Customer story: Birmingham City Council

Transport Planning Process
'screenshot of 'Birmingham City Council
'screenshot of 'Birmingham City Council

Getting public input on Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs)

With a population of more than a million people, and some 21,000 staff, Birmingham City Council, UK is Europe's largest council.

Like many local authorities, Birmingham use Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders to try and improve transportation in their neighbourhoods. They collect public input and feedback on these measures online via Citizen Space.

Experimental Traffic Orders are brought in to allow rapid testing of new traffic and transport measures programme. – things like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, pop-up cycle lanes or e-scooters.

Birmingham's approach is to enact an ETRO for an initial trial period and then, a few months into its operation, ask the public for early impressions and feedback.

So they might roll out a small number of e-scooters in one area, give people the chance to get used to seeing them, try them out themselves and then see how they feel about the idea. Birmingham use this public input as part of their review process, to help inform decisions about whether or not to continue with the new measure or scheme.

Since adopting Citizen Space in 2011, Birmingham have ensured that residents can give feedback online on every single one of their ETROs via the platform.

Making it easy to participate

Birmingham go out of their way to make it as simple as possible for residents to find, understand and give feedback on ETROs. Council staff have also done an excellent job of using every digital tool at their disposal to make these ETRO consultations as comprehensive and as user-friendly as possible.

Finding ETROs

All Experimental Traffic Orders are listed on Birmingham's Citizen Space Hub – and they're also thoroughly titled, described and categorised, to make them easy for members of the public to find. If someone only wants to know about things happening in Holyhead, or is only interested in cycling schemes, residents can easily filter consultations by ward/area and search by postcode or key term to find ETROs that are relevant to them.

Responses via online survey

For every ETRO, Birmingham invite public feedback via online survey – allowing people to work their way through a guided series of straightforward questions, rather than simply firing off an email to a general inbox or contact form. This makes it easier both for Birmingham to analyse and report on responses received and for the public to submit meaningful, useful input.

Process explained throughout

Birmingham are also diligent in making sure the ETRO feedback process is clear to respondents at every stage:

  • every consultation has a prominent start and end date
  • each online survey has a progress bar, showing the participant where they are in the process
  • the survey introduction explains, clearly and simply, the difference between lodging an objection and making a comment on an ETRO. Users are given instructions on how to do either.
  • at the end of the survey, Birmingham set out, in straightforward language, how they will use the information submitted and what will happen next with the feedback received.

This gives respondents confidence in the general process – and also, very practically, helps people to actually fill out and submit the survey, ensuring good completion rates.

Consistent value

Birmingham City Council have been using Citizen Space since 2011, bringing all of their public engagement activity into their 'Be Heard' Hub.

The resulting familiarity for staff – and expectation from citizens – of participating online has proven to be even more valuable during the Covid pandemic. With in-person events or door-to-door surveys an impossibility in lockdown, a digital platform for public feedback has become vital.

And, whether it's handling a handful of local objections or thousands of in-depth comments, Birmingham have been able to make a consistent and convenient offer to its citizens to express their views online.

Citizen Space meets perfectly the part of our Consultation and Engagement Strategy requiring digital formal consultation. Our staff have taken to it easily and we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Kaja Carson, Policy Manager, Birmingham City Council

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