A Proposal to Build a Cycle Superhighway along Monmouth Drive in Sutton Coldfield, UK

Reading time about 5 minutes

Our current situation

Starting around March, 2020 the pollution levels in Sutton Coldfield, UK, went down considerably during the first lockdown and many of us started to appreciate cleaner air and birdsong as the noise levels went down. But with the dangers of public transport well documented many have resorted to their cars pushing pollution levels back up to where they were before and possibly beyond. Many drive alone which is hopelessly inefficient and wasteful. Some drive together with others in the vehicle which as of January 2021 is still often unsafe health wise (even though masks and open windows can help mitigate the risk).

The pollution problem in and around Birmingham has become steadily worse over many years with increased traffic anyway so we really do have a traffic and pollution crisis.

The solutions

In the long term we need more electric and hybrid vehicles as well as improved public transport such as trams or light railways. For now though, we also need awareness campaigns to remind people to turn off their engines when parked and waiting and we need the legalization of electric scooters including personally owned ones. But perhaps most importantly we need better cycling infrastructure.  

A cycle superhighway along Monmouth drive

Above: Illustration of the proposed cycle superhighway
Monmouth drive in January 2021

I have written about transport for a number of years and have never seen a more ideal location for a cycle superhighway (henceforth CSH). The wide grassy verge on the park side is almost entirely unused. The potential usefulness is shown by the sheer amount of traffic along this road.

The traffic is unsurprising given that it connects Sutton with the highly populated areas of Kingstanding and reaches out towards Walsall and Wolverhampton.

At least some of these drivers would sometimes cycle if this CSH were created therefore reducing pollution and noise for residents. The main benefit though would be vastly improved safety for cyclists compared to going on the road.

The one obvious question is ”Why bother? People can cycle in the park.” Taking a bike through the park to get to Sutton would be a detour for anyone going from some areas around Kingstanding and West of Wylde Green. Obviously those coming from Streetly and surroundings will likely still cycle through the park, but congestion in the park would be reduced enhancing safety and healthy distancing.  Importantly it would also provide a safe night-time cycling alternative to going through the park.

Map above showing the proposed route in blue

(All map images from Map data ©2020 Google Earth – used in accordance with Google’s attribution guidelines)

The bigger picture

This simple proposal would also create almost zero interference to drivers. Between Banners gate and Somerville Rd there are literally only two places where cars would have to pull out – the entrance to the Sailing club and golf club and then Stonehouse Rd. Drivers would in fact likely be happier given that many cyclists would be off the road altogether.

This is in contrast to the hastily removed Brassington avenue cycle lane which stopped drivers from taking a left turn along park road.

Lessons from Brassington Avenue

I personally was very much in favour of the pop-up cycle lane along Brassington avenue and used it frequently for the few weeks it was there. Going off a main road onto a well-designed separated cycleway greatly enhances the riders’ peace of mind. – this is something more of us need to experience to realise the true value of such bike schemes. The Brassington avenue scheme didn’t even last to the end of its trial period so very few people got a chance to experience this ‘bike-lane peacefulness’. We need to give some such schemes more time to gain traction and enter into people’s consciousness as alternatives. People need time to get used to them and to even be converted to liking them.

Designing for the future – extensions

In the case of Brassington avenue scheme one complaint was that it was isolated and not part of a network.

The truth is that it takes time for a network to emerge and it has to start somewhere. A CSH going along Birmingham Rd to Wylde Green and Chester Rd has been mentioned by others and this would still be both feasible and highly valuable.

In this case let’s be clear from the outset as to how this Monmouth Drive CSH could be extended in future.

Selection from the Starley Network taken from http://www.wmnetwork.co.uk

Note how Monmouth drive is already a highlighted road within the Starley network plan and how it connects with the TfWM (Transport for West Midlands) route going down to Perry Barr from where the cycle superhighway leads to the city centre.

Shown below is a picture of the various possible future extensions.

