Ride for Hope (Kings Heath, Birmingham)

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Ride for Hope (Kings Heath, Birmingham)

Postby Robert » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:32 am

Hope Fennell was 13 when she was run over and killed by the driver of a heavy goods vehicle as she tried to cross Kings Heath high street in Birmingham. Many times I've used the same crossing that Hope was trying to use, the last time being after she had been killed. The crossing was simply ignoring the button presses made both by myself and others on the opposite side, so after waiting many minutes I elected to dodge the cars and cross whilst the crossing was still against me. Hope's mother had to battle to get examined both the crossing and the mobile phone records of the driver; the authorities wanted to just drop the matter. Why the phone records? Because as Hope lay dying under his truck, the driver, Darren Foster, got back in his truck and started deleting the texts he had been sending to his girlfriend as he drove across Birmingham. The manner of his driving was both illegal and dangerous. After first pleading guilty he tried to reverse his plea, but Foster was recently jailed for two months for dangerous driving and for four months for perverting the course of justice. He was told he would be released after serving half of his sentence.

Note the priorities. A crossing that prioritises motorised traffic over pedestrians, and a legal system that regards being out of a control of a heavy goods vehicle on a public highway as less important than trying to disguise that fact. Like many roads in Birmingham motorised traffic has been allowed to totally dominate Kings Heath high street for far too long, the council doing absolutely nothing of significance to eliminate the need for all that motorised traffic. To this day any attempt to change anything is greeted by the council with "it cannot be done because it would interfere with traffic flows". They then get back to designing ever bigger, ever more frightening gyratory systems and bypasses for bypasses.

September 18th should have been Hope's 15th birthday. On the following Saturday (September 21st) we will walk and cycle along Kings Heath high street to call for change.
Last edited by Robert on Mon Sep 23, 2013 11:42 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Ride for Hope (Kings Heath, Birmingham)

Postby Robert » Sun Sep 22, 2013 10:21 am

First the police tried to restrict the parade to the footpath. This would have been irresponsible and illegal, as not only were there many people in the procession, but also our number included one person on a recumbent trike, one person with her two children in a box trike, and someone towing the sound system with a trailer. I don't know the details of what was being discussed, but after a delay the police blocked the road with a van and allowed us to leave the park and pull on to the carriageway. We stopped on the high street at the point where Hope Fennel was killed by Darren Foster. When the police asked us to move on to the pavement, we stood our ground, and for a considerable length of time. Passers-by started to join us.
Image Image

Kings Heath high street has the misfortune to lie on the A435, which the city council has doggedly tried to keep as a 24/7 trunk route through to the city centre. Twenty years ago I myself was one of the many who protested when the council tried to turn Kings Heath into a multi-lane gyratory system of the type that killed Selly Oak high street (http://goo.gl/maps/f6x1h). There's a big debate in the UK at the moment about why our town centres are dying. To me the reason is blindingly obvious, but then I've stepped across the North Sea and had a look at how differently things are done in continental Europe. Here's my own suggestion for Kings Heath high street, based on a mash-up of Kings Heath and Utrecht. I leave it to you to spot the join.
The part that is Kings Heath is about one hundred metres further on from the photos at the top of the page (the buildings on the left just beyond the traffic lights can be clearly seen in my first photo). Note the segregated cycle paths. Infrastructure like that can be expected to get at least one quarter of the cars off the road. Simple, achievable, proven. Unless you're a British road planner, for whom this is "completely impossible".
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