design guidance, if speed humps are to be installed on Russell Road, we request they ideally have a bypass or, if the road width makes this impossible, at least have no upstand and a sinusoidal profile.
We support the zebra crossing element of this proposal. The main element is proposed speed cushions along the length of Russell Road, spaced at approximately 40m intervals. Design guidance states:
Cushions are not a preferred form of traffic calming on cycle routes because they constrain the ability of cyclists to choose their preferred position in the carriageway and are particularly hazardous to riders of three wheeled cycles.LTN 1/20, Section 7.6.8, page 82
On this basis, we oppose the use of speed cushions on Russell Rd. Our objection is reinforced by our experience of existing speed cushions on Billesley Lane in Moseley, not far from Russell Rd, which suffers from regular speeding, dangerous driving and car crashes despite having speed cushions for years. Billesely Lane is earmarked for further expensive traffic calming as the speed cushions clearly don’t have the desired effect; it would be a reckless waste of public money if the same thing happened on Russell Road.
Option 3 proposes a selection of features, including speed humps or speed cushions as per options 1 and 2; with the addition of gateway features, kerb build-outs to reduce the carriageway width, raised tables, junction narrowing/tighter radii at side road junctions, surface treatments, additional zebra crossings and changes to the roundabout at the bottom of the hill. We strongly support the side road junction improvements. The design guidance states:
Tight kerb radii at side roads will help to reinforce lower speeds for turning vehicles and offer a better crossing environment for pedestrians and should be used more widely. Side Road Entry Treatments (raised tables across the junction mouth) will also help. Research carried out in London found that such treatments have significant safety benefits, with a 51% reduction in cyclist collisions where they were installed.LTN 1/20, Section 7.6.10, page 82
We are currently calling for a rolling program of side road junction narrowing, to force vehicles to slow down significantly to turn into them. So, to see this proposal include narrowing of all three side roads off Russell Rd is to be applauded. The exclusion of the entrance to the Cannon Hill Park car park from this program of junction narrowing is, however, strange. From a cyclist’s perspective, however, including a raised table at each junction can make for an unpleasant riding experience, if not designed in adherence with the speed hump guidance summarised in our response to option 1.
We also support the gateway features, surface treatments, additional zebra crossings and changes to the roundabout.
There are elements of this option that we oppose, for the reasons laid out below.
As noted in respect of option 2, we oppose the use of speed cushions as they are dangerous for cyclists. We also request that any speed humps and raised tables ideally have a bypass or, if this is impossible, at least have no upstand and a sinusoidal profile.
In respect of the kerb build-outs to reduce the carriageway width, we support the traffic calming effects of these, but are of the view that the design of the build-outs in the proposal are dangerous for cyclists. The design guidance states:
Chicanes and pinch-points should be designed in such a way that cyclists are neither squeezed nor intimidated by motor vehicles trying to overtake. The preferred option is to provide a bypass or alternatively sufficient lane width (more than 3.9m) so that the cyclist can remain in the secondary position and be overtaken safely. Where the lane or cycle bypass is bounded by fixed objects such as full height kerbs, the additional widths given in Table 5-3 should be provided.LTN 1/20, Section 7.2.9, page 77
It goes on to state:
Cycle bypasses should be provided alongside horizontal measures such as chicanes or narrowings; the gap should be at least 1.5m wide to accommodate all types of cycle and to allow access by sweeping machinery. Where debris is likely to collect in the bypass at carriageway level, an alternative is to ramp up the cycle lane across the top of the buildout (see Figure 7.3). The bypass should be arranged so that cyclists re-entering the carriageway are protected and not placed in conflict with passing vehiclesLTN 1/20, Section 7.6.4, page 81
The plan does not indicate the lane width at the kerb build-outs; however, given our knowledge of Russell Road as being relatively narrow; we assume the lane width will be less than 3.9m and therefore the potential hazard of vehicles trying to overtake cyclists must be addressed.
One method of addressing the hazard is ensuring the lane width is not greater than 3.2m to discourage close overtaking, however we are of the view that this is an entirely insufficient remedy given the volume of traffic on the road, and risks of oncoming motor vehicles not giving way to cyclists that have priority.
We therefore request that the design guidance is followed by providing compliant cycle bypasses (i.e a bypass designed so that cyclists re-entering the carriageway are protected and not placed in conflict with passing vehicles) alongside the build-outs. The current one-sided design of the kerb build-outs would only allow a bypass on one side; forcing cyclists in one direction to mix with motor vehicle traffic; especially dangerous with oncoming traffic that may not give way to cyclists. This could be resolved by adapting the design to have kerb build-outs on both sides; situating the narrowed motor vehicle lane in the middle of the road (similar in design to this treatment in Southwark) which would allow safe cycle bypasses on both sides.
On the design of the bypasses; if there is insufficient space for a 1.5m gap and, importantly, if the Council cannot guarantee it will be swept of debris, then we recommend it is ramped across the top of the buildout (using a sinusoidal profile ramp of course.)
We are of the view that a version of Option 3 is the best of the options; however, the proposed speed cushions should be removed, all ramps, humps and raised tables should have no upstand and sinusoidal profiles, the kerb build-outs should be redesigned to remove the danger the current designs pose to cyclists, and all cycle bypasses must be free from debris either through guaranteed maintenance or ramping them over the buildouts.
Better Streets for Birmingham supports the Council’s ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ initiative; we suggest there are alternative approaches that more closely align with that spirit.
Russell Road is narrow; each lane is just about wide enough to fit a modern car, and the pavements are also quite narrow (hence why it is not a pleasant road to walk down). As such, we feel that the Council should seriously consider whether it is suited to be the major commuting route that it currently is.
One alternative, or future, solution to the traffic danger on Russell Road could be to use a modal filter to make it one-way. Doing this would allow enough room for a protected cycle lane along its length, providing a safe route for cyclists, Voi e-scooters and other future sustainable transport options. (Cycle lanes can be made wide enough to allow emergency service vehicles to use them, helping response times).
We appreciate that this would require a consideration of effects on the local network of side roads that may necessitate additional modal filters and possibly the development of a low traffic neighbourhood, including local resident engagement and consultation.
Whilst we accept that this is a bold proposal, we think that there would be clear and obvious benefits to providing a protected cycle lane and a network of safe side roads allowing active travel access to Cannon Hill Park. The Moseley and Kings Heath Places for People schemes would be closer to being linked to the active travel network connections provided by the Edgbaston Road cycle lane. Getting the cycling network closer to the centres of Moseley and Kings Heath will allow many more people to consider cycling to work, and this has the potential to also encourage a modal shift to sustainable forms of transport. We suggest that this could be the best long-term solution for residents and our city.