Luckily Rough Rd (light blue-left) is more than wide enough to accommodate a full CSH. On the Sutton side (right) one option would be for one small section of Somerville Road and then Wilkinson close (green – right) to be restricted to residents’ cars and cyclists only to form a safer route to Wylde Green train station. This may not be popular among some drivers but the busiest section of Somerville Road beside the park would still be accessible. Alternatively or additionally (and far more ambitiously) Digby Rd (pink – right) would be made one way only for vehicles and incorporate an extension of the CSH connecting to an elevated CSH alongside the railway line leading to Sutton train station and possibly even Wylde Green train station (light blue vertical line – right). This is just an option for many years into the future but would certainly put Sutton ‘on the map’.

Alternatively, a conventional CSH could be built going through the park towards Sutton station.     

The future extensions would be optional steps pending the popularity of the initial Monmouth drive scheme and consultations with the public.

Designing for the future – Accommodating transport gadgets

We’re currently witnessing unprecedented innovation in the field of lightweight transport devices with ever more transport tools, ever more features and constantly increasing range and speed. It’s obvious that lightweight portable transport tools – such as escooters – will play a role in our future so we need to allow for this. Legalisation of scooters in Sutton would warrant a name change, I would suggest ‘cycle scooterhighway’ (still abbreviated to CSH so no need to amend any maps).

It’s also absolutely essential that wheelchairs are also allowed on the CSH to create equality of access and equality of joyful peacefulness!

I strongly believe that any well designed CSH nowadays should be wide enough to have at least two people side-by-side going in either direction. I would recommend two lanes – fast and slow, in both directions making a total of four lanes with a total width of at least 4 to 5 metres.  

Separation between the two directions of travel is vital to enhance safety and distancing and I would recommend using an uneven or gritty surface for the central reservation making it unpleasant to ride over at any speed but still usable in emergencies.

Future CSH (cycle scooterhighway)
Alternative directions would be possible if found to be safer (I’m personally not sure yet)

Some thoughts

There are times when we need to be conservative, hunker down and resist new ideas. There are also times when we need to be liberal and progressive and embrace change. Now, in the middle of a pollution crisis caused by increasing traffic in the middle of a pandemic which threatens to make it even worse is absolutely the time to be progressive and think outside of our metal boxes known as cars. Obviously cars are going to be around given their convenience, but we mustn’t let ‘car fundamentalism’ stop the adoption of other safer, cleaner and more healthy solutions as well. Opportunity presents itself to those with an open mind.

If you think this idea is worthwhile please do share this article and also go to: https://covidmeasuresbirmingham.commonplace.is/overview

Then click ‘Suggest a change to improve walking or cycling’ and navigate to Monmouth drive in Sutton using the map tool and click ‘agree’ with this proposal or any others you would like to see happen.

You can also go to the following URL and ‘upvote’ this proposal.

https://www.widenmypath.com/birmingham/?category=closure#10/52.4066/-1.5391

Thank you for reading. If you can come up with another possibly better idea then please leave a comment. Wishing everyone all the best.

To download a PDF of this proposal click HERE

Thoughts on Covid-19 – behave responsibly, don’t blame China

The other day on my solitary run in the park I saw people holding hands, people sharing a spliff, some young guys sitting in a car (with the engine running) while drinking from a bottle. On my way to a lesson recently I had to get on a busy bus and there was a lady eating her supper. Snowdonia national park recently recorded its busiest day on record as people flocked there in their cars. And all of this as the UK started going into lockdown against a threat the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

We know the main solution – minimise contact with others as much as possible and stay home. But what has not come through clearly enough is that if possible you should still stay two metres apart from those in your home where possible – especially in the first weeks of the family isolation and especially if they have not been abiding by the guidelines themselves. There is a dangerous myth that if you’re all in a house together then you either all have it or not. This is wrong, it’s perfectly possible to share a house with someone who has the virus and not get it if you take the right steps (normally away from other people) and maintain your immune system. Your immune system can often deal with one-off attacks but do not overload it. This means avoid enclosed spaces with others – even family for now. Sorry, as of 30 March, unnecessary car journeys with others are really NOT a good idea. Wait a while. If it’s unavoidable then take the sensible cleaning precautions, wear a mask, and open a window (see HERE for more info). This is now a great time to walk or ride a bike to get to the park – we have cleaner air and less traffic than we’ve had in years.

