Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Open letter to Birmingham Airport about cycling access

Michelle Thurgood, Transport Officer, Birmingham Airport

Dear Michelle,

Your colleague John Morris suggested that you are the best person to contact with regards to cycling access to the airport site.

I have had a long-term interest in the development of Birmingham airport through running, which provides flight route information and maps for all airports in the UK and Ireland. I am also a keen cyclist, and am launching as a campaign towards improving cycling facilities in and around the city of Coventry where I live. Fiets is the Dutch word for bike, and following on from the lead taken by the London Cycling Campaign, I am asking that all new development of cycling infrastructure in the area is brought up to Dutch standards.

I am aware of the existing cycle route which provides a connection between Catherine de Barnes and the Birmingham Business Park, via the airport site and the NEC. However, I have found that links between the airport and anywhere immediately to the east or west along the A45 are extremely difficult to navigate (from the National Motorcycle Museum and Sheldon respectively).

Why is cycling important on an airport site?

Whilst it is true that relatively few airline passengers will cycle to the airport, there are still numerous other reasons why enhanced cycling facilities are beneficial, the main one being the staff transport. Additionally, on a site such as yours, an integrated local transport network can provide better connections with the NEC complex and nearby hotels and business parks, all of which generate significant staff travel as well as journeys undertaken by customers.

Finally, as airports are inherently large users of restricted access land, there is always latent demand from local residents to have safe transport corridors around the site which they can use to get between different localities as well as to and from shops, schools and places of work. The Birmingham Airport area is of particular interest as it also includes the NEC complex, business parks, and the Birmingham International Station, which I use quite often.

Whilst the wider cycling network is largely the responsibility of each local authority, and of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council in particular, the airport site itself also includes a significant amount of road space.

Airport site

I would like to draw your particular attention to the cycle path as it enters the airport site from the south and crosses the main airport access road (B4438 Bickenhill Lane. Have you tried cycling across it? The cycle lane ends abruptly and cyclists are forced to make a sharp 90° turn to go across the road. If you are already on the main road, as I was last night, there is little warning to make the right turn, and vehicles behind can easily misjudge the space they need to give to cyclists, especially if they themselves are in a rush to get to the airport terminal.

Has there been any consideration of providing a designated light controlled crossing at this site, preferably at an angle of 45°?


Deathtrap one -- approaching from Hampton in Arden (Old Station Road and M42 junction 6), any cyclist or pedestrian using the pavement (very few cyclists would use the A45 at this point, even if pavement riding is still technically illegal) is faced with an abrupt end to the pavement at the start of the railway bridge. Creating a safe enough pavement on this site would no doubt be extremely expensive, but some simple signage on the roundabout could point users to the pathway on the northern side of the A45, which is much safer to use.

Deathtrap two -- approaching from Sheldon, the pavement ends shortly after the Travelodge hotel, and no facility is provided to cross to the other side. At this point, the A45 changes from having a 40mph speed limit up to 60 mph, making it extremely dangerous to cycle on. There is adequate width on this road is to provide a Dutch standard cycle lane. Is there any proposal to do this as part of the runway extension programme?

Solihull -- although a reasonably safe route exists via Catherine de Barnes, there is no signage to this route from Solihull town centre or railway station.

Coleshill -- there are numerous recreational routes approaching Coleshill from the east, and there is also sizeable demand from the town of Coleshill itself, and also from Chelmsley Wood for access to the airport and related sites. The safest route is via Coleshill Heath Road and then through the Birmingham Business Park. However, signage is poor, so there is little encouragement for new cyclists or anyone who does not already know the route.

Coventry -- a potential through route from Coventry has been earmarked as running from Lower Eastern Green via Four Oaks, Cornets End Lane and into Hampton in Arden via Marsh Lane. This would require a safe crossing of the A452 near Marsh farm. Does Birmingham airport support this route?

Sheldon country Park -- a route exists through the park to the north of the airport site, and this is clearly popular at weekends as it offers great views of the runway. However, as a means of accessing the airport site, it would benefit from a usable route on the A45 and from better signage to provide a through route via Marston Green.

I would be most interested in hearing your thoughts on these points, and in learning of your other plans to encourage more active transport users to access the airport site.

With best wishes,

 James Avery