I’ve written before about the A38 Bus lane between Selly Oak and Northfield. I performed a dramatic U turn in my thoughts about it. I went from being anti the bus lane to pro the bus lane. On top of the funding for the A38 Bus Lane as part of the active travel tranche 1 funding Selly Oak High Street also got measures to help make active travel easier.
I’ve waited for the works to be finished before I reviewed them for my website. The results are mixed. Cycling towards the city centre has been improved, but the route away from town towards Longbridge is absurdly bad. In some ways they probably shouldn’t have bothered. I’ve taken photos of the route so let’s go through them.
I live in South West Birmingham and I Selly Oak is the route I use to get into town on my bicycle. Before these new cycling measures I’d cycle on the road and then join the Blue A38 route by the University. My assessment of the new cycle infrastructure started by cycling towards the city centre. There are ongoing roadworks by the old Sainsbury’s which are not helpful to cyclists.
A38 Cycle Path towards Town
Once I passed the roadworks the new cycle path starts. There are bollards that go along the road through the High Street. They are pretty good. The new bollards ensure segregation between cyclists and motor traffic. Cycling on the path I felt that this infrastructure was designed for me. A couple of minor criticisms of the path going towards town. The bollards have been placed inside of the painted white line, which makes the path quite narrow. On top of this the path is on the edge of the road, with gutters and bits of the road being poorly maintained so it can be a bumpy and uncomfortable ride.
As you continue on cycling along the cycle path there is a raised section next to a bus stop. I think this is to allow bus users to get onto the road to get onto a bus on the same level as the pedestrian path. If you wanted to you could use it as a performance ramp if you wanted to do some BMX tricks.
Continuing on the path. When you get near a couple of pubs, that path becomes two way. This is good because it means that the path becomes much wider.
At this point the cycle path ends. You have a choice. Either carry on, on the road and join the Blue Route by the traffic lights, or you can turn left onto the side road. If you go on the side road it’s ok as the side road is quiet. After the side road you join a shared path with pedestrians, which is okish as the path is sort of wide enough for both cyclists and pedestrians. There is a painted line cycle path at this point so at least there is designated path for cyclists. The joint cyclist and pedestrian path leads to the A38 Blue Route.
On the whole the A38 cycle path towards town is pretty good. It provides segregation from motor traffic, which is the most important thing. As I was cycling on it I did see parents, cycling on the segregated route, with one of the parents having a small child in a childseat on the back of their bike. These are the people who I don’t see cycling in a bus lane or on main roads.
A38 Cycle Path away from Town
Going away from town the experience is radically different. To start with, the journey is ok. There is a segregated section leading from the shared pedestrian/ cyclists space that I have previously mentioned. The segregation is from bollards. When you get to the end of the road there is a junction where you turn left to join the segregated two way path by the pubs.
Once back on to the High Street, it starts off ok on the two way segregated path, but quickly falls apart. Outside of a Tesco Metro is a busy junction. Going towards town the cyclists cross with the traffic and remain segregated. Unfortunately cycling away from town is much worse. You are presented with a horrendous give way sign. The give way sign is to give way to cyclists going towards town. This is a dangerous bit of infrastructure. I can see confused cyclists not giving way and crashing directly into oncoming cyclists, who in theory have right of way.
Cyclists are then expected to join the path with pedestrians. Maddeningly there is no cycling infrastructure here. There is an extremely busy crossing where cyclists are told to dismount and walk with their bicycle across the road,
After you have crossed the road you have to stay on the path with pedestrians. This is a regular High Street Path and so is hopefully full of people, walking around using shops. Predictably I found myself getting in the way of people walking about. Initially I got off the bike and walked,
but then I decided to be a rebel and cycled the wrong way on the cycle path. Cycling the wrong way on the cycle path gave me the segregation I craved until a cyclist using the path correctly started cycling in the correct direction on the path. I dismounted and walked the bike to the traffic lights. Happily once you cross the traffic lights by the train station there is a segregated cycle section just past the train station to near Big Johns where the cycling infrastructure ends and the roadworks begin. There is another bus stop ramp, which you can get some air on as a cyclist.
In my test ride I used the “cycle infrastructure / High Street Path”, but when I cycle away from town through Selly Oak. I ignore the cycle path entirely and stick to the road as it the most direct route. I wouldn’t dismount my bike to join pedestrians at crossing at the traffic lights. I can’t see new people to cycling wanting to use it either.
The new cycle infrastructure on Selly Oak High Street are of mixed used to cyclists. They were implemented quickly under Emergency funding from the Active Travel fund. Tranche 2 of the Active Travel fund is about to take place. I hope that lessons can be learned from the newly implemented cycle lane on Selly Oak High Street. If the segregated path existed both ways, then it could help increase cycling in the area. Lessons can be learned from Tranche one of the Emergency Travel fund. There are promising bits of this new infrastructure and mistakes that should not be repeated again.
If you want to feedback your comments on the cycle lane you can do so here.