You know how it is when you read a newspaper report about something that you happen to know about and you're aghast at how many facts are just plain wrong, not to mention the malicious spin put on it to serve editorial purposes. So it is with Bristol City Council press releases.
The press release which contained the revelation about Prince Street Bridge having just one footway is in fact a masterpiece of deception with no less than ten misleading or untrue statements within its 16 paragraphs. Here's a breakdown.
Para 1. "the city council and its partners prepare ... to turn the south west's biggest city into one of the best places in Europe to be on a bike."
Wrong. It's ludicrous to claim that Bristol could become one of Europe's best places to cycle. It's never going to be in the same league as cities like Copenhagen (dk), Malmo (se), Amsterdam (nl), Ferrara (it), Basel (ch) and Muenster (de).
Para 2. “Plans …. include two new major ‘off-road’ commuter routes”
Wrong. The off-road routes proposed are not "new" but upgrades or extensions of existing routes and not even major ones at that.
Para 4. “Councillor Mark Bradshaw… said: Our city already has a tremendous range of facilities and routes for cycling”
Wrong. With the exception of the Railway Path, facilities and routes for cyclists are widely regarded as poor quality and ill-thought out.
Para 7. “The city council is prepared to take some tough decisions, such as tackling safety concerns on Prince Street Bridge”
Wrong. The tough decision would have been to close the bridge entirely to cars and assign one half to walkers and the other to cyclists. As it is they’ve opted for the easy option of keeping it open to cars and forcing cyclists and walkers to share an inadequate width.
Para 9. “One of the new ‘off-road’ routes proposed …. will link the city centre with Lockleaze …. via a new path between Hopetown (sic) Road in St Werburgh’s and Muller Road, Horfield.”
Wrong. The path from Hopetoun Road to Muller Road already exists and has been used by cyclists for 20 years or more.
Para 10. “The other new ‘off road’ route ….. will enable cyclists to travel into the city centre from south Bristol via Hartcliffe Way and an improved Malago Greenway”
Wrong. Cyclists can already cycle this route and have been doing so for 20 years. Upgrading the route does not make it “new”.
Para 12. “The first phase of Cycling City work also proposes to deliver an improved route for cyclists and pedestrians alike across the city’s Prince Street bridge.”
Wrong. There is no evidence that the route will be improved for cyclists who will find themselves forced onto half the width they currently enjoy and probably into conflict with pedestrians.
Para 12. “This narrow swing bridge over the historic Floating Harbour has a slim pavement on one side only and poses a danger for cyclists…”
Wrong. There are pavements on both sides and there is no evidence of significant danger from this to cyclists.
Para 12. “The Cycling City proposal will see the introduction of more space for cyclists …”
Wrong. Cyclists will have less space than they enjoy at present and it isn't even clear how pedestrians will benefit.
Para 13. “Initial improvements … will include new direction and information signs for the popular Bristol to Bath ‘Railway’ Path through eastern and central Bristol”
Wrong. The Railway Path does not go “through” central Bristol, just east Bristol.
As if all that wasn't enough the author of the press release, Simon Carplan, made a comment on the Bristol Blogger site yesterday complaining that his colleague Kate Hartas had been criticised for writing the misleading press release when in fact he had written it (but not put his name to it).
Carplan went on to claim that "the decision to focus on the proposals for Prince Street Bridge in this piece of publicity .... was deliberate and designed to ensure that the council were open and honest with the public about the scheme". But the news about Prince Street Bridge is hardly the focus of the press release, that being Cycling City.
It would be closer to the truth to say that the Prince Street Bridge news was ‘buried away’ inside the Cycling City news. It doesn’t get a mention until the 7th para and isn’t dealt with until 12th para. That doesn’t sound like a “focus on the bridge” to me, given that they knew very well that it was easily the most contentious element.
And it really is stooping low to try to ‘blame’ the Prince Street Bridge restrictions on cyclists so we get the flak in the Evil Post. Cyclists, rightly or wrongly, get a lot of resentment from motorists and pedestrians. Fanning the flames by saying the traffic restrictions are required to benefit cyclists is hardly consistent with the stated aims of Cycling City.