Cycle farcilities

I posted this picture yesterday on my 365days of biking Tumblr journal, and on reflection, I’ve decided to share it more widely. I think it’s an important point that deserves a wider audience.


The Coventry Road/Cattell Road Junction on the Small Heath/Bordesley Bordey, at about 9:45am, Thursday, 31st January 2013.

January 31st – Someone asserted yesterday that I should be glad of increased cycling facilities in the UK. I am, and I’m not. Here’s why.

On the Coventry Road, Birmingham, near the St. Andrews ground, there are lights to control a ‘y’ junction. Prior to the junction, there is a green tarmac filter lane leading to an advance stop line (ASL). The idea is that cyclists use the green lane up the inside of the traffic to access the green ASL box to place themselves safely at the head of the queue. This rarely works in practice, and to me, is actively encouraging dangerous cycling behaviour.

If I were to take the lane up the side of the traffic, as the skip lorry is occupying the ASL, I’d likely stop next to him. Right in his blind spot. Cyclists tend to be quicker off the mark at lights than lorries and chances are we’d interact at the pinch point a few yards ahead. If the lorry goes down left fork here (which he did, without indicating the intention), he would not see the cyclist and possibly lead to the cyclist being crushed at the pinch point between the railings and the lorry.

This road position kills the vast majority of adult cyclists mortally injured on the roads in the UK. It’s bloody stupid to get up the inside left of a line of traffic, as drivers don’t expect it and often, physically can’t see you. Between the ‘safety’ railings and the lorry wheels, you’re toast. Or rather, puree.

This cycling ‘facility’ encourages dangerous road positioning, and in my view, makes this junction more dangerous to the inexperienced cyclist.

I’ll celebrate cycling facilities when they’re safe, and designed properly. Not ill-thought out lip service like this.

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10 Responses to Cycle farcilities

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Very well put, Bob. Ride in the gutter, die in the gutter.

    You are much safer on the outside because you are visible to everyone. Drivers are much more aware that vehicles, including motorcycles, overtake on the outside and usually check before moving out. You also have the possbility of an escape (oncoming traffic permitting) if someone does move out, which you don’t have on the inside, especially where there is no footpath. I always found that drivers respect road positioning that they understand and are used to.

  2. Rose Burnell says:

    Thank you for this. Articles like this help raise awareness of the issues cyclists face. I hope that my driving will be safer and more considerate as a result of reading.

  3. morturn says:

    I love Birmingham as a place to live, but like most large town, it has its good and bad points. What Birmingham Council has done for cycling in Birmingham, is as good as what cholera did for Bilston in 1832.

    Back in the late 1999’s the powers that be decided that they wanted more people cycling in Birmingham, and so commissioned a study to find out why people don’t cycle.

    Not surprisingly there was an overwhelming response, I think I recall something in the region of 80% of those asked said that safety was their main reason for not cycling.

    So the power to be set a target (as they do) to get 20% more people cycling by 2005.

    By 2004 it was quite clear that they were going to miss this target by a mile, so the goal posts were very quickly and very covertly moved.

    Birmingham Council certainly spends a lot of the beleaguered rate payers money on what they cycling initiatives. In January 2011 I obtained details staffing numbers under the freedom of information act showing that they employ six senior officer grades.

    This equates to around £240,000 in staff costs every year. What do we get for our hard earned cash. Well I think this article says it all, and says it in far kinder words than the one I would like to use.

    Birmingham Council keeps reminding us that it is strapped for cash, yet seems happy to place employment of staff over and above service delivery.

    • Rob says:

      Just a normal council then.
      I’m glad others notice it too.

    • Hi Dave

      To be fair, some of this stuff isn’t quite as presented.

      Birmingham doesn’t have, and never has had 6 full time cycling officers. They had one full time (who was very good, but a lone voice jun the darkness) and 5 who were nominated as such whilst fulfilling other posts.

      Birmingham has spent next to nothing on cycling for years – hence the mess that is Moor Street Queensway that has no provision at all – most initiatives being funded by Sustrans and the like, i.e. charities. The ‘Beleaguered’ rate (council tax?) payers can breathe out.

      The design of this junction’s facilities are not unique to Birmingham; they exist across the country – Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Lichfield all have similarly misguided stuff. There’s a recent gem in Lichfield here:

      The problem is, not not enough people in the DoT ride bikes, or know what it’s like to do so, otherwise they’d be removing railings and not designing – and mandating – crap like this.

