Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Carnival noisiest ever

We've now had the official decibel readings for the Carnival and also some feedback via our residents' surveys from neighbouring roads such as Curbar Road.

Two years ago we asked residents of Curbar for feedback on that year's carnival and had very few complaints.

This year it is different and it is hardly surprising.

The decibel limit for the reading is meant to be 65 dbA. It rapidly reached 70 dbA and during the evening hit 80 dbA in readings taken at the adjoining Perry Villa estate.

It then peaked at 84 dbA during the live band performance. Over 80 dbA is a level at which an employer would have to provide ear protectors. It was apparently the loudest outside event ever held in Birmingham.

It was notable when the procession arrived that every float packed heavy sound equipment and frequently little else. In addition we understand a number of unauthorised stalls were set up.

This will come to the ward committee on October 1st to be held at Perry Hall Methodist Church, Rocky Lane.

The truth is that this level of noise is unacceptable. Some people may enjoy it but it also deters others and makes the Carnival a non-inclusive event.

We think it's time for a fundamental review of this event. It could be made better and more enjoyable and involve more people across Birmingham.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Making the buses better

Ward councillor Jon Hunt was appointed lead member for bus and highways at the West Midlands passenger transport authority a few weeks ago.

Jon reports here:
This doesn't mean I'm running the buses but does give me a key role in pushing for improvements. It's not rocket science - people will use buses if they are reliable, safe and comfortable.

We've been pushing through the city council for some time for these things to happen in face of steep falls in the number of bus users.

I've been pleased to be involved in my first few weeks in promoting a new ground-breaking partnership with Travel West Midlands. This involves TWM and the PTA/Centro investing in six routes to see what achievements can be achieved.

This has been approved by the PTA and a signing with TWM is imminent. The project involves more buses on some routes, new and refurbished buses, electronic signing, including some of the new electronic interchange signs and new bus stops. You can see one at the Fox and Goose - it's as good as the displays at New Street Station. There will also be text messaging available to find out how buses are doing and CCTV at bus stops.

Several of the affected routes pass through this ward, travelling from parts of Walsall down the Aldridge Road to One Stop. Here's the list:

Route 1, Acocks Green to Moseley and Five Ways. Changed from every 20 minutes to 12 minutes with further improvements at weekends.

377: Walsall to Sutton Coldfield, 20 to 12 minutes.

934: Birmingham to Pheasey via Kingstanding. From 30 minutes to 20.

933: Birmingham to Streetley via Kingstanding. From 30 minutes to 20.

997: Birmingham to Aldridge and Walsall. From 20 minutes to 15.

451: West Bromwich to Sutton Coldfield via Scott Arms. Improved buses and stops.

The three 934, 933 and 997 routes are likely to get new buses with good air conditioning, I understand.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Carnival time

It was the hottest day for months yesterday for the Birmingham Carnival and it brought out the crowds in their thousands.

Perry Park was heaving with people to an unprecedented level, having a great party.

We wanted to know whether the extra steps that had been taken would reduce traffic pressures.

Two years ago the procession was 90 minutes late setting off, leading to road closures being extended and thousands of cars blocking off the Aldridge Road.

This year the procession left on time and was just half an hour late.

From our point of view the event was not problem-free and calls of complaint have been trickling in today about different aspects. Some are distressing to hear about like the woman who was prevented from driving to her home off the Walsall Road when it was closed at Tower Hill. She had an access pass but some jobsworth could not be bothered to use their head to let her through.

The ward councillors spent the day trouble-shooting. We learnt early in the day that a number of roads, mainly smallish cul-de-sacs, had not received residents' access passes. There will need to be an inquiry as to why. It means that about 100 passes went astray. So we went on the doors getting passes for residents who needed them and explaining to others what to do if they did decide to go out.

The big issue for the carnival is to get cars into official car parking spaces and sadly this continues to be problematic. At about 5pm we noticed Perry Avenue and the access to car parking in Perry Hall Park had been closed and a few minutes later that barricades protecting Derrydown Road had been closed. Thankfully event manager Kevin Brown was in the neighbourhood and he and Jon Hunt rapidly walked the patch.

We found that stewards were operating Chinese whispers, passing on incorrect messages there was no more room. Additional problems were caused because the cricket pitch south of Rocky Lane was meant to have been used for parking - instead two cricket teams got on to it and nobody moved them off or reported the matter to the right managers. It didn't matter - there was space for cars if they could be directed into the car park - a whole grass area that could be used. So that free car park was reopened.

Thankfully Derrydown was only open for a short while but maybe a dozen vehicles got up there. All this may have contributed to problems on Beeches Road and Dyas Avenue as during the procession cars were coming north up Walsall Road without being directed to car parking.

However a walk to the other side of Perry Park revealed mayhem on the Aldridge Road. In future private properties here should be included in the exclusion zone. There were hundreds of cars here jammed on to every pavement and grass verge. Some more cars could have been admitted to the car parks in Perry Park - again too hastily closed - but only a fraction.

Two years ago the problem was the procession starting so late. That was solved. Four years ago the exclusion zone broke down as stewards abandoned their posts under pressure from aggressive visitors. That was solved as the police provided back-up on key junctions. And in addition the ward councillors insisted on being represented on planning groups. It feels like different problems are being solved each time.

Conclusion: there were hiccups in the running of things this year but if there was a traffic problem, it was almost certainly because of unexpectedly large numbers of people. If future events take place, they must put adequate resources in to car-parking and properly stewarding cars into car parks.