Author Topic: Birmingham Bike lanes  (Read 1207 times)

caerau

  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Birmingham Bike lanes
« on: August 27, 2019, 11:07:09 am »
Was back visiting family over the long weekend and was most surprised to see glorious, segregated, two lane bike lanes going all the way up the Bristol Road (A38).  At one point though - the whole thing stopped from the left side (heading into the city) and reappeared in the central reservation - this carried on for a while, then eventually switched to the right hand side.


Which from my perspective, made the whole thing a bit of a joke, but perhaps I'm wrong.  My son-in-law who was driving thought they were brilliant, but then he doesn't cycle.  He wondered aloud why anyone would want to cycle up the Bristol Road anyway, which is certainly a good point well made - I looked them up later and found out that there are others about, such as on the Pershore Road - they were absent on the Hagley road though (though apparently planned) and there are some right in the city.


It occurred to me later, that when I used to cycle into Selly Oak/Edgbaston from the south  (Kings Norton, or just beyond, really outside the city) - I just used to use the canals.  Which go to a *lot* of useful places in Birmingham.*


So are they actually of any use?  They've certainly had ££££ spent on them.




*To be fair my enthusiasm for cycling on the tow paths ended when it got dark - especially in the more savage regions of Stirchley and King's Norton
It's a reverse Elvis thing.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2019, 11:25:26 am »
The A38 one is good enough that I, as a confident cyclist who isn't afraid to ride on the Bristol Road, have been using it to get to and from the centre of town from the bottom of Selly Oak since it opened.  It's slightly slower at quiet times, but quicker in rush hour because you don't get held up by traffic.  I've seen an average of about 10 other cyclists on it each time I use it (varies greatly with time of day, and the students haven't come back yet), about half of which are of demographics I wouldn't normally expect to see riding (even pavement cycling) on that route.

Here's a video: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7bq5ll

There's a similar lane up the A34, but that has the disadvantage of not really going anywhere useful, unless you happen to live on the A34.  (The A38 joins the University campus and two hospitals to the centre of town, and joins up with other off-road cycle routes.)

The lanes have priority at side-roads[1], and some of the traffic lights give the cycleway priority (either green by default for cyclists, or stopping motor traffic and turning green in response to a cyclist approaching).  This 'minor' detail is a step-change in approach to cycle infrastructure in the UK.

They're not perfect - there are some faffy junctions that slow you down[2], and the changing sides (traffic light controlled with priority, see above) to fit available space adds complexity (but scores a political acceptance win of not reducing motor traffic capacity).  There are snagging issues with drainage and use of tactile paving at bus stops, and they could do with being swept more frequently than they aren't.  And the old adage of "Give a Brummie some tarmac, and they'll park a car on it" still applies.  But they're a substantial improvement on the usual shared-use bollocks (a prime example of which can be seen where the blue lane peters out and connects to the infra that was built several years ago on the A38 Selly Oak bypass).

I reckon the A38 lane has been worth it, even if no cyclist ever used it, simply for the pedestrian improvements that were part of the re-working of the Bristol Road/Priory Road junction.  Crossing the road there used to be terrifying.

Currently the battle is to stop the council from slipping back to their old ways (loss of priority, excessive multi-stage crossings) as they continue the A34 route.  And hope that another pot of money from central government turns up to continue the longer-term plans.


FWIW, the 'Brimingham Cycle Revolution' has also surfaced the canals (with stupid chipseal-on-perfectly-good-tarmac, because that magically means they don't need to maintain it, but much better than the previous mudbath) within the city limits and I believe similar has been done from the Wolverhampton direction.  IMHO the canals are a lovely day out, but they're not cycle infrastructure.  They're completely unsuited for any real volume of traffic, physically inaccessible to many cyclists, social safety can be an issue, and they can be downright dangerous in winter.



