Wednesday, 21 January 2009

You Paid How Much?

The unsightly clutter of concrete and posts that has recently been installed on Prince Street Bridge was budgeted at £40,000, originally to have come out of the Cycling City budget on the grounds that it was being done to benefit cyclists. That particular ruse was promptly exposed and it now seems unlikely that Bristol City Council will get away with getting half the costs paid by the government on such dubious grounds.

So that's £40k of our money they've just spent. Let's see what we got for it. Firstly they've replaced the original 'wig-wags', the lights that flash to warn of an imminent bridge swing (yes, they were going to charge that to Cycling City!) with new ones combined with traffic signals (the old wig-wags, although recyclable, have been dumped in a skip probably destined for landfill - above). They've also installed 'deflecting' barriers to channel cars to the east side of the bridge (even heading south where no deflection is required) which most people agree look distinctly tacky.

A closer inspection of the barriers reveals some shoddy work. The concrete kerbs, laid on their sides and not properly embedded in the road, are already working loose and the end kerbs do not have rounded corners so present a sharp edge to anyone unfortunate enough to fall (or get knocked over) at the road narrowings, a very likely event given the conflict between pedestrians and cyclists engineered into the design. I and others have observed many near misses already.

Kerbs (pdf) generally have beveled or rounded edges so that they present a less damaging surface but the edges that normally but up to adjacent kerbs are sharp right angles (pic above). The contractors have evidently cut costs by using these kerbs instead of the correct kerbs designed for corners. No surprise that contractors try to 'cut corners', but why didn't anyone from the City Council spot this? Because it's not their money that they're spending, or their heads that are going to get cracked open on the kerbs?

Link to next Prince Street Bridge post


Jon Rogers said...

Hi Chris

In the interests of open government, I put your points to council officers and below are the responses.

"The Prince Street Bridge works have been funded through the Local Transport Plan Walking and Cycling allocation.

"The signals are removable and could be used elsewhere if the trial is stopped.

"The old wig wags lights were to an old specification and the new bridge barriers and wig wags will be retained if the trial is stopped and therefore will be of benefit to the city and operations of the docks."

"The kerbing arrangements were only ever intended to be temporary. This element of the works was one that we were going to review after seeing the impact of how people use the new arrangement. The kerbs can be easily moved and realigned.

"The cracking of the kerb was caused whilst the contractors were on site and we were aware of this at the time and decided that they were secure enough to remain."

There will also be an opportunity on Thursday 5th February to ask officers further questions in person on this and other "infrastructure projects". I understand that this drop in session runs between 5pm and 7pm in the Drawing Room of The Marriott Royal Hotel, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TA


Chris Hutt said...

Hi Jon, thanks for getting some feedback on that. I should have mentioned that the scheme as installed is provisional and liable to be adapted in the light of practical experience of how it works over the coming year.

But I'm surprised that the Council still intend to pay for it from cycling/walking funds. Does that mean that the Council will still be expecting Cycling England to foot half the bill?

It seems to me that the works are largely to adapt the bridge to accommodate high volumes of motor traffic. The wig-wags, the traffic signals, the concrete barriers, all are required to accommodate motor traffic and none of those elements would be required if the bridge was closed to motor traffic, which is the alternative to what has been done.

So how can it be justified to charge the measures required to accommodate motor vehicles to the cycling/walking budget when this is clearly detrimental to the interests of cyclists and walkers?

As for the kerbs being easily moved, that is the problem. Many pedestrians cross the road via the kerbs, standing on them while waiting for a gap in traffic, so I'm surprised the council officers are so relaxed about the fact that several have worked loose and gaps are opening up.

woodsy said...

As regards the old wig wags being to an 'old specification' (thanks for the info Jon!), I'm now wondering whether Bristol City Council will do its old trick - as practised with Victorian Pennant sandstone flagstones removed from Easton (or any other poor part of the city that doesn't deserve them) and they end up in one of the city's alleged 'conservation areas'.

Jimbo said...


I have yet to be convinced that this scheme gives much in the way of priority to cyclists. At least with the original arrangements you could just go with the flow in both directions over the bridge.

As for the kerbs and new signals, it seems like overkill, looks naff, probably destroyed some more sobbles and does nothing to 'conserve or enhance' the conservation area. That said, highway works are mostly (sadly) exempt from that act...

Chris Hutt said...

sobbles = cobbles?

I think most users share your view Jimbo. Only one or two of the cyclists I spoke to said it was OK but when you ask them how it actually improves things for cyclists they are at a bit of a loss.

I've been observing the bridge for some time and will be blogging on it again shortly.

Jimbo said...

Hi Chris

Apologies for my poor typing - should have read 'cobbles'...