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Traffic calming for Washwood Heath, Birmingham

Traffic calming for Washwood Heath, Birmingham

Birmingham City Council were concerned about high traffic casualty rates in the Washwood Heath neighbourhood of Birmingham, and commissioned Ove Arup and Partners to study ways of reducing traffic speeds and giving greater priority to the living functions of the streets. It was innovative for the time by including the main district "high street" (Alum Rock Road) as well as the residential streets. Tim Pharoah was brought into the Arup team to add specialist expertise in traffic calming, including experience from other countries.

The challenge was to find a re-arrangement of scarce road space that would create a better pedestrian and trading environment, but at the same time allow reasonable vehicle movement and parking. At the time, traffic calming techniques and philosophy were relatively untried in the UK, and widely distrusted by traffic and highway engineers as well as by some sections of the general public. The focus therefore was in trying to get concepts accepted, and with hindsight a more collaborative approach could have borne more fruit.

Almost two decades later, little had changed on the ground and casualties were still a major concern. A "Streets Ahead in Road Safety" project for Alum Rock Road emphasised the high child pedestrian casualty rates and featured in a World Health Organisation report in 2008 (European Report on Child Injury Prevention). The area became the subject of an inner city road safety demonstration project, carried out by WSP for the Department of Transport (published March 2011).

LocationBirmingham England
Client(s)Birmingham City Council
Team(s)Tim Pharoah with Ove Arup & Partners


Traffic calming, speed management, environmental traffic management, Washwood Heath, Alum Rock Road, Birmingham

images (3)

Children at risk in Washwood Heath, Birmingham (taken in 1992). This image demonstrates all too clearly the need for a more pedestrian-friendly street design in Washwood Heath.
Alum Rock Road has a rich and diverse mix of activities, but the street is often dominated by the demands of vehicle movement. The aim was to make better provision for the needs of people of foot and deliveries.
An unpleasant environment for pedestrians, and little space for socialising or sojourn. (Taken May 1992) Alum Rock Road, Washwood Heath, Birmingham

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