Building an underground railway will make cycling in Bristol safer | So Good News
Bristol’s new Clean Air Zone and planned underground will make cycling safer, according to council chiefs.
Responding to thousands of people calling for more cycle lanes and safer cycling infrastructure, they said a light rail network and less pollution would improve safety.
Cyclists urged Bristol City Council to install safe cycle lanes at a full council meeting after thousands signed a petition forcing a debate. Opposition councilors also supported calls for more segregated lanes.
A cycling strategy for Bristol was promised by the council three years ago but has yet to be published.
Many bike lanes in the city are disjointed and disjointed, or share space with pedestrians causing conflict like the path through downtown.
Cecilia Farren told the meeting on Tuesday that she loves “the freedom and exercise that cycling gives me, but most people think I’m crazy for cycling at the age of 73 – and it shouldn’t be like that”.
She added: “There is a lack of protected cycle lanes, no enforcement of 20km/h zones and illegal parking everywhere. Cyclists deserve respect and equality, and should not be made to feel like second class road users.
“What plans do you have to make cycling safer for everyone, including grandmothers like me? I’m the only grandma I know who cycles around Bristol. I want it to be safer for children and the elderly.”
Recent controversies involving the removal of a cycle lane on Cheltenham Road and plans to remove other cycle lanes on Whiteladies Road – ahead of a U-turn in the council – prompted around 2,000 people to take part in a demonstration, cycling around the city center and calling for safer cycling infrastructure and several cycle lanes.
The petition was then started after the demonstration, quickly gathering more than 3,500 signatures in support.
Bristol Cycling Campaign Chair Ian Pond, chairman of Bristol Cycling, said: “Through the tough times of the Covid lockdowns, more Bristolians chose to cycle and take advantage of the quieter roads. However, as traffic volumes increased again and the emergency cycle lanes were removed, this slipped away.
“Cycling is widely available, even for some of those with reduced mobility. It has a low entry cost and very low running costs, but it is not adopted by many, primarily due to safety concerns. We and our supporters ask you to make it safer and easier.”
As well as an extensive city-wide network of cycle lanes, campaigners are calling for a proper cycle-sharing scheme, on-street cycle hangars, free training, more school streets, signposting and secure cycle parking at transport hubs and destinations.
Read more: ‘We have to free up space for the whole city’
According to Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport, the “biggest thing we can ever do” to improve safety for cyclists is to bring in the new Clean Air Zone and reduce air pollution levels.
He added that he found it “very difficult to get anything done quickly” with the highways team at City Hall.
“My experience over the last 18 months of being in this role is that it’s very difficult to get anything done quickly on motorways,” Alexander said.
“The Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan is our guiding strategy and a document from the West of England.
“We leave most of our strategy work to the region. It has been effective, raising money for Princess Victoria Street, Cotham Hill, Park Row and a Liveable Neighborhood in east Bristol.
“I would like to retract the suggestion that we haven’t been able to do much, I spend a disproportionate amount of my time cycling.
“If we’re talking about cycling safety, probably the biggest thing we can ever do is give people clean air to breathe when they’re exercising and riding across the city. By the end of 2023, we’ll no longer have illegal levels of pollution, anywhere in town.”
David Wilcox, shadow cabinet member for transport, said the administration’s delivery of segregated cycleways is “detached from reality”.
He said: “Other Labour-led councils such as Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff are streets ahead of us in delivering infrastructure for cyclists.
“These cities have shown strong courageous leadership and are prepared to make difficult decisions when necessary. We think Bristol deserves this too.”
Wilcox said Bristol also “has a problem delivering even the schemes they have budgeted for”.
The Active Travel Tranche 3 schemes for Upper Maudlin Street, Old Market and Cotham Hill were approved by Cabinet in September 2021, but only Cotham Hill is partially complete.
“This council needs to start taking the opportunity to work with Active Travel England seriously or face an unnecessary loss of funding,” Wilcox said.
Asked why Bristol could not act with similar ambitions to other European cities, deputy mayor Craig Cheney said the city needed an underground metro.
Cheney said: “To be able to do something similar to Paris, and many other modern cities, we need a similar public transport network, which is why we have the ambition of a public transport system. It will transform transport in Bristol.”
In October, Mayor Marvin Rees pledged to spend a further £15m on plans for a new mass transport system, which will include an underground rail network.
But amid long delays and doubts over whether the Underground will ever actually be built, Mark Weston, leader of the Conservative group, suggested money could be better spent on improving walking and cycling infrastructure in Bristol, or even “digging a hole and throw money in”.
Weston said what would make safer cycling more deliverable “is if the council stops wasting money on transport schemes that are never going to happen”.
“That money could make a huge difference if it was actually put into schemes that could make a positive improvement, such as a bike lane, bus improvements or pedestrian improvements.”
Main photo: Martin Booth
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