Birmingham Cyclist

Cycling in and around Birmingham England

Good news, Edgbaston tunnel towpath is about to be widened. Bad news, it will be closed for 10 weeks from 2nd January to 16th March 2018.

* Update: Closure due to start from 22nd January

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Interesting blog. But completely mad - he wants towpath resurfaced so he can cycle at his usual 40 kph instead of a mere 20kph. 
Robert said:

Whilst looking for something else I randomly stumbled upon this blog post by a German who rode the Worcester and Birmingham tow path last year.   His conclusion was:

How could the situation be improved? Well, it’s obvious, really: Widening the path by an extra foot or two (where possible) will eliminate the hairiest of squeezing manoeuvres, but what’s really needed is resurfacing.

And yes, he was referring to the spray and chip path.

Looks to be an interesting blog site about classic bikes, BTW, and all in English for some reason.

He says of the Worcester and Birmingham tow path "even 20kph will become an incredibly shaky business".   So he's suggesting it needs resurfacing because even at a very moderate speed the shaking is unpleasant, and I agree with him, it is unpleasant.

Any cycle infrastructure that isn't reasonably rideable at 25kph (which is the speed that road-legal electric assist cycles are limited to, and that fit cyclists might reasonably cruise at) is of a shortsighted design at best.  Brits are finally beginning to discover e-bikes, and if the trend continues in line with nearby European countries where cycling is more prevalent, the majority of electrically assisted cyclists are going to be new people who weren't previously able to cycle (either through physical ability, or practicality).

I'd suggest that that sort of speed is reasonably achievable on long stretches of the towpath when it's not busy, but it's deeply unpleasant to do so on anything other than a mountain bike.

That sort of speed would be ok on a cyclepath, but this is a shared use path, and narrow. I could quite understand why some pedestrians get angry with cyclists who hurtle past inches away from them. Aggravating the pedestrians does us no good.

I don’t think anyone is suggesting maintaining a speed of 15 mph when there a people walking, but often this is not the case. The washboard surface is unpleasant even on a machine with suspension and fat tyres. For some reason it seems worse when traveling away from the city centre. Perhaps it’s a bit like the swell going to and from the Scilly Isles. 

Doug, there are plenty of times when there are no pedestrians on the path for long stretches.   Are you suggesting we should ride along at a speed that wont scare pedestrians even when there are no pedestrians to scare?   And what speed do you define that as?   Someone on a laden bike in bottom gear climbing a hill will easily outpace a pedestrian, and is therefore potentially alarming to a pedestrian.   So would you advocate wobbling along at the same speed as a pedestrian, completely eliminating the advantage of using a bike?   20km/h is a moderate speed on a bike.

Keep in mind that if someone can get to their destination quicker in a car they will use their car, ensuring that Britain continues to have noise-floor cycling levels.

Was out on the towpath today, unfortunately some cyclists simply too impatient to slow down around other cyclists or pedestrians: saw one guy cycling immediately behind a woman ringing his bell continuously because she was too slow getting out of his way under one of the bridges. It's narrow and busy, bad behaviour from some risks getting us all banned.

I use it daily and see some shocking displays of bad cycling almost every day.
Passing other cyclists is always a problem especially those who have ear phones in and can't hear you (or any other traffic) approaching. The same issue is equally prevalent amongst those walking and no matter how much you ring your bell. I have your admit to hitting a high speed at times but only when there are no pedestrians around. That is not true for all cyclists and have been overtaken whilst patiently waiting for pedestrians to emerge from a bridge. My favourite though are the cyclists who seem to forget which side of the road we drive on thus nearly causing a head-on collision and early bath!

This one's a complete mess.  It's not helped by historical British Waterways advice that cyclists should pass pedestrians on the water side (which makes sense in isolation, because pedestrians can generally get closer to the hedge/fence/wall/whatever without risk of snagging a handlebar or tramlining on the edge of the surfaced path, leaving more room to pass).  Of course two cyclists can't both pass each other on the water side!

Sometimes dog walkers or more nervous cyclists (typically those with children) will want to pass on the right to stay away from the water, but they generally come to a stop to make their intentions clear.  I don't have a problem with that.

ISTR Pushbikes putting some signs up asking all path users to keep left.  They didn't last long.

Shakey said:

My favourite though are the cyclists who seem to forget which side of the road we drive on thus nearly causing a head-on collision and early bath!

Agreed it's a bit of a mess. I saw two cyclists crash into each other and one of the complaints was about the side of the road we drive on. But we're on a canal path and most people seem to want to walk on the side furthest away from the water. And also it's not a road, so I'm not sure how helpful that is, especially given that I walk/cycle along the canal near UoB which has a a number of international students (though to be fair the home students are just as bad). 

I tend to apply the advice that pedestrians have the right of way on the canal so I'll follow in with what they're doing, and alert people and say thank you as much as possible.  For the most part that seems to work well. There have been a few instances when cyclists coming in the opposite direction want to take up the whole path or take the other side of the path to the pedestrians, which is incredibly frustrating.

Those 'keep left' signs sound like a great idea, can we revive them?

Most of the signs Push Bikes put up were removed.   I don't know who did that, but when I suggested making them more permanent, I encountered someone at CRT who is a believer in a concept called Shared Space, ie that creating a confusing mess in a high-traffic loading area would make everyone smile at each other and behave like angels.   You may have noticed short-lived "poetry" spray-painted on the ground, which was one of the ways he hoped to address the issues we are discussing here.   It was short-lived because traffic on the path wore it away in about two weeks, and its effect was even more short-lived.

Reality check.   The path is narrow, and there are not many access points.   Money allocated for cycling has been spent on resurfacing that path.   The alternatives for cycling are hostile.   So people on bikes are going to head for the tow-path, and most will be travelling at a fair speed, because the limited access means they will be using the path to travel fair distances, and many of them will (of course) have time constraints on their journey.   So the path has become busy with cyclists moving quickly.   Under those circumstances, it makes sense if everyone sticks to one side of the path or the other, and in this country the rule most people know is we drive on the left.   Unfortunately that is not what is happening, and the result is frayed tempers and collisions, not people smiling at each other and behaving like angels.   Gosh, who would have predicted that?

There are lots of appalling drivers on the road, but that doesn't result in everyone being banned.   But should CRT be considering that, they should remember where the money came from to resurface the tow-paths, and ask themselves if they can afford to hand back the money.   I have to say that I use the path regularly, and most cyclists are not behaving unreasonably.   However, the narrowness means that even when in first gear a cycle will be travelling at an alarming speed as far as a pedestrian is concerned.   That is why the Dutch build cycleways, not shared paths.

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