Birmingham Cyclist

Cycling in and around Birmingham England

Hi all
Which is the best route from Harborne High Street to Steelhouse Lane.
Need the fastest route for commuting, It'll be a bit after Rush hour (After 9am)

Thanks

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Fascinating.  You'd have to be a very fit cyclist indeed to be able to do 20mph under all circumstances.

I agree that speed differential is what makes vehicular cycling difficult (and Rachel Aldred's near miss research seems to support that).  It's easy to be confident rolling along at 22mph in 25mph traffic, and a fit, unladen cyclist will be able out-accelerate most combustion-engine vehicles over the length of a typical junction.  It's when you're slogging away to maintain 6mph on the uphill approach to a roundabout, or when the driver of 'just one more car' reckons they can nip in front of you before the pinch point that things become challenging.

The best illustration of this that I encounter regularly is on approach to the Harborne Lane Island, heading from Harborne Lane to Aston Webb Boulevard with a trailer full of bulk shopping from Sainsbury's.  This route is quick and convenient (I live near the other end of the bypass), and like all the best shopping routes almost entirely downhill on the way home, allowing me to maintain a speed that minimises conflict with traffic.  The problem comes if I have to stop for the pedestrian crossing at Gibbins Road, which robs all the lovely momentum on the uphill approach to the roundabout.  If this happens, my speed drops to well below 10mph, and I have to be *incredibly* assertive (taking the sort of lane position that you might assume to turn right) to prevent drivers from left-hooking me as I pass the left turn bypass.  If you kept to the left at that sort of speed it would be seriously hazardous.  The roundabouts themselves are easy in comparison.

Simon said:

This discussion reminds me of something once said to me by an experienced cycle instructor.  Riding round Fiveways is indeed do-able if you are up to what bikeability calls 'level 3' riding ability.  This instructor (who is an extremely good instructor) was adamant that he didnt want to teach L3 riding to anyone who couldnt do 20mph.  Vehicular cycling is entirley possible but it really does help if you can do the same speed as the rest of the traffic.  And this rules out the vast majority of the population.

My view is that you can do L3 cycling even if you are not able to accelerate quickly or maintain relativy high speeds - i go out of my way to slow people down when i teach L3 so that they have to negociate with other traffic rather than just slotting into it......this reduction in speed does make a lot of difference to how other road users treat you.....can also be remarkable how a fit rider suddenly loses confidence if they cant go at their normal speed!  It also goes some way to explain why some people will be happy in certain situations and others wont.  

Two of my bad right turn experiences have been on the roundabouts of the Selly Oak new road.   In one case I was heading downhill from the hospital at very close to the speed limit, and had switched to Lane 2 for the right turn.   Rather than slowing down for the junction, the motorist who had been some distance behind me caught up and swung way over on to the wrong side of the road to get past me.   Then he realised he was just about to pass a long way to the right of the traffic island, and swerved back in front of me in order to whizz round the roundabout at the limits of his tyre traction, no doubt cursing the bloody cyclist that had caused him to do all this.   Vehicular cycling worked really well there, didn't it?

I dont think that we should condemn a type of cycling based on one or two bad experiences otherwise im sure we could find a few horrendous incidents that have happened on segregated cycleways and condemn them.  Rather its a case that vehicular cycling works well for a minority most of the time, whereas quality segragated routes work well for the majority most of the time.  Nothing is ever perfect.

Well I will continue to condemn it. I've not had a single life-threatening incident riding on a segregated cycleway, but I have had plenty practising VC, such as the motorist who tail-gated me as I was approaching a right turn, and who only backed off when an electronic roadside sign we passed started flashing "30MPH SLOW DOWN". VC is simply a partially effective means of coping with infrastructure that is decades out of date and hopelessly unfit for purpose (for all road users). In addition to routinely not working for people with the necessary fitness and assertiveness to practice it, the stats show VC has done nothing to reverse the decline of cycling in this country, unless of course you would like to argue that without VC we would have 1% modal share instead of 1.5% modal share. Worse still, politicians and infrastructure planners point to it as a cheap means of addressing the demand for cycling. It's the reason why in Birmingham you will see "cycle routes" on busy roads that consist of nowt but bike symbols painted on the road (I've seen the plans marked "vehicular cycling"). That was CCAG money flushed down the pan. Push Bikes criticised it at the planning stage, and BBB riders criticised it when they started riding their new bikes. On the positive side, it's failure is the reason why the BCR team changed tack and designed the A34/A38 route. Does that mean I will stop using VC? No, because I make long journeys by bike, and the alternatives across most of the country are way too slow (or non-existent), and of marginal legality.

Do Dutch sports cyclists use the roads? No, they use the cycleways, because the primary cycleways are designed for travelling at speed on a bike. Indeed inter-urban cycleways are designed to be suitable for small motorbikes. Good cycling infrastructure is usable and useful for everyone, including sports cyclists.

