Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Four Lanes. 15 Metres of Pavement. No Room for a Cycle Lane?!

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And providing proper cycling infrastructure is like eating an elephant. You have to tackle it one bite at a time. And that means that you cannot expect streets to be ripped up willy nilly to create proper cycle infrastructure overnight. The Dutch were in the same state as us once and they set about to create a road system that made proper provision for cyclists.  You cannot achieve this overnight.  However, you can take a bite out of the elephant every time a particular road is due for any major work. Take the opportunity to improve things for cyclists. Over a period of time the dots will be joined up. Before you know it, you have created an environment fit for cycling.

How disappointing then to see, just half a minute’s walk from my office, the redevelopment of Moor Street Queensway. It’s nearly finished and I walked along there the other day. Sadly, I saw nothing attractive to cyclists or anything much to suggest that the council gave much thought to cyclists.
The Old Moor St. Queensway. 4 Lanes, wide pavements, no cycle lanes!
We are often told that it’s not possible. Our streets are too narrow. We aren’t those crazy Dutch with their wide boulevards. There just isn’t the room for separate cycle lanes. Sorry cyclists, you will have to share with the cars, and the buses and the lorries. Well, Moor Street Queensway is mega wide. It’s wider than most continental urban streets by quite a margin. They have proper cycle provision across the North Sea on streets much narrow than Moor Street Queensway.

Similarly, a few evenings ago I was in London. Walking along Euston Road, I saw a huge lorry hurtling along the road and it caused me to shudder as it overtook several cyclists with little room to spare. This just would not be allowed in the most enlightened cycling cities.

So why, when they re-designed  Moor Street Queensway did they not take the opportunity of putting in some provision since they were working on redevelopment of the area? It's close to shopping, a railway station, Aston University and Matthew Boulton College. It's a street cyclists should be encouraged to use and car drivers should be discouraged to use. The council and their engineers need to answer.

Once more in Birmingham, the car is king.
The New Moor St. Queensway. 5 Lanes, a bus lane, a bus stand area in places, less pavement and still no room for cyclists...

It's time that our city planners tore up their playbook and started providing some proper provision, rather than some token gesture such as closing the roads for a one off event such as the recent SkyRide. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of SkyRides, but the very notion of such a one off event in the city is to encourage cycling by closing the roads for a few hours once a year. Why would the roads need to be closed if we had a road infrastructure that was fit for cyclists. We would not need such events to encourage cycling.

Birmingham City Council, it’s time to start including cyclists in your plans.
It’s time to build some proper cycling infrastructure, one bite at a time.

Build it and they will come.

written by Levenes Solicitor, Tim Beasley

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