The Comments section
A few weeks ago I wrote about the recently installed Kings Heath Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN). The article proved to be incredibly divisive. There were a lot of angry people in the facebook comments sections. Having said that there were also a significant number of defenders of the LTN. From reading the comments, by far the saddest one from my perspective is one that paraphrased; Roads are not for children playing, they are for traffic. I played in the street as a child and would want children now to feel safe doing so on residential roads. I do find it amusing that the people complaining about congestion, are the ones causing congestion themselves. They are the traffic! I do know that I can not change the mind of those who are adamantly against LTNs meaning that it would be a waste of time to try. I’ve left the bitter arguments in the comments section alone.
There have been developments since my article. Bollards have been stolen. Planters vandalised. Bollards replaced and Planters refilled and planted with lovely plants. The bollard that had been removed by the council has been put back where it originally was, as this part of York Road had become a car park again. I had seen on twitter that some outdoor street seating was going in on York Road. It was a sunny day so I decided to cycle across south Birmingham to check out what York Road had become. I cycled through stationary traffic in Northfield and Cotteridge on my way to Kings Heath with no LTN’s there to cause this congestion. Congestion is awful in Birmingham, with or without LTN’s.
When I first arrived on York Road I noted the distinct separate sections of York Road. The part nearest the High Street by the Hare and Hounds was a car park still.
Amazingly, the part past the first bollard was filled with people. Some people were sat drinking on the newly installed, brightly coloured seating. Some people were standing around chatting, whilst having a drink. My favourite site was a small child on a balance bike, cycling across the middle of the road to their parents. The young child looked incredibly happy and so did the other children who were using the space to play, The space was car free. It was a pleasant place to be. It felt so much better than before when the road was a car park for about ten to twenty cars. Now lots of people were enjoying the space. This part of York Road has been completely transformed for the better.
A big thank you to the people who put the planters back and have planted lovely plants in them. Vandals can’t be left to win. Just because there are those that are not happy with the LTN, they do not have a right to break the law and destroy the LTN infrastructure. Also thank you to the council for holding firm on this. Other councils have cancelled their new infrastructure because of some angry opposition. The opponents don’t necessarily represent the majority, and the research suggests the opponents are a minority. We need six months to evaluate the success of this trial. Once the six months has elapsed we can then determine whether the trial has been a success.
Being a good consumer
Fletcher’s were selling mulled wine and cider on the road. I went to Fletcher’s bought a mulled wine and cider and had a look at their craft fair. I was so excited by everything going on that I bought a large print of Lemmy from Motorhead for my wall. Fletcher’s seemed to be quite happy with the pedestrianisation. One of the people selling wine said that they hoped that they could have street parties in the summer. I also bought four cans of hipster beer in preparation for the Artefact Quiz this evening.
On the other hand Maurice Robinson Sports were not happy at all with the pedestrianisation. The people there said that because people couldn’t park there, they’ve lost customers. I accept that this is true. However, how many new customers will they gain with the massively increased footfall on York Road? People who are using York Road as a destination and are happy to spend large amounts of time on the road, enjoying the newly created pedestrianised space. I bought a sports T shirt and shorts from the sports shop and the only reason I was there was to check out York Road. Whilst I was there, I decided to check out the sports shop. When I used to regularly play squash, tennis and occasionally Badminton I used to buy rackets, ball and other sports related stuff from Maurice Robinson Sports. I highly recommend them. They have excellent, specialist knowledge of racket sports and have a quick restringing service. I walked past Polar Bear, which is a music shop that I used to buy CD’s from, including obscure death metal from when I was a teenager. I’d go to Polar Bear and International Stock opposite, and buy random CDs. I’d not know if I would think they would be good or not until I took them home and listened to them. Times have moved on so I suspect that most of their business is now vinyl.
After I finished my mulled cider and loaded up my bag with hipster beer I cycled home. I hope that the pictures speak for themselves. The York Road pedestrianisation has transformed the space from a car park for maybe 10-20 drivers into a space that many more people can enjoy, socialise in and use as a destination. I hope the people stick around and use the local shops. There are a variety of independent shops offering different products and services. Please go and check them out, whilst enjoying a mulled wine and cider.
You can feed back to the council about your thoughts on York Road and the wider LTN on their online survey.