Today delegates from Acocks Green organisations together with local councillors and officials met with officers from Birmingham City Council Transportation, Planning and Regeneration Department to discuss the future of the Acocks Green section of the Warwick Road/A41, which is currently the subject of a ‘Smart Route’ proposal.
The ‘Smart Route’ scheme, a variation on a now more conventional ‘Red Route’, would mean that there would be no stopping on the main road, but, also, that there would be extra facilities for the smooth movement of buses: Acocks Green has many buses going through. We have long been interested in how a ‘Red Route’ scheme operates on the Stratford Road in Shirley, with additional car parking facilties, and trees. (See our page on the Shirley Red Route here) Bearing in mind both the Shirley scheme, and the fact that in these economically difficult times such schemes still attract funding, Acocks Green has not been inclined to reject the this approach out of hand. However, Red Routes and Smart Routes come with many designs and options. We have been very concerned that if we go down the Smart Route, we have the right mix of features for Acocks Green. For a fuller background on this see our previous posting on the Smart Route proposal for the Warwick Road A41 here and our page on the originally dove-tailing, Birmingham Landscape Practice scheme here.
The Meeting Today (16.10.2010)
This was a busy and lively meeting in which local people reviewed the present proposals and gave much feedback. Initially people were surprised to see that the original A, B, C. alternative models for The Green itself have now been potted down into two: either one smaller, circular island, or a larger island, pushed further over to Shirley Road, and involving five lanes of traffic and three additional sets of pelican crossings. Delegates made it clear that they have reservations about both of these ideas.
Instead, and in line with an Acocks Green meeting on 31 August this year, it was stressed that we would prefer the Council to concentrate upon ‘de-dualling’ the Warwick Road in Acocks Green, in line with this aspect of the original Transportation/Landscape Practice proposal, i.e. taking away one of the carriageways to provide more pedestrian area, parking spaces and trees and to calm traffic. See diagram reproduced again below: (Note for ease of viewing, double clicking on any of these diagrams will enlarge.)
Or, landscaped, something like this:
Whereas, at present, we have this (or ‘Brand’s Hatch’ as one member of The Focus Group famously dubbed it in a Radio WM interview:
Dual carriageways and guard rails are both known to encourage speeding. In one serious accident here, in 2005, Steve Ajao, a well known jazz musician from Moseley, crossed on a zebra crossing near here in broad daylight only to be collected
on the bonnet of a speeding car and carried 50 yards. Steve, who was lucky to survive, was unconscious for two weeks and needed many operations to his legs. Police re-constructing the accident thought the car was probably travelling at 60 mph.
This area of the road, we have now emphasised to BCC, is where we wish the first attentions of the Smart Route project to be concentrated.
From the point of view of Acocks Green Focus Group such a scheme is also not incompatible with our, longer term, Shared Space proposal (see our last but one posting) and could, ultimately, ‘pave the way’ for this. However, as a shorter term measure ‘de-dualling’ would definitely be preferable to present arrangments.
Deligates were also asked to complete a check list of what they considered to be key concerns in Acocks Green. Out of this list high scoring concerns included:
- Poor visibility
- High priority bus interchanges
- Reducing accident rates
- Better walking routes
- Better pavements
- More trees
- Reducing clutter (street furniture, especially guard rails, bollards and unnecessary signs)
- More public art/a ‘gateway’ to Birmingham feature
- Reducing vehicle speeds
- More on-street parking
Reduction of ‘clutter’ was noted as being of particular high priority at present, with new national policies on this now emerging and there was a specific question on a questionnaire delegates completed about ‘clutter’. For this point see the recent publication of Manual for Streets 2 which was referred to by BCC Transporation engineer Andy Chidgey – see CABE review of MfS2 here. (A presentation on MfS 2 is planned in Acocks Green for later this year more details on our site later.) Together with concerns about accident rates it was also acknowledged: a point we have been making for years … that street furniture like guard rails is expensive to maintain …
It was felt (in line with Shared Space principles) that cycle lanes per se were not required as long as there were traffic calming measures like removing the dual carriageway, but that cycle parking/storage facilities might be helpful.
Acocks Green Accident Rates
Interestingly recent research suggests that Acocks Green, previously thought to be safe presently has a high rate of minor accidents and that this was connected with the volume of vehicles. Again, it is likely that traffic calming would help here.
Future of Smart Route Proposal for Acocks Green
As far as the future of The Smart Route for Acocks Green is concerned we learned that funding is still an issue which requires work. However, Transportation officers have recently been putting much effort into developing the Smart Route for Acocks Green. We were told ‘There is ‘competion with Coventry, Walsall and the Pershore Road. We need ours to be the best bid.’ At the same time, we were also advised that ‘This scheme is more advanced than a lot of others.’ In particular we are currently ‘… way ahead of the Pershore Road.’ and officers added that they ‘… do not want to waste the work and are pushing ahead.’
There are government funding possibiliites, e.g. the ‘Sustainable Transport Fund.’ For bids for such funds to be credible the ideas already in place now need to be further developed and BCC Transportation needs to be able to publish an overall vision, although the actual delivery is likely to be ‘incremental’ (i.e. in stages). They stresed that they were seeking to work with Acocks Green in partnership when funding is secured.
At the end of this month the Allocation of Spending Review in Birmingham will begin and a Transport Plan will be drawn up for the next five years. Acocks Green needs to make its own views known, e.g. to the Cabinet Member for Transportation and, shortly, on the Centro web site (There will be a link from our site to the Centro website in due course.)
So: how do we feel? Encouraged, and very pleased to note the comments on street clutter, and the acceptance of ‘de-dualling’ as being of high priority. We were less happy about the new plans for the islands. We do not feel that either of these would be right for Acocks Green, and we will continue to maintain vigilance.