As the majority of the routes in the North of Solihull are part of the North Solihull Strategic Network, I thought it best to proceed with a comprehensive review of all routes in the north so as to provide a joined-up picture of cycling provision. To assess the routes effectively I looked at three central criteria:
- Safety- Does it improve safety for all users? Does it have a good degree of social safety? Does it feel safe?
- Continuity- Is the route part of a wider network? Does it provide a meaningful connection? Is priority preserved where possible to allow conservation of momentum? Is the infrastructure and level of protection consistent and intuitive?
- Attractiveness- Will all ages and abilities of bicycle user use the facility? Does it provide a viable alternative to the car for most? Is the surfacing and design comfortable and usable?
Safety- The majority of this route is completely off road and therefore offers complete separation from motor traffic. The shared use section at the beginning is wide enough to support both bicycle users and pedestrians, however the narrower sections of lightly separated path later on have the potential to cause bicycle-pedestrian conflict and reduce the safety of the pedestrians. While the route does travel through relatively quiet areas, the sight lines and path lighting is relatively good affording some measure of social safety (the exception being the bridge over the path near the end). With the exception of the one on-road section of the route, the route itself feels very safe.
Continuity- The route links Sheldon country park, and a back road route to Solihull center, to Chelmsley Wood center via well populated residential areas (including a new development). Providing a connection to the wider network of shared-use paths around the Chelmsley Wood center and therefore functioning effectively as part of a wider network. However the actual access to the center is very roundabout and lengthy. Besides the need to give way to slower pedestrians, momentum and continuity is pretty well preserved and the route is also relatively intuitive to follow.
Attractiveness- Besides the one on-road section mentioned, this route is definitely safe enough for those of all ages and abilities. The above mentioned problems with pedestrians and the rough surfacing in places could however reduce the route’s attractiveness as a faster cycling route. Overall the route is pretty attractive and provides a viable alternative to the car for trips to the parks and shopping centers.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Provide a more direct and level crossing of Bell Lane.
- Resurface the service road leading from Bell Lane.
- Provide a dedicated crossing point and off-road facilities to connect the route seamlessly at Gloucester Way.
- Widen and more clearly delineate the lightly segregated paths after Gloucester Way.
- Provide better sight lines and lighting for the underside of the bridges.
- Provide a dedicated and direct cycle access path to the cycle racks outside the Asda complex (may need to provide more racks in near future due to increased demand).
Safety- Again the majority is shared-use paths of narrow width; safe for cyclists but not as much for pedestrians (particularly people with sight or hearing problems). Social safety is a mixed bag, the first section has appropriate sight lines and foot traffic with some lighting, however the section that passes through the alleyways and underpasses of the residential area lack these completely and as such have poor social safety. Route feels relatively safe, excepting the social safety of the alleyways.
Continuity- This route links Chelmsley Wood to the parks and the shared-use paths around the Woodlands campus of the Solihull College, linking key sections of the network. Besides the ever present issues around pedestrians the section of the route through the parks offers reasonable continuity and conservation of momentum, however the section through the residential area offers numerous barriers and winding turns while taking a less direct route to its end. The second section also lacks intuitive route follow.
Attractiveness- The off-road nature of the route makes it attractive to all ages and lower abilities, however the low social safety and lack of directness in the latter sections makes it undesirable to most users (particularly faster users) and does not provide a viable alternative to car use. Surfacing is fair, but could do with an upgrade.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Possible improvement of the crossing of Chemsley Road through combined pedestrian and cyclists zebra crossing (if DFT approves designs).
- Widen and more effectively delineate paint-segregated paths.
- Clean, resurface and provide more effective lighting for underpass.
- Provide alternative to latter section, possible rerouting section along the Chester Road via existing shared-use path with a direct off-road route along Birmingham Road to connect to Auckland Drive directly.
This one has been covered before, but in the interests of a comprehensive review I decided to do it again.
Safety- Mostly shared-use paths (see above routes), while the on-road sections involved in connecting to the Chester Road are relatively quiet bicycle users are still forced out onto the carriageway without protection. Social safety however is pretty good as sight lines are decent and route is well traveled.
Continuity- This route provides access to a branch of the Solihull college as well as several schools, however it does lack effective connection routes to the rest of the cycle network. Continuity is extremely poor with the large number of side-roads and cul-de-sacs that the cycle route is required to give way to. Infrastructure is inconsistent in the latter sections as the distinction between shared-use and pedestrian-only pavement becomes blurred, as well as this the mixture of on and off-carriageway provision does not provide effective end-to-end travel.
Attractiveness- The need to give way to both pedestrians and every minor road entrance, compromises the attractiveness of this route (except for those of low ability and very sedate pace). Therefore not providing a viable alternative to car trips. Surfacing is for the most part very pleasant and the off-road sections are relatively intuitive.
Suggestions for improvement:
- Provide a direct and off-road connection to shared-use paths on the Chester road at both the south and north ends.
- Preserve cycle path priority across minor roads and dead-ends. Possibly by creating a raised table and reducing the width of the road mouths by half (one car width) with clear markings indicating priority.
More route reviews to come in the near future, watch this space.