[1] The drivers are learning, slowly.  Helped by some no-nonsense policing.  You need to exercise Brit-who's-just-got-off-the-ferry disbelief as you approach them.
[2] The crossing of the Middleway is less faffy than it looks - while technically two-stage, you get a green straight through for part of the cycle.  The handling of the Edgbaston Park Road junction is tedious, and could do with an escape route onto the carriageway for those heading southbound and intending to turn left up ahead.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2019, 11:59:12 am »
He wondered aloud why anyone would want to cycle up the Bristol Road anyway, which is certainly a good point well made -
I don't know the road (except to note that the A38 in Bristol is not called the Birmingham Road) but the reasons are the same as for driving or walking on it: because it's a big road that goes to useful places (and people probably live, work, shop, go to school, etc, in buildings along it).
A cup of tea is the perfect bridge between real life and cake.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2019, 12:07:46 pm »
He wondered aloud why anyone would want to cycle up the Bristol Road anyway, which is certainly a good point well made -
I don't know the road but the reasons are the same as for driving or walking on it: because it's a big road that goes to useful places (and people probably live, work, shop, go to school, etc, in buildings along it).

The Bristol Road is the shortest, flattest and fastest route between my house and the centre of town.

The Pershore Road is a close second (and wins if I'm aiming for Digbeth or points east), but is more hostile to cyclists with a Big Scary Roundabout™ crossing the Middleway (rather than traffic lights), and a recently-added northbound bus lane which has massively increased the number of close passes for southbound riders.


Quote
except to note that the A38 in Bristol is not called the Birmingham Road

"Turn left and keep riding till you get to Bristol" is an idea that occurred to me when I first moved here.  I've only followed it as far as about Worcester, thobut.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2019, 12:40:26 pm »
That's funny cos the A38 is also the shortest, fastest and flattest route between my house and the centre of town! But it's called the Gloucester Road here (and various other names as you get closer to the centre). But our A38 has a real live bearpit with a real live bear!



And while I have (once) ridden to Worcester in one go, I've never gone further than Upton-on-Severn on the A38.
A cup of tea is the perfect bridge between real life and cake.

caerau

  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2019, 01:08:34 pm »
Sounds like it was worth it then - it certainly looked nice and shiny - you've rather ameriolated my doubts which is good.  I'd be interested to see why happens on the Hagley road - even with good cycle lanes I'd expect no-one but the most ardent cyclists to use it (into town at least), simply because its gradient would challenge all but them a bit too much.



It's a reverse Elvis thing.

caerau

  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2019, 01:10:27 pm »
The A38 goes all the way to Exeter does it not? Too young to have been there, but it was clearly the inspiration for the M5 unless I'm very mistaken.  Doing the full length of that has occurred to me before now also.
It's a reverse Elvis thing.

rr

Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2019, 03:50:15 pm »
The A38 goes all the way to Exeter does it not? Too young to have been there, but it was clearly the inspiration for the M5 unless I'm very mistaken.  Doing the full length of that has occurred to me before now also.
All the way to Bodmin via Plymouth

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk


Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
  • Help me!
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2019, 03:58:05 pm »
I rode it from Brum for the 1999 eclipse.  Surprisingly un-scary in those days due to the M5 shadowing most of its length.
A large wide trunk road with only local traffic. :thumbsup:
Don't know what it's like these days.  Probably buzzing with impatient couriers.
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

caerau

  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2019, 04:08:27 pm »
I rode it from Brum for the 1999 eclipse.  Surprisingly un-scary in those days due to the M5 shadowing most of its length.
A large wide trunk road with only local traffic. :thumbsup:
Don't know what it's like these days.  Probably buzzing with impatient couriers.



When did you cycle back?  When we returned from Dartmouth at that there occasion (going back to Brum) - the traffic was equivalent to an army trying to escape encirclement.  No-one, was going anywhere put of the Southwest the day after - though perhaps on a bike you could squeeze through ;)
It's a reverse Elvis thing.

Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
  • Help me!
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2019, 04:28:48 pm »
I rode it from Brum for the 1999 eclipse.  Surprisingly un-scary in those days due to the M5 shadowing most of its length.
A large wide trunk road with only local traffic. :thumbsup:
Don't know what it's like these days.  Probably buzzing with impatient couriers.



