Archive | December, 2012

Route Review 1: Solihull Centre to Shirley.

25 Dec

sol-shir

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Starting from  the cycle stands across the road from John Lewis,you have two options to get to the road running towards the park.

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Either use the toucan crossing just beyond the lights, or join the road directly from the stands and mix directly with the buses and taxis leaving the town centre.From there it is possible to join a  presumably two way cycle path on the pavement.

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While the path is visually separated from the pedestrian area by a gutter and bicycle markings, there is little space for cyclists to pass each other while going in opposite directions and pedestrians commonly stray across lanes. From here the road ends in a T-junction with a toucan crossing around the corner on the left.

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However a combination of a blind corner and very little pavement area, make this corner all but impossible to navigate on a bike, never mind the hazard presented to pedestrians by doing so.

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The problem area is made more acutely visible when viewed from the other side of the road. A possible solution may be to move the crossing closer to the road mouth to cut out the blind corner completely, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to proceed directly to the segregated path directly across the road.

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While this segregated path is usually relatively busy, with a little care and attention on the part of both types of users it is easily usable. Travelling under a road and train track this path connects the centre of Solihull directly to Tudor Grange park and Solihull College.

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The segregated path wends its way through much of Tudor Grange Park, making a very comfortable, convenient and scenic connection to the town centre.

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And then through the sports centre car park.

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The cycle path then ends before the bus stop and Blossomfield Road, a busy traffic route leading to Solihull centre.  To cross Blossomfield Road there are three choices

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Firstly there is the pedestrian crossing further down the road to the right, however the pavement is narrow and the railings only serve to reduce the space available. It is also a busy pedestrian route from the train station, making it difficult to move a bike through.

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The second option is the direct route across the road, using the narrow traffic island.

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The last option is going through the car park, emerging to the left of the bus stop, and then cycling directly across the road. None of these options are particularly appealing and this road does present an inconvenient barrier to proceeding along the cycle route. A possible solutions would be to either move the pedestrian crossing to the position of the traffic island,  put in a dedicated cycle crossing or widen the pavement, remove the rails and enlarge the crossing.

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The route then continues down Dorchester Road.While the road is wide and relatively quiet, however cars do sometimes travel pretty fast down this road. Painting in two metre cycle lanes would be beneficial in encouraging less confident cyclists to use this direct route into the town centre.

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At the end of the road a feeder lane leads to a shared use footpath, allowing cyclists to bypass the busy Streetsbrook Road when turning into Sharmans Cross Road. However as shown in this picture the lane is often occupied by motor traffic. Widening the pavement and allowing cyclists to use it well before the junction, would allow cyclists to avoid this possible point of conflict.

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Other than the  feeder lane issues, the bypass is well designed with a wide well surfaced pavement area and clear signage.

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However after turning the corner no further provision is made for cycling, other than a lone sign. Designating the narrow and badly surfaced pavement as shared use, practically forcing cyclists back onto the road.

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While the road is not hugely busy, it is also a well travelled bus route and during term time the area in front of the school on the left is usually filled with parked cars.

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Halfway along the route Sharmans Cross Road is bisected by a large and busy roundabout, for the confident cyclist it would only be a minor barrier. However the traffic levels and speeds across represent more of a barrier to less confident cyclists. To improve it tightening the geometry and possibly installing segregated bike lanes would easily be the best solution to this somewhat off putting roundabout.

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After the roundabout the route gets little better. As the road is a direct connection to the Stratford Road it is often used by HGVs and does see a substantial amount of traffic.

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The route then takes a right turn into some quiet back streets.

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These streets are pretty quiet, but the many parked cars on each side of the road do make encounters with any rather unpleasant.

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The size of this roundabout right at the end of the route defies logic, to me this just looks like a waste of space. Increasing the width of the pavement and centre island would serve to make this roundabout more friendly to pedestrians as well as lowering motor traffic speeds.

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The route terminates at this rather unfriendly junction, turning left onto the cycle track running in front the shops:

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Conclusion

While this route does run continuously from the centre of Solihull to Shirley and links these two centres, the route still leaves much to be desired in cycle provision. The route from the centre through the park is well connected and convenient, however after this point the route uses busier and busier roads. These represent significant barriers to less confident cyclists and do not provide safe refuges for cyclists from motor traffic, this is most evident in the areas of the route shared by buses and HGVs. To create a route that encourages less confident cyclists to get on their bikes, would require fully segregated infrastructure along the majority of the latter part of the route.

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