Please, if enough of us do take these steps then we’ll get through this much more quickly and be stronger, wiser and more grateful for it.

So obviously the problem and the solution is our behaviour – this is what we can control in the present moment. So I believe that for any outsiders to blame the Chinese government for what it did or didn’t do in the past is deeply unhelpful – there are plenty of people in China doing that already (see HERE). China’s response, although perhaps initially flawed, has effectively mitigated the spread of the virus. The lockdown strategy was initially questioned – but thanks to China we can see that is the gold standard approach we need. In terms of searching for a cure or vaccine Chinese researchers have helped hugely. To start with Chinese researchers constructed the whole genomic sequence of the new virus and promptly shared it (See HERE). Also some of the most promising ongoing research into treatments is coming from China  – such as using convalescent plasma of recovered patients for example. China also sent the first aid to Italy with a plane packed full of medical equipment along with nine experienced doctors to help (See HERE)

It seems clear that this virus was just a quirk of nature, a new virus that arose randomly, probably in bats or snakes, as part of life’s great quest to exist by replicating and changing. But it would currently be hard to disprove anyone if they said an alien species shot a beam from outer space onto that Wuhan market and created the virus, or who said that it was the work of some mad scientist. Or maybe it’s Mother Nature’s grand call for us all to reconnect with the World, be wiser, more compassionate and perhaps more respectful. This may be a form of philosophical Darwinist evolution whereby compassionate and less selfish societies are less affected. In Japan and Taiwan the response has been relatively successful and in both places mask wearing is common practice. The reason is often not to protect the wearer but those around them. So maybe the real virus is selfishness and ignorance and it’s that which we need to overcome now.

Luckily most people are behaving admirably and there all sorts of true heroes around us – well over half a million people in the UK signed up to volunteer to help the national Health service. And luckily the vast majority of people out here in the West, or in the UK at least, do not openly condemn the Chinese government, far less the Chinese people. In such a situation it’s also often the case that members of an ethnic group (in this case Chinese) become hyper-conscious or hyper-sensitive which may lead to some false accusations of prejudice or stereotyping alongside the legitimate claims. But the golden rule is that we are all valuable. Any mindless stereotyping or disparaging and unfair behaviour towards an ethnic group is deeply wrong. All is one is all – in essence we are the same. And everyone is many (we each have various aspects to our character). So if you know any one trying to point the finger, tell them to point it at those not following the guidelines – not at China.

We cannot change the past we can only work with the present. A good sailor is known in bad weather and this is a storm we need to ride out spiritually together while staying apart physically. Let’s do this now and start creating a world with more love, awareness, respect, compassion and wisdom. This may be what Mother Nature is asking us to do.

Gallery of Engine Idling images in Mandarin Chinese

信給客運、計程車、與送貨公司

把下面的圖(五個不要怠速的理由)影出來

五個不要怠速的理由的詳細的說明

燃候選另外一張圖影出來

 

Open letter to bus, coach, taxi & delivery companies

Print out the following PDF

Plus one of the three posters below

Poster competition 環保海報設計大賽

‘Let’s Clear the Air’ Poster Competition for Schools
We are hosting a ‘Let’s Clear the Air’ Poster Competition’. The two themes are: ‘Stop Engine Idling’ and/or ‘Use green/public transport.’ Pictures must relate to one or both of these themes. The language can be either English or Chinese, both colour and black and white posters are OK, and all sizes are acceptable. There is no limit to how many posters one school or student can submit.
The competition has three age groups:
1:Elementary school
2:Junior High School
3:Senior High school
The artists of the top three posters in each age category will be awarded certificates, and their posters will be displayed on the internet. The top poster in each age category will be reproduced in the form of stickers or cards. These stickers or cards will be given to people in challenging financial situations (such as homeless people) for them to sell. So if your class or school participates you will help the world, children’s health, your school’s reputation, as well as those in need of an income.
How to apply
1: Scan in the pictures or photograph (Photos must be very clear)
2: Send the digital file by email to: Luc@peacemakerfoundation.com.
The file must be received before April 22, 2015 (Earth Day).
Note:

•Remember to include the school’s name.

