Happy first anniversary!
Last week marked the first anniversary of the A34 and A38 blue cycle routes being opened in Birmingham. I’ve previously written about the A38 route. Spoiler, it is great. I’m a regularly user of the A38 cycle route as it is between my house and the city centre. The A34 is the wrong side of the city for me to use, but it was a sunny day today and I thought that it was a good time to finally have a go cycling it.
On the way I used the A38 blue cycle route. I counted 37 cyclists and one roller skater using the blue route, which was lovely. A mixture of bikes, many people without helmets. The A38 route ends outside of Nightingales nightclub, which a club for LGBTQIA people. I took the opportunity to show solidarity with the community and took a photo for #OurPrideRide
The A34 route begins?
It appeared that the A34 route starts near the Law Courts by Aston Uni as that is where the blue route begins, but to use it properly you have to cross Lancaster Circus Queensway, using the pedestrianised subway.
It is a nightmare to get back up to street level. Shaziety contributor Ben Mabbett suggested that the road tunnel could have been used as it had been reduced to one lane recently, leaving plenty of space for a segregated two way cycle path. Once I’d climbed up some steps with my bike I was able to rejoin the path. Ben also pointed that at night, getting to the start of the route on the A34 using the subway does not feel safe.
The path goes near Redpoint Climbing Centre, which I used to visit regularly. It goes over a bridge and the first test for the route is crossing Newtown Row. I had no problems. The cyclist’s lights changed quickly and off I went.
Crossing major roads
Ben noted that the next big crossing by the Barton Arms and Newbury Road can take a while for the lights to give the cyclists the ok to go. Actually crossing is easy. No need to interact with cars. On I went with the next big barrier to progress being Six Ways Island. As a pedestrian I’ve always found it an absolute nightmare to cross, but with the new blue route it is easy. I did encounter a problem as on the way back it seemed that the cyclist traffic lights were connected to the pedestrian traffic lights so for the cyclist to go a pedestrian had to press their traffic light button first. I was waiting for a while, until I eventually gave up and I cycled across when there was a gap in the traffic. This minor grievance aside, it was much, much better than my previous experiences as a pedestrian.
An abrupt end
I had been told that the blue cycle route ended in a bit of a random place. When I first heard about the route I assumed it would go to One Stop in Perry Barr or the Alexandra Stadium, or even Perry Barr train station, but no it ends next to a flyover for cars at Heathfield Road.
There is nothing of note here. I have been informed that there the A34 blue route will be extended to Perry Barr train station, which will help. With the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham, a better cycle route could ease congestion. When I went to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, there were cycle routes that were being used to get to the venues. Perry Barr is a frustratingly congested part of the city. Hopefully an extended A34 blue route can be part of that solution.
I don’t know of the intricacies of the route because it was only my first time riding it, but my initial impressions were positive. Most interactions with cars are with the cyclist having priority, though Ben wants all the interactions to have cyclist priority. My biggest concern with the cycle route is that there did not seem to be many people using it. I cycled one return journey and found only 12 people cycling on it in total, compared to 49 people using the A38 blue route on my return journey. In fact there were more people walking on the blue route than cycling on it. My journeys were on a late Saturday afternoon so hopefully during weekday rush hours the route is used more frequently. Ben used to use the route on a semi frequent basis and thinks that some of the junctions are a bit fiddly, but agrees that on the whole the blue route is a big improvement on what was there before. (nothing) If I lived in that area of the city I would use it as much as I could. Hopefully we can get more people to use the A34 route. The A38 feels like a vibrant route used by many people. There are always people on it when I cycle on the A38 route and I don’t cycle on it at peak times. Maybe once the A34 route is extended through to Perry Barr properly, which is a destination with things to do, more people will feel compelled to use the A34 blue cycle route. Finally, cheers to Shaziety contributor Ben Mabbett for providing his thoughts on the A34 blue cycle route.