Birmingham Cyclist

Cycling in and around Birmingham England

Hello, All.

I'm new to the UK, and a bit trepidatious of the commuter riding (the lack of bike lanes is terrifying to be sure). I've heard that bikers can use the canals to avoid rush hour traffic, is this true? I'm looking for alternative routes for my morning commute, and would love some suggestions. I've been taking A34 to City Centre from Kingstanding. 

Thanks in advance

Karen

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Hi Karen.   Yes, you can use the tow paths, and they have been resurfaced using central government money allocated for cycling.   From Kingstanding you would probably want to use National Cycle Network Route 535, which you can see on this map.   However, you will need reliable, proper cycle lights if riding after dark (the tow-paths are unlit), and the tow-path from Spaghetti Junction (ie the motorway) gets progressively more awkward to use as you head into the city centre.   I would recommend you do a test run.

I also recommend you get some puncture resistant tyres, such as Schwalbe Marathons.   The tow paths are a lousy place to get a puncture, especially after dark.

Social safety on the tow-paths feels awful, but in practice it's mostly not as bad as it feels.   However, things do happen from time to time (this being a big city with a lot of social problems), so you may well want to ensure you have some sort of alarm with you.

Also, are you aware of the consultation on plans for a segregated cycleway on the A34?   If it gets enough support, construction should begin later this year.

Thank you! I appreciate the help, and thank you for the map.

Yes, I'm aware of the new cycleway proposal, though I'm American and can't vote. I have, however, been trying to get support from friends in the neighbourhood who can vote. 



Robert said:

Hi Karen.   Yes, you can use the tow paths, and they have been resurfaced using central government money allocated for cycling.   From Kingstanding you would probably want to use National Cycle Network Route 535, which you can see on this map.   However, you will need reliable, proper cycle lights if riding after dark (the tow-paths are unlit), and the tow-path from Spaghetti Junction (ie the motorway) gets progressively more awkward to use as you head into the city centre.   I would recommend you do a test run.

I also recommend you get some puncture resistant tyres, such as Schwalbe Marathons.   The tow paths are a lousy place to get a puncture, especially after dark.

Social safety on the tow-paths feels awful, but in practice it's mostly not as bad as it feels.   However, things do happen from time to time (this being a big city with a lot of social problems), so you may well want to ensure you have some sort of alarm with you.

Hello Karen, I use the canal from Yardley through to Birmingham city centre regularly and have had no problems other than bits of tree on the towpath, angry geese and the odd puncture. They are generally quiet but people are mostly friendly and will say hello as you pass. In my opinion they are less dangerous than riding a busy road. Good advice from Robert on the tyres.

Thanks, Steve. 

Also, best bike mechanic?

The consultation isn't a vote, so anyone can contribute to it, including Americans.

As for best mechanic, I do my own servicing :), but when I don't have the right tools or I can't be bothered to do something I take my bike along to Birmingham Bike Foundry in Stirchley.   Of course that's on the wrong side of the city for you, but you can take the tow path all the way from Spaghetti Junction to Bournville (apart from a cross-country bit in the city centre, to bypass heavy pedestrian traffic), and that will take you within a couple of backstreets of BBF.   You should find it an enjoyable ride, though it's not short.

Steve's comment reminded me of an article I wrote about an off-road cycle ride, which mentioned the nice people you'll meet on the tow path.

Nice article. 

I did go to the consultation page and expressed my views. I think it'll be done by the time I leave. *sigh*

I use the canals from kingstanding sometimes - down the North Birmingham Cycling and Walking route through Witton Lakes and Brookvale Park, past the Magnet building and down onto the Tame Valley Canal. At spaghetti junction the Birmingham and Frazely canal takes you directly to the city centre but it is a bit up hill with a couple of narrow bridges...but not too bad.  The alternative is the Grand Union canal from spaghetti, which is about a mile longer but is much flatter.

Safety  - wise, i get to the canal around 7am and normally see a number of other cyclists and walkers (inc lone females) so i guess its pretty safe.   Used to be the odd wino but they are either friendly or just ignore you.  

Downside of the canal.....slower than the road, not lit, the gravel (also thats improving), narrow bridges, and the horrible raised brickwork......you need good tyres.

Btw, if you need any more info on routes etc from kingstanding, etc then feel free to shout.

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