•Each digital file should include only one picture. (There’s no limit to how many digital files or emails you can send)

(Extra note: 25 MB max per email. If the digital files are over 25 MB then you need to send more than one email or use online storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox and send a link. We will reply to your emails to confirm they were received.)  

•Please provide each student’s name, and age category (elementary, junior or senior) within each file name.

Winners will be announced on May 1, 2015 (Labour Day), on the website:
Peacemakerfoundation.com (see ‘World Health’ + ‘Poster Competition’). After the results have been announced the certificates will be sent to schools (can be sent digitally via email or by post).
For some example posters and information about engine idling please see HERE. Please forward this text to other teachers, especially those who teach art, English, or subjects relating to health and the environment.
Thank you and best wishes!
The Peacemaker Foundation
Campaigns & Projects to Promote Health & Wellbeing
Peacemakerfoundation.com
Click here to download above text as PDF: ‘Let’s Clear the Air’ Poster Competition for Schools 2015

Click here for ideas & advice on making the posters in class

Click here to see children’s stop idling posters + video


環保海報設計大賽
本基金會將舉辦環保海報設計大賽。 海報主題為「停車熄火」或/與「環
保交通工具」。活動語言可以中文或英文進行、色彩不拘(黑白或彩色皆
可)。投稿海報的數量與大小不限。
本次競賽分成三大類:
1、高中組
2、國中組
3、國小組
每一類中擇前三名頒發獎狀,並將海報在網路上展出。第一名的海報製作成
貼紙,並發給一些需要收入的人(如:街友)來進行販賣。 所以參與可以同時
維持地球、孩子的健康、貴校的名聲,以及幫助街友生存並找到價值。
參與的方式:
1、把圖片掃描或拍照(請拍攝清晰照片) 。
2、把圖片檔案寄到:Luc@peacemakerfoundation.com.
截止日期:2015年4月22日(世界地球日)
備註:
•請務必提供學校名稱。

•一個圖片等於一個檔案。(檔案的數量沒有限制)

(Email 附件的檔案不能超過 25 MB. 檔案的大小超過的話請寄另外一個 email 或用雲存儲, 像Google Drive 或 Dropbox.  我們會回复來確認收到了您的 email.)  

•圖片檔案請在檔案名稱註明學生姓名與年級(高中,國中,國小)。

成績公布日期:2015年5月1日(勞動節)。成績會在
Peacemakerfoundation.com(’World Health’+’Poster Competition’)。
公佈成績後會把獎狀寄到學校,再由學校統一交予學生(可用電郵或郵寄)。
更多圖片與資訊請看這裡。 請協助將本訊息轉發
給校長和老師們,特別是教藝術、英文、健康與環境等相關科目教師。
謝謝! 祝 健康、平安! Thank you and best wishes!
地球和事佬
促進健康與福祉的專案活動
Peacemakerfoundation.com

下載PDF:環保海報設計大賽 (‘Let’s clear the air’ Poster competition)

想看上課時做海報相關的建議請按這裡

想看小孩子的停車息火海報請按這裡

Picture gallery work in progress

Square tiles gallery below

Thumbnail gallery below (picture size set at medium)

Square tiles + rectangle shown below

Tiled mosaic shown below

Regular pics below side by side 275 pixels (about the max)

停車清熄匙, 達到環保,健康,省錢

停車清熄匙 (香港)
(for Hong Kong)

达到环保,健康,省钱

停车清熄火 (简体字)
(Simplified Chinese Text)

Thumbnail gallery again shown below (pics medium size)