We visit one of the most dangerous roads in Birmingham & nearly got knocked over

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‘Drivers don’t care about pedestrians’ - Birmingham Hay Mills residents speak out months after a child’s death on a neighbourhood road

Hay Mills in east Birmingham looks like any other neighbourhood in the city. In the morning, residents can be seen rushing to get to work, as parents urge kids to walk faster to get to the primary school nearby, and workers unload wares to take into shops. 

However, a thought lingers at the back of their minds: ‘Will the oncoming traffic stop long enough for us to cross the road safely?’ 

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Only a few months ago, in the summer, a 12-year-old child - Azaan Khan - lost his life in a road traffic collision while riding his bicycle on Coventry Road - which passes through Hay Mills. 

A vigil was held in his memory by the community, who are still waiting to see real change. 

Azaan's death wasn't the only one that shook communities across Birmingham in the summer. He was one of seven people, including four cyclists, who died in seven weeks on Birmingham roads between the beginning of May and the third week of June.

Since then, a community organisation, Better Streets for Birmingham, has been campaigning for safer roads free of dangerous driving. They have hosted several demonstrations on popular roads including Belgrave Middleway, Harborne High Street, and Kings Heath to highlight the “epidemic” of dangerous driving. 

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Better Streets for Birmingham demonstration in Hay MillsBetter Streets for Birmingham demonstration in Hay Mills
Better Streets for Birmingham demonstration in Hay Mills

‘Drivers don’t care about pedestrians’

I visited Hay Mills through which the 40mph Coventry Road/A45 passes and spoke to residents about what it’s like to live there. 

I took a Number 60 NXWM bus from Moor Street St to Kings Road bus stop on Wednesday morning (November 22) and the commute was a long one for the amount of distance. It’s just a little over three miles but the road works on the route and heavy traffic increases the travel time.   

The congestion eased off the closer we got to Hay Mills as the road broadened into a dual carriageway. 

On reaching my destination, I headed to the junction opposite Redhill Primary School. The busy traffic zoomed past on Coventry Road in front of me, however, when cars wanted to turn into Berkeley Road, it was obvious that there was a potential risk for the safety of pedestrians. 

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Cars have to slow down to 30mph while going into Berkeley Road, but residents hoping to cross the road have no pedestrian lights to aid them. When I crossed Berkeley Road, a van was already moving into it while I was still crossing, almost knocking me over. And, the same happened to several others people looking to cross the road, within an hour’s time. 

However, this wasn’t even the scariest part. Residents I spoke to opened up about their fears of crossing Coventry Road to get to the other side - where the school is.   

One parent, Ghulam Abbas, told me: “The public is not caring about the pedestrians, they can crush everyone. I think the speed should be 30mph. U-turn is forbidden here as you can see, but drivers still do it. They don't care about the pedestrians. Even sometimes when a pedestrian is crossing, they will not stop.”

Coventry Road in Hay Mills Coventry Road in Hay Mills
Coventry Road in Hay Mills

As he pointed out the U-turn forbidden sign to me, a car made an illegal turn in front of our eyes. Ghulam said: “You can see what it’s like.” 

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He added: “It’s not just about children but also parents and the elderly. We are also worried when we cross, we don't feel safe. Actually, the main thing is that everyone who is crossing this junction is not feeling safe.” 

“We complained to the [Redhill Primary] school and we did so many protests as well, but nothing changed. They said there are no funds for a traffic warden.” 

Another parent, Mohammed, who has 10 and 11 year old children, told me: “This junction is too difficult to cross. The 40mph speed limit is fine but something needs to change since there is a school nearby.” 

One cyclist, Paul, who was cycling on the pavement on his way to work said: “This is a very bad road and that is why I won’t ride on it.” 

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Local resident, MohammedLocal resident, Mohammed
Local resident, Mohammed

Further down the road, 83-year-old Blossom Williams, who is a longtime resident of Hay Mills said: “Sometimes, the cars drive too fast. Sometimes, when you are on this stop and one side is giving way when it's your turn to cross and another car will just zip across. 

“So, you gotta be careful when you cross the pedestrian crossing even though the lights are there that say go. You know, especially at my age. I don’t tend to walk even when it says stop and instead, just hurry across as fast as possible.” 

Being able to go about our daily lives safely seems like a no-brainer but the community, especially pedestrians and cyclists, in Hay Mills are still waiting for measures to keep their families, friends and themselves safe.  

Redhill Primary School have been contacted for their comment. 

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What is being done to make Birmingham’s road safer?

Mat MacDonald, the co-chair of Better Streets for Birmingham, told BirminghamWorld: “It’s deeply unfair that the residents of Hay Mills run the gauntlet of seven lanes of traffic, many of them with young children in tow, often several times per day, just to get about the area where they live. The standards of driving here are appalling, as they are across the city – we saw 38 drivers on their mobile phones in the space of one hour at this junction when the schools were closing, right next to the flowers laid out in memory of Azaan Khan who was so tragically killed this summer.