When did you cycle back?  When we returned from Dartmouth at that there occasion (going back to Brum) - the traffic was equivalent to an army trying to escape encirclement.  No-one, was going anywhere put of the Southwest the day after - though perhaps on a bike you could squeeze through ;)

Cheated.  I met up with my brother who had thoughtfully slung a bike rack into his car.  :D
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

fd3

Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2019, 12:20:56 am »
I looked them up later and found out that there are others about, such as on the Pershore Road
Really?  I shall have to look up where as I have not seen them (though Pershore road = NCN5 unless in a real rush).
[/I could be wrong]

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2019, 12:42:21 am »
I looked them up later and found out that there are others about, such as on the Pershore Road
Really?  I shall have to look up where as I have not seen them (though Pershore road = NCN5 unless in a real rush).

Can confirm a lack of cycle infrastructure on the Pershore Road.  One of the pavements might be shared-use at the Edgbaston end?

There's a magic paint cycle lane on Sherlock Street, with some proposed bus-priority measures that have been reconsidered to be less crap for cyclists.

There's some new segregated infra on Pebble Mill Road, linking the A38 cycleway to the Pershore Road opposite the Nature Centre, to join up with NCN5.  That's not a useful route for me, so I haven't explored it.

NCN5 through Cannon Hill Park is a preferred parallel route to the Pershore Road (particularly southbound), unless you're in a rush or it's unavailable (the back entrance to Cannon Hill Park has been closed due to drainage works for most of the last year; it's generally worth avoiding the park on warm weekends and when there's an event on; and a spate of muggings has put many people off cycling through it after dark).
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2019, 01:52:16 pm »
The canal towpath from Birmingham to Wolverhampton is also a National Cycle Network (NCN) route and I have used it many times.  The last time that I used it was when visiting the Xmas German Market in Birmingham and I decided to cycle into the City.  I was stopped by two arrogant youths about a mile before the City and they attempted to steal my bike but then somehow slipped and went for a swim together in the canal instead!!!    I am a fit, six foot male and I know how to deal with incidents lke this but others might not be so fortunate so my advice is to be careful out there.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2019, 02:51:13 pm »
I'm firmly of the opinion that the bicycle is the best personal safety innovation since the Walkman, but its efficacy at avoiding danger is greatly reduced in places with no dodging room or escape route.

I'm wary of canals in winter for much more mundane reasons, namely the prospect of losing control on gravel/chutney/bricks/etc (for which I have form) and going for a swim in hypothermia-inducing conditions.  Oiks mugging cyclists tends to be more of a warm-weather activity, though there are always exceptions.

All of which adds to the argument for high-quality segregated infrastructure on the mundane busy roads that people actually use.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2019, 08:50:24 pm »
There's some new segregated infra on Pebble Mill Road, linking the A38 cycleway to the Pershore Road opposite the Nature Centre, to join up with NCN5.  That's not a useful route for me, so I haven't explored it.

I'm afraid that spur heading off down the Pebble Mill Road central reservation's not really real: after ~10 metres it spits you out on the first bit of linking road where northboound traffic can turn and join the sounthbound carriageway. Usually ideally timed to coincide with all the right-turning traffic coming off the Bristol Road as the traffic lights turn green for them.


(In reality it's not quite as the map shows.)

The pavement next to the southbound carriageway is shared use, but also crazy paving and full of other hazards such as wheelie bins and cars coming out of driveways. I stand up as I'm freewheeling towards the Nature Centre because the suspension is very much needed. The slight up hill coming the other way means either rattling your way up on the pavement or crossing over and taking your chances between the door zone and potholes and/or impatient drivers.

