Building an underground railway will make cycling in Bristol safer
A new Clean Air District in Bristol and the planned Underground will make cycling safer, according to council leaders.
In response to thousands of people who demanded more bike lanes and a safer cycling infrastructure, they said the light rail network and reduced pollution would improve safety.
Cyclists urged Bristol City Council to create safe bike lanes at a full council meeting after thousands signed a petition forcing debate. Opposition council members also supported calls for more secluded corridors.
The council promised the Bristol cycling strategy three years ago but it has yet to be published.
Many of the city’s bike lanes are as disjointed and disconnected, or a space shared with pedestrians causes conflict such as the path through the centre.
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 73 – and it shouldn’t be like that.”
She added, “There is a lack of protected bike lanes, no enforcement of 20 mph zones, and illegal parking everywhere. Cyclists deserve respect and equality, and not feel like second-class road users.”
“What plans do you have to make cycling safer for everyone, including grandmothers like me? I am the only grandmother I know who rides a bike around Bristol. I want it to be safer for children and the elderly.”
Recent controversies involving the removal of a bike lane on Cheltenham Road and plans to remove other bike lanes on Whiteladies Road – before the council turn – prompted about 2,000 people to participate in a demonstration, cycling around the city center and calling for safer cycling infrastructure. And more bike lanes.
Then the petition began after the demonstration, and it quickly gathered more than 3,500 signatures in support of it.
Bristol Cycling Campaign Chair Ian Bond, President of Bristol Cycling, said: “During the challenging times of the Covid lockdown, more Bristol residents are choosing to cycle, taking advantage of quieter roads. However, as traffic volumes increase again and bike lanes are removed In emergency situations, this has faded.
“Cycling is widely available, even for some people with a mobility impairment. It has a low cost of entry and very low operating costs, but is not adopted by many primarily due to safety concerns. We and our supporters ask you to make it safer and ease.”
In addition to a comprehensive citywide network of bike lanes, activists are calling for a convenient bike-sharing scheme, street bike pens, free coaching, more school streets, signposts, and secure bike parking at transportation hubs and destinations.
Read more: “We need to make space for the whole city”
According to Don Alexander, a Cabinet member for Transportation, the “biggest thing we can ever do” to improve cyclist safety is introduce a new Clean Air Zone and reduce air pollution levels.
He added that he found it “very difficult to get anything done quickly” with the City Hall highway team.
“My experience over the last 18 months in this position is that it is very difficult to get anything done quickly on the highways,” Alexander said.
“The Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Scheme is our guiding strategy and a document from the West of England.
“We are handing over most of our strategic work to the area. It has been effective, bringing in funds for Princess Victoria Street, Cotham Hill, Park Row and the Liveable Neighborhood in East Bristol.
“I want to step back a little bit from the suggestion that we haven’t done much, I spend a disproportionate amount of my time cycling.
“If we’re talking about cycling safety, perhaps the biggest thing we can ever do is give people clean air to breathe while they exercise and go through the city. Until the end of 2023, we won’t have illegal levels of pollution, anywhere in the city. “.
David Wilcox, a shadow cabinet member for transportation, said the administration’s handover of separate bike lanes was “detached from reality.”
He said: “Other Labor-led councils such as Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff are on the streets in providing infrastructure for cyclists.
These cities have demonstrated strong, bold leadership that is ready to make tough decisions when needed. We think Bristol deserves this, too.”
Wilcox said Bristol is also “having trouble delivering even the charts I’ve budgeted for”.
The Active Travel Tranche 3 schemes for Upper Maudlin Street, Old Market and Cotham Hill were approved by the Cabinet in September 2021, however Cotham Hill was only partially completed.
“This board 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 ambition to other European cities, Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney said the city needed a subway.
Cheney said: “In order to be able to do something similar to Paris and many other modern cities, we need an equivalent public transport network and that is why we want a mass transit system. It will transform transport in Bristol.”
In October Mayor Marvin Reese pledged to spend an additional £15m on plans for a new mass transit system, which will include an underground rail network.
But amid long delays and doubts over whether the underground will actually be built, Mark Weston, leader of the Conservative group, suggested the money could be better spent on improving Bristol’s walking and cycling infrastructure, or even “dig a hole and throw money in”.
What makes cycling safer and more deliverable “is if the council stops wasting money on transportation schemes that will never happen,” Weston said.
“This money can make a big difference if it’s really put into schemes that can positively improve, such as cycling path, bus improvements, or pedestrian improvements.”
Main image: Martin Booth
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