Thursday, 15 January 2009

More Trouble at t'Path

The Bristol & Bath Railway Path has rarely been out of headlines over the last year, from the time last January when Bristol City Council's proposals to turn it into a bus route broke until they were 'shelved' in April and supposedly dealt a 'death blow' in June (just as the Council submitted its bid for Cycling City status), then the outbreak of violent muggings in June, followed by controversy over the Council backed land grab to expand the Chocolate Factory development onto the Railway Path land and finally various incidents of assault.

This year so far the focus is on a spate of 'accidents', often resulting in nasty injuries to cyclists. First there were large numbers of accidents caused by ice on the Path (and elsewhere - see pic above) during the cold weather. It turned out that the Council had no arrangements in place for gritting cycle paths although main roads are systematically treated well in advance of freezing weather. This contrasts with the practice in truly cycle friendly countries like Holland and Denmark where cycle paths are treated in just the same way as any other strategically important route.

Now crashes are apparently being caused by inadequate marking of 'roadworks' being carried out on the Path to repair root damage (below). Path users have been asking for the root damage to be repaired for many, many years and it was only after the city was awarded Cycling City status in June that the Council finally decided they couldn't shirk their responsibilities any longer.

So cyclists are pleased that the root damage was to be repaired at last, but the sting in the tail is that works are being left in an unsafe condition overnight, especially on the unlit sections of the Path around Fishponds and Staple Hill. Hindsight suggest that a condition of any contract let for such works should specify that the Path should be reinstated by the end of each day. It should be perfectly practical to cut open the damaged section, dig out the root and reinstate the surface within a few hours.

Comments posted on the online Post article are telling.
"I raised this issue with the cycling team at BCC a few weeks ago, they referred me onto the person in The Parks Dept who was responsible for the contract. I left a number of messages with them, to date, I am still waiting for them to 'phone me back."
"I was really annoyed by this as well. I very nearly came off my bike but managed to balance myself at the last second. However the impact on my bikes wheel caused me to get a puncture which meant I had to walk all the way home from Fishponds to Hotwells....On a freezing cold night this was not fun!! My colleague wrote to the council a few months ago informing them that this part of the cycle path was pitch black and that she did not feel safe, she is still awaiting a reply."
Once again the competence of the City Council to manage the Path (or anything else) is called into question.

Questions also arise about the recording of cycle path 'accidents'. Unless injuries are quite severe it's unlikely that any the the hundreds of injury accidents that occur on cycle paths will be recorded by the police. This gives the impression of cycle paths being much safer than they are and perhaps that leads to complacency when it comes to safety management.


DocSavage said...

It's not just the lack of gritting, but the overall year on year lack of maintenance for existing cycle tracks across Bristol.
You'd have thought that an obvious low cost but high return priority for the Cycling City was perhaps to clean up, repair and re paint or re sign the routes that are heavily used day after day.
Castle Park perhaps - maybe repaint with red, and add some clear cycle path markings to help those peds who drifting away to their iTunes seem to enjoy strolling in front of bikes.
What about Coronation Road where (an already shambolic)split footpath has just been left to rot.
is it too much to ask? Looking on the CTC site it seems as Bristol is managing a less than impressive 50% recorded repair rate on reported road defencies, that repairs to cycle facilities will fall some way behind that.

Out of interest, if someone flags a potential hazard to the council, and subsequently an injury is incurred, is there not liability?

Forest Pines said...

I'm guessing that the contractors responsible may well have separate "digging hole" and "filling hole up" teams. I've had a big hole left outside my house recently - by contractors working for Bristol Water, not the council. All the important work on it was finished on their first day on site, but then the hole was left open for a few days waiting for the filling-it-up crew to come along.

(It's still not finished - they've backfilled it, but not made good the road surface. So there may well be three teams involved on something like that)

It all makes sense for resource allocation, I guess, but if anything like that goes on it's vital that things be left safe at the end of each day.

Anonymous said...

Just to point out, that the Railway Path is managed by Bristol's Parks department as a linear park, and not as a transport corridor... hence the troubles with repairing damage and gritting.

Anonymous said...

I think the gritting is important because the path is dangerous if its icy. I can't understand why you think the tree roots are a hazard. Please can you explain? Pedestrians moving sideways across the path without looking around first are more dangerous than tree roots.

Chris Hutt said...

Sorry if it's not clear but it was the works in progress to repair the sections damaged by tree roots which was proving to be dangerous, not the tree root damage itself.

However my experience is that the tree root damage made using the Path very uncomfortable, especially for normal road bikes and even more so for anything with narrower tyres.

Acesabe said...

Just heard of a friend who is intending to buy a house close to 'the path' Easton area, her solicitor did some digging around and has advised her not to buy the house - why not, well - it seems plans are still afoot to have the bus route in place by 2011! Will post more info when I get this space...

Anonymous said...

And a bus is definitely going to be more scary than sideways pedestrians, tree roots and works to the surface put together

If public opinion can't stop it the credit crunch will