Both options are sub optimal in terms of joining the blue as you've either got reduced visibility because of all the parked cars as you cross and go a bit counterflow from the pavement, or have to do an awkward turn hard left if you've taken the road option. It's definitely a weak link if we were optimistically going to talk in terms of an infrastructure network.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2019, 12:19:31 am »
There's some new segregated infra on Pebble Mill Road, linking the A38 cycleway to the Pershore Road opposite the Nature Centre, to join up with NCN5.  That's not a useful route for me, so I haven't explored it.
I'm afraid that spur heading off down the Pebble Mill Road central reservation's not really real: after ~10 metres it spits you out on the first bit of linking road where northboound traffic can turn and join the sounthbound carriageway.

[...]

It's definitely a weak link if we were optimistically going to talk in terms of an infrastructure network.

Well that's something that needs fixing, then.  There would appear to be a sufficiency of space.

If you're heading to/from Selly Oak, it sounds like you're generally better off with my usual approach of Bournbrook Road / Oakfield Road, and skipping the leafier[1] section of A38 blue lane entirely[2].  This does however involve a tedious wait at the Eastern Road junction and a bit of speed-pillow-chicken at busy times (with added ever-expanding pothole slalom[3] opposite the telephone exchange), which isn't conducive to 8-to-80 cycling.  The short stretch of shared-use pavement to access the eminently useful toucan[4] at the back of Cannon Hill park is fairly rubbish too, with a perfect storm of mud, glass, miscellaneous poles, slightly dodgy dropped kerbs, pedestrians and having to give way to vehicles approaching from behind parked cars.

I assume the Dental Hospital's staunch anti-cycling signage is in recognition of the fact that they've got a temptingly motorist-free footpath sandwiched between these two options.


[1] Not a euphemism.
[2] Thereby cunningly avoiding the crappy slow bit that encompasses the Edgbaston Park Road junction and the Southgate.
[3] For reasons explained by loci of probability wrt dog bladder volume, this is usually the point where I get waved at distractingly by my nextdoor neighbour.
[4] While I have performed right turns from the middle of the two-lane Pershore road, the overwhelming majority of the time I'd prefer not to.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2019, 12:32:51 am »
Re-reading the above posts, which is ultimately discussing several relatively non-terible options for getting between two points, makes me realise quite how shitty cycling in Birmingham can be.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2019, 07:06:07 pm »
The A38 one is good enough that I, as a confident cyclist who isn't afraid to ride on the Bristol Road, have been using it to get to and from the centre of town from the bottom of Selly Oak since it opened.  It's slightly slower at quiet times, but quicker in rush hour because you don't get held up by traffic.  I've seen an average of about 10 other cyclists on it each time I use it (varies greatly with time of day, and the students haven't come back yet), about half of which are of demographics I wouldn't normally expect to see riding (even pavement cycling) on that route.

Here's a video: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7bq5ll


Thanks for that video Kim.  I used to cycle up and down the Bristol Road in the mid 70s when cycling in Birmingham was rather a niche activity, even for students.   
At 12.55 in the video, the red light is to protect pedestrians crossing the path who will have priority.  I suspect somebody must have triggered these stop lights.    However, if there are no pedestrians to be seen, I'd carefully ignore it.   
I can't wait to try it out now on a visit.
The B29 retail park, filled to the brim with  cars, shows how Birmingham is otherwise still living in the 20th century.   One step forward, many steps backwards for cyclists.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2019, 07:23:57 pm »
At 12.55 in the video, the red light is to protect pedestrians crossing the path who will have priority.  I suspect somebody must have triggered these stop lights.

No, it stays red even when the pedestrians have red (you can see in the video that the pedestrian 'WAIT' light is lit).
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #20 on: August 31, 2019, 08:16:30 am »
i can't see that in the video - it makes no sense whatsoever if pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles are the road have to stop  simultaneously for nothing. 

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Birmingham Bike lanes
« Reply #21 on: August 31, 2019, 04:12:16 pm »
Thinking about it as I waited 3 million years for the lights at the Bournbrook road junction just now, I wonder if the idea is to hold cyclists so they aren't in conflict with vehicles entering or leaving the University southgate?  Not sure the timings make sense.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...