"We need to be more aware of our responsibilities behind the wheel, where it is all too easy to forget the impact our actions can have. And while we are very happy that the council are going to reduce the speed limit here from 40 to 30mph, more needs to be done to make this area safe. It is all to easy to speed on this road, which looks and feels more like a motorway than a street in a densely populated urban area. Reclaiming some of this space for the community from those who are simply driving through would not only reduce speeding, but would also send a strong and reassuring signal that the council is making the happiness, wellbeing and safety of Hay Mills’ residents its top priority here."

Shivaji Shiva, of Better Streets for Birmingham, had previously said: “We’re demanding the council recognises this situation for the emergency that it is, and to use all the powers it has to address it.

“We want to see a serious police response to the extraordinarily bad driving causing immense strain on our streets. We want that action – and we’d like to see it now.”

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Taking note of the residents’ concerns, West Midlands Police launched Operation Triton to tackle dangerous driving but residents want more to be done. 

Operation Triton launched in August in a coordinated response by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), West Midlands Police (WMP), Birmingham City Council, and the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner. 

Since August, hundreds of careless and dangerous motorists have been caught by footage sent to the police by the public as part of a crackdown, according to West Midlands Combined Authority.

In October alone, 734 cases were submitted by people and just over 80% resulted in drivers either receiving warning letters, education courses, fines, or court appearances. 

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The Birmingham City Council also plans to take action by reducing the speed limit to 30mph on 25 main roads that currently have a speed limit of 40mph. Following concerns about dangerous and anti-social behaviour from drivers, the council committed to reducing speed limits across the city pending consultation.

They say they want to reduce speed, improve road safety and encourage active travel such as walking and cycling. 

 Cllr Liz Clements, cabinet member for transport, told BirminghamWorld: “We need to prioritise people and ensure communities are safer so reducing the speed on our roads is an obvious and important part of our wider plans for how people and goods move around the city and we know that residents are deeply concerned about road safety, especially those who live near busy main roads."

Here are the 25 Birmingham roads that could see the speed limit drop from 40mph to 30mph

  • A34 Walsall Road, Perry Barr, Old Walsall Road to Old Park Walk (near Bartons Arms)

  • A4041 Queslett Road/Queslett Road East, Perry Barr/Oscott/Sutton Vesey, Chester Road North to Hamble Road (approaching Scott Arms)

  • A452 Chester Road, Sutton Coldfield/Erdington/Pype Hayes/Castle Vale, Greenway Drive to city boundary

  • A5127 Lichfield Road, Sutton Mere Green, Bishops Way to Blake Street (city boundary)

  • Webster Way, Sutton Walmley & Minworth, Walmley Ash Road to Thimble End Road

  • Ox Leys Road, Sutton Walmley & Minworth, Springfield Road to Fox Hollies Road

  • Walmley Ash Lane/ Cottage Lane, Sutton Walmley & Minworth, Walmley Ash Road to Lindridge Drive

  • A38/B4148 Tyburn Road, Gravelly Hill, Salford Circus to Chester Road

  • B4148 Eachelhurst Road, Sutton Walmley & Minworth/Pype Hayes, Chester Road to railway bridge

  • A38 Kingsbury Road, Erdington/Pype Hayes, Tyburn Road to Minworth Island (also short section of A4097 Kingsbury Road)

  • A4097 Kingsbury Road, Castle Vale/Pype Hayes/Sutton Coldfield, Wiggins Hill Road to city boundary

  • A452 Chester Road, Castle Vale/Pype Hayes/Sutton Vesey, from the new Aldi just before the Tyburn House pub down to Newport Road

  • B4147 Newport Road, Castle Vale/Pype Hayes/Sutton Vesey, Chester Road to Coleshill Road

  • A47 Heartlands / Fort Parkway, Erdington/Castle Vale, Saltley Viaduct to Chester Road (Spitfire Island)

  • A47 Nechells Parkway, Nechells, Ring Road to Goodrick Way including the end of Jennens Road

  • A4540 Ring Road, Multiple wards, full length except where already 30mph

  • A45 Small Heath Highway, Bordesley Green/Small Heath, just east of rail bridge to Heybarnes Circus

  • A45 Coventry Road, Tyseley & Hay Mills/South Yardley, Heybarnes Circus to city boundary at Hatchford Brook

  • Monmouth Drive, Sutton Vesey, Somerville Road through to Chester Road

  • Weeford Road, Sutton Roughley, Tamworth Road to just before Camp Road

  • A441 Redditch Road, Kings Norton/Longbridge & West Heath, Burford Park Road to city boundary at Longbridge Lane

  • A38 Bristol Road South, Rubery/Rednal, Great Park to city boundary at Leach Green Lane

  • B4121 Wolverhampton Road South, West Boulevard, Barnes Hill, Shenley Lane, Allens Cross/Bartley Green/Weoley & Selly Oak/Quinton/Harborne, Hagley Road West to near Burdock Road

  • A456 Hagley Road West, Quinton, Lordswood Road to Quinton Road

  • A41 Hockley Flyover, Newtown/Soho & Jewellery Quarter/Lozells, Key Hill to Soho

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