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


  1. Reply as follows:

    Dear James,
    Firstly thank you for your email and taking the time to raise these points with us.
    Birmingham Airport is committed to improving accessibility onto the Airport site and have over the previous years, invested heavily in improving opportunities for Airport users, and visitors, to travel by alternative modes, including cycling.
    This is set to be continued with schemes associated with the Runway Extension, which including a number of commitments relating to cycling, including a contribution to the Marston Green/Sheldon Country Park cycle route and ensuring that a cycle route is provided along the diverted A45 Coventry Road between the Clock Junction and Damson Parkway Junction. These two cycle routes will significantly improve the environment for cyclists towards Sheldon and the A45.
    Along the A45 from the M42 Junction 6 direction, there will be improvements made to the pavement along this route, however the scheme details are yet to be finalised but I would anticipate that an adequate pedestrian/cycling route would be incorporated into any scheme proposals.
    Anyone cycling from Old Station Road does indeed have the option of cycling along the A45, or alternatively carrying on around the roundabout to the northern pavement and cycling in this direction along the dedicated cycling route. We would fully support signage to route people in this direction, however must be aware of the risks of cycling around a junction such as Junction 6 to reach this path. For anyone cycling from Hampton-in-Arden, especially those who are less confident on major roads, I would be much more likely to suggest cycling along Shadowbrook Lane and then along Catherine-de-Barnes Lane, thus picking up an improved cycle route.
    Signage around Solihull Town Centre and the Rail Station towards Birmingham Airport or villages such as Catherine de Barnes would need to be explored by Solihull MBC, however Birmingham Airport would of course welcome an increase in directional signage.
    Routes from destinations such as Coleshill are the responsibility of the various local authorities, including North Warwickshire District Council, Solihull MBC and Birmingham City Council. Signage and guidance is essential. Birmingham Airport would be glad to see an increase in directional signage for cyclists in this area and would be more than happy to discuss their plans in this topic.
    As your email states, a limited number of passengers choose to access the Airport site by cycle, however we do provide secure cycle parking for anyone who chooses to access the site by bike and our website provides a range of information.
    We are promoting cycling to employees actively, as part of the Birmingham Airport Travel Plan, which fully engages all onsite organisations and aims to work with neighbouring employers, including the NEC and Birmingham Business Park. All employees have access to cycle parking and most employees can access clothes lockers etc in their bases.
    Promotions of cycling related schemes and encouraging employers to sign up to the Cycle to Work scheme is an important part of our promotion, as is ensuring that cyclists (and potential cyclists!) are aware of the various options available to them – therefore personalised travel advise can be sought and access to personalised cycling maps if requested.
    We also work closely with local cycling officers at Solihull and Birmingham Councils and promote cycle training for anyone who would benefit.
    There is plenty more to do and this is a challenge I am looking forward to working on over the comings months and years.
    Best Regards,

    Michelle Thurgood
    Transport Specialist
    Birmingham Airport

  2. Thank you for giving attention to the cycling community. Going to the airport is a pain especially on holidays where the traffic doubles. Using a bicycle will lessen the traffic not to mention the health benefits when using it. This maybe the reason why they offercheap airport parking Birmingham rates because there are lots of airport workers uses bicycle when going to the airport.