      Birmingham has some good cycling trails – Plant’s Brook, the Sutton to City Centre route, the canal improvements, NCN 5 heading north south. Some junctions and facilities are excellent. Many are terrible.

      As an aside, cycling in Brum – it’s encouraging to see – has enjoyed a similar increase to the rest of the UK. Recent census data is very encouraging.

      This isn’t a Birmingham problem. It’s a national one.



      • morturn says:

        Hi Bob

        It a fair point you make, however I have to react to the information given to me by Birmingham council under the freedom of information act.

        This is their words not mine:


        I refer to your recent Freedom of Information request received on 7 December 2011.

        Under the Freedom of information act, please supply me with the structure and the pay grades of the Cycling Strategy team.


        Please find below information requested. Birmingham City Council does not have a have a Cycling Strategy team as such, but the following officers could be said to spend some time on cycling ‘strategy’, alongside the actual delivery of cycling initiatives.

        TravelWise Team
        Team Leader – Grade 6
        Project Leader (Cycling and Walking) – Grade 5

        Public Transport and Freight team
        Team Leader – Grade 6

        Programming Team
        Project leader – Grade 5

        Road Safety Team
        Project Leader – Grade 5

        School Travel Plans Team
        Project Leader – Grade 5

        I will of course concede that they say ‘some time’, however Birmingham Council also has a Highways Department too, don’t know the numbers but its a fair size department; ultimately the end result with all the kings horses and al the kinds men could do in my opinion better.

        10 Miles down the road we have Redditch which has excellent cycling facilities; OK it is quite a new town, so a lot of their cycling lanes were part of a planning process. My frustration is that my knowledge of Birmingham tells me that we could do far better, there are some real good opportunities to develop routes, which have not been fully utilised.

        There are over 100 miles of canal towpaths, three rivers and a string of parkland, disused railways etc.

        I absolutely agree, we do have some very good cycle ways, I use them myself. These were developed by Sustrans, but are in places looking quite dilapidated through lack of maintenance.

        You are of course correct this is a national problem, however some councils and organisation are better than others, and it will never get better unless people say so.

        All the best


        • Hi Dave

          Since you originally said

          ‘Birmingham Council certainly spends a lot of the beleaguered rate payers money on what they cycling initiatives. In January 2011 I obtained details staffing numbers under the freedom of information act showing that they employ six senior officer grades.

          This equates to around £240,000 in staff costs every year. What do we get for our hard earned cash. Well I think this article says it all, and says it in far kinder words than the one I would like to use.’

          It can be clearly seen from your quoted FOI that none of the posts they described are cycling specific, and probably wouldn’t incur extra pay at all. Considering how we fought (and failed) to get cycle racks in the new Church Street pedestrianization project, even though it’s near a cafe at the heart of Brum’s cycling culture, they can hardly be considered profligate.

          At least we have a dedicated officer now, which is more than we did.

          Redditch is somewhere I cycle a lot; yeah, Redditch has some great routes – the Arrow Valley in particular which I’ve featured a few times in my YouTube channel. However, they have their share of crap, too; the Unicorn Hill stretch to Church Green is evil, for instance. Like Telford, it’s hard not to have mostly decent routes when they were built with the town from scratch.

          Sadly, Birmingham can never match that.

          As I say, the problem is national more than local.



          • morturn says:

            Hi Bob

            You are not correct saying “probably wouldn’t incur extra pay at all”. All of these posts add up to a full time equivalent job, and therefore a cost. Even if their involvement in cycling is a small percentage of their time, it has to be paid for.

            I have not factored in the fact the there is also a Highways department and a planning department, which It would be reasonable to say, will have some full time equivalent posts devoted to cycling. These posts will of course be utilised into the overall planning, implementation and maintenance of the transport infrastructure, but never the less they are there.

            I personally would not mind if there were a couple of dozen people employed, as long as I see an useable outcome and value for money.

            It is a national problem, and will continue to be so unless someone leads the way. I would be nice to think that that initiative could be borne here in the midlands.



  4. Mark says:

    Presumably you’re aware of the Cycle Facility of the Month site?

  5. Pingback: Lane’s end | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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