The new Bus Lane backlash
I’ve previously written about the newly installed Bus Lane between Selly Oak and Northfield on the A38. I was negative about it because I thought that we’d be getting a segregated Cycle Lane on this stretch of road rather than a bus lane. Some time has passed since I wrote that article and the Bus Lane is now fully operational. Unsurprisingly a campaign has started to get rid of the bus lane. There are two separate petitions. One from the Northfield and Conservative MP Gary Sambrook and one supported by Weoley Councillor representing the Labour Party Julie Johnson. Complaints range from that it is causing congestion to safety concerns. The new Bus Lane was paid for by funding from the Conservative Government and implemented by a Labour Council so both politicians are going against their parties policies.
Changing my mind
Initially I was against the Bus Lane because it was not the segregated Cycle Lane that I was expecting. However seeing the backlash against the Bus Lane has made me realise that we need to keep it. The Climate Emergency is real and we need to restructure our society rapidly and dramatically to avert the worst possible consequences of it. Car dependency is slowly killing us. Congestion from air pollution plays a major role in the 900 premature deaths a year that happen in Birmingham per year. We need to move to low forms of transport as standard. One Bus can carry many more people than one car can carry. We need to move people away from cars onto Buses, Bicycles and even E scooters. Those that are complaining don’t want the status quo to be challenged. It often feels like that lots of people call on Governments to take action to fight the Climate Emergency, but as soon as Governments do something that may inconvenience them, these people are outraged and want those changes scrapped. Those complaining about the Bus Lane are not providing alternative ways to reduce air pollution or to reduce the numbers of cars on the road.
We need to reallocate road space
I’ve realised that if the A38 Bus Lane is scrapped there won’t be any alternative actions implemented. We will just keep the polluting dual carriageway that is slowly killing us and pushing us further towards Climategeddon. I can understand the safety concerns, but a few tweaks of a few junctions can help make the infrastructure safer. It’s not a reason to scrap it entirely. The complaints about the Bus Lane causing congestion is entirely predictable . The idea of the Bus Lane is to make Bus journeys faster than Car journeys. Hopefully Car Drivers will see that they could save time by using the Bus and then Switch to the Bus. The the status quo can not continue. We have to change the way our roads are structured.
Cycling in the Bus Lane
I have both cycled and driven on the new Bus Lane. From the perspective of a cyclist the new Bus Lane is much better for me. Now that most Car Drivers are now staying out of the Bus Lane, the Bus Lane is better that it was without the Bus Lane. Having a whole lane of traffic to ride in is great. I have plenty of experience of cycling in Bus Lanes so I know when to overtake or stay behind a Bus. The Bus Lane is much better to cycle in than the narrow advisory cycle lane that is on this section of road. However, the Bus Lane won’t convince new cyclists to start cycling. Some of the new cycle infrastructure on Selly Oak High Street might encourage new cyclists, especially the route towards the City Centre. There are Wands, segregating the Cycle Path from motor traffic. From a cycling perspective what I want to happen and will continue to campaign for is to extend the existing A38 Blue route from the University side of Selly Oak through to Northfield, using the central reservation in between the roads. It is wide enough. To get new people cycling we need to get them away from mixing with cars.
My driving experience
As a Car Driver, the new Bus Lane feels no different to driving with Bus Lanes in other parts of the city and across the country. I’ve encountered no problems driving on the road next to the Bus Lane so far. The only minor convenience I’ve had is when there has been cars turning right and they are in the right lane. I’m happy to wait or if there is plenty of time and space, switch lanes. In this instance you can switch lanes without going into the Bus Lanes. Where the congestion seems to be worst is going towards town, by Selly Oak High Street. Here there are roadworks going on by the old Sainsbury’s. This is horrendous to get through for both Cyclists and Car Drivers. Sitting in stationary traffic is annoying. Hopefully it will be so annoying that people will try to find other ways to get from Northfield to Selly Oak. They could use the faster Bus, they could cycle on an (e) bike, or they could even use the train from Northfield through Selly Oak.
Bus Users need to be considered
The Car Driver Lobby is the loudest. They tend to be more affluent than Bus users and are used to having the vast majority of our road space allocated to them. There are many people who don’t drive, including Bus users. Those that use Buses are often ignored in transport debates. Low paid workers are more likely to use the Bus than Car Drivers. Their needs deserve to be met as well as Car Drivers Congestion levels have returned to the pre Covid level and we desperately need to encourage Bus use. Just because the Car Lobby is loudest, doesn’t mean that we need to give in to them.
Actions that you can take
If you are reading this, then hopefully you are pro saving the A38 Bus Lane between Selly Oak and Northfield. As a bare minimum we should keep it for six months to see if it is effective. There are petitions against the Bus Lane. As a response, a pro Bus lane petition has been started. Please sign it.
You can also get in touch with the politicians I’ve mentioned. The Bus Lane covers Selly Oak constituency and Northfield constituency so if you live in either of them please write to the Labour MP for Selly Oak Steve McCabe or the Conservative MP for Northfield Gary Sambrook. There are also Councillors who cover these areas. If you live in one of these areas that covers the Bus Lane, please write to them showing your support for the Bus Lane.