But, in my book, VC isn't meant to create loads of new cyclists.  It's the best way to stay safe when there are no alternative credible facilities, or a method of riding if you want to get somewhere fast and enjoy a bit of car-jamming.  As stated, for some it works, for many more it's much too daunting to even try, let alone do. .

I don't really think that we can blame the failure of parallel routes on VC.  The idea there was to use quieter roads and calm them to make them even better for cycling.  However the roads chosen were often not quiet and the methods put in to calm the traffic failed miserably, and in some cases made things worse.

TBH, I think the problem is with the infrastructure rather than the choice of vehicles.  I've had as many nasty big roundabout incidents when driving as I have when cycling (which is probably skewed by avoiding big roundabouts less when in a car).  It's what comes from prioritising flow of motor vehicles over safety.

My one and only cycling injury that required hospital treatment happened on a cyclepath.  I don't think that means vehicular cycling is safe, so much as that cycle routes that require off-road bikes and riding skills skills to get from A to B are unfit for purpose.  British infrastructure often means that you're choosing between low risk of serious injury on the road and higher risk of minor injury on a poor quality shared path.  Which is crap.  With Dutch cycling infrastructure the main risk is boredom.  Bring it on!


Simon said:

I dont think that we should condemn a type of cycling based on one or two bad experiences otherwise im sure we could find a few horrendous incidents that have happened on segregated cycleways and condemn them.  Rather its a case that vehicular cycling works well for a minority most of the time, whereas quality segragated routes work well for the majority most of the time.  Nothing is ever perfect.

Forum seems to have gone strange......the text from my previous post has dispersed, yet it's visible in the bit at the side...scratches head.

Anyway, what I think I said was: It's not my contention that VC gets more people onto bikes, rather it is a safer way to ride in the absence of good quality infrastructure. Or, if you happen to be wanting to get somewhere fast or you just like playing in the traffic as some people do believe it or not!  Thus, Robert, if you just roundly condemn VC then I must disagree with you, but if you condemn VC when held up to be a substitute for good quality infrastructure then I will happily agree with you.

Also, I would question the theory that VC led to the parallel routeway problems.  These were meant to be quite roads that were given more infrastructure to make them even easier to ride on.  But the roads chosen often weren't that quiet at all, and the infrastructure added was not ideal and in some cases made things worse.

Yes, you could call riding down a cul-de-sac with one motor vehicle every twenty minutes vehicular cycling, and indeed there is lots of that in the Netherlands, but that's not really what is normally meant by the term.   The BBB riders complained that they were expected to ride along busy roads with nothing to keep motor vehicles away from them.   On the BCR plans, riding like that was labelled "vehicular cycling".   So yes, the idea that people would be happy to engage in vehicular cycling fell flat on its face, and the plans for almost all of those routes have been scrapped.   IIRC, one will be completed, but it was felt to be sufficiently good to do that.

Now, if an idea is only acceptable to a tiny proportion of the population, and even for that tiny proportion it routinely fails, what does that tell you about it?

Very strange. It was blank until I signed in then it appeared. This is what you said...

But, in my book, VC isn't meant to create loads of new cyclists.  It's the best way to stay safe when there are no alternative credible facilities, or a method of riding if you want to get somewhere fast and enjoy a bit of car-jamming.  As stated, for some it works, for many more it's much too daunting to even try, let alone do. .

I don't really think that we can blame the failure of parallel routes on VC.  The idea there was to use quieter roads and calm them to make them even better for cycling.  However the roads chosen were often not quiet and the methods put in to calm the traffic failed miserably, and in some cases made things worse.

Hopefully it was just a temporary blip.

Simon said:

Forum seems to have gone strange......the text from my previous post has dispersed, yet it's visible in the bit at the side...scratches head.

Anyway, what I think I said was: It's not my contention that VC gets more people onto bikes, rather it is a safer way to ride in the absence of good quality infrastructure. Or, if you happen to be wanting to get somewhere fast or you just like playing in the traffic as some people do believe it or not!  Thus, Robert, if you just roundly condemn VC then I must disagree with you, but if you condemn VC when held up to be a substitute for good quality infrastructure then I will happily agree with you.

Also, I would question the theory that VC led to the parallel routeway problems.  These were meant to be quite roads that were given more infrastructure to make them even easier to ride on.  But the roads chosen often weren't that quiet at all, and the infrastructure added was not ideal and in some cases made things worse.

I would suggest that that title is somewhat misleading - the routes were meant to be calmed and controlled enough for people to be able to use without first doing a L3.  They failed in creating routes like this.  This is not the fault of VC as most BBB winners don't actually do or understand vehicular cycling/L3.  I was only saying this morning I'd seen five orange bike winners on my ride across the city centre on Monday and that I had been amazed to see one get into primary to pass a side road (complete with almost all the looks)! 

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