Monday, 16 February 2009

New Threat to Railway Path

You might think that being designated Cycling City might persuade Bristol City Council to take some pride in the success of the Bristol & Bath Railway Path as a long distance cycling route and the valuable contribution it makes to accommodating peak commuter flows in our congested city. But it appears not....

They are now proposing to introduce "traffic calming" on the Railway Path, in association with the current proposals to redevelop the Chocolate Factory at Greenbank. Followers of this blog will know well enough the long-running sorry saga of the Chocolate Factory and George Ferguson's attempt to squeeze a narrow terrace of housing onto the bank of the Railway Path under the guise of "cycle houses" and the clandestine land deal hatched between Ferguson and planning boss David Bishop.

The houses are proposed to open onto the Path with individual accesses so implicitly making claim to the Path as their communal "front garden", so cunningly avoiding the developer having to provide the land for this. But of course this sets up conflict between residents who will view the space in front of their houses as their "front garden" where their children can play and cyclists who view the Path as a relatively fast commuter route.

Having planned to set up the conflict in the first place the Council now seek a way to resolve it, hence "traffic calming" on the Railway Path. According to the report to Wednesday's Development Control Committee " ... the applicant (Squarepeg) has offered £130,000.00 for traffic calming on the surrounding streets and railway path.

The Parks Services Manager has more to say on the issue
"We would like to see a creative design for the length of the path affected by the development, so that it is treated as shared space so that visitors can be encouraged to stop, picnic etc, but also most importantly to calm cyclist speeds. There are ways that this can be achieved without imposing an urban feel and losing the intrinsic naturalness of the path experience....."

"I am comfortable in taking forward plans to calm cycling speeds along the railway path and to manage this as any capital project in a park – including public consultation and capital delivery. We have capacity to do this.”
So our Cycling City think they "have capacity" to traffic calm the Railway Path. Is this the same Cycling City who cannot organise basic maintenance without causing serious injuries to cyclists, the same Cycling City who cannot design a cycle path without creating blind corners (Clay Bottom) that cause serious injuries to cyclists, the same Cycling City who cannot resolve security issues that result in violent attacks on cyclists, the same Cycling City who still harbour ambitions to turn the whole Path into a concrete track for buses? Yes, the very same.

Those of us who have the misfortune to live in the real world rather than the Cycling City Corporate Fantasy World may recall the disastrous consequences of previous attempts to "traffic calm" the railway Path in the Kingswood area in the 1990s. Illegal speed humps, bollards and chicanes were all tried and several cyclists were injured as a result, resulting in successful damages claims being brought against Kingswood Borough Council (although there was no significant impact on speeds). Most of these ill-conceived attempts at traffic calming have since been removed.

Were the Railway Path a road the average speeds recorded would not be considered sufficiently high to justify any traffic calming at all, even if a 20 mph speed limit were to be adopted. Yet the Path is not designated a public highway and users do not enjoy the protection of Department for Transport regulations. So incompetent officers are free to experiment with half-baked notions of what might "calm" cyclists, putting our lives at risk.


Anonymous said...

How about a Green Wave on the cycle path, a bit like the severn bore, but made up of cyclists.

DocSavage said...

Just when you think they can't get any worse!

why not fully embrace the 'picnic' concept and place tables across the path?

I guess they have to find a few more places to put up their CC Mantra
'Cyclists Dismount' signs.

WestfieldWanderers said...

Those of the ruling clique have either got to be totally barking or high as a kite, or both.

What ARE they thinking of?
Can they think?
Can they even spell the word T-H-I-N-K.

Anonymous said...

**Cycling City Corporate Fantasy World** that sounds like an amazing theme park, Chris.

Step up step up and ride the amazing whirl-e-gig o metal bars lodged in the tunnel!

You will scream with terror as you ride the stapleton roller (non) contraflow coaster facing oncoming 50mph range rovers!

Would be hilarious if the results weren't deadly serious....

Chris Hutt said...

Definitely a theme to be developed OTLB. With time I might come up with a snappier title - any offers? As Cycling City emerges it appears ever more detached from reality. Alice in Cycleland perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Down the rabbit hole, with the cash for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hiya. Enjoy your blog but find it crashes (!) 50% of the time I go to it recently. Might just be me, but I have no problem with other blogger sites. Just thought I'd let you know.

visual-hybrid said...

They had better not add 'calming' measures... I commute 17 miles each way each to to work. This Cycle Path is a fantastic bit of infrastructure which allows a speedy and relatively safe and cheap (compared to the roads/trains) route to travel between Bristol and Bath.

Please IMPROVE the path and not destroy it...

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, no idea why the blog should crash. Anyone else have this problem?

visual-hybrid, it certainly looks as if Bristol intend to try 'traffic calming'. Once houses are built facing directly onto the Path there is almost bound to be some conflict if if children and pets are allowed to play outside on the Path. This will inevitably lead to calls to reduce cycle speeds which probably means speed humps or rumble strips or bollards with narrow gaps, all of which are a right pain for all cyclists.

And once the precedent for traffic calming on the Path is set there will be calls to repeat it elsewhere so that the whole route becomes unusable by cyclists, which might just suit those who want to build even more 'cycle houses' along the Path.

David Hembrow said...

Chris, the crashing problem is probably due to there being so many stories per page. There's a setting in blogger somewhere to reduce the number displayed at once. I think it defaults to seven, so you probably increased it from that.

As for the path... There may occasionally be a place for slowing cyclists down, but it's not on a main cycling route.

It's similarly a stupid idea to have a combined children's play area and main cycle route.

If you get any nonsense about it being a woonerf, or such-like, as was claimed in Cambridge when something similar came up, please note that you wouldn't find that combination of uses here. It's a case of pretending to copy what the Dutch do (there are, after all, already any number of houses which face cycle paths here) while actually doing something entirely different and inferior.

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for the tip on crashing David. I thought it might be that too, since I had set it to show 100 posts on the first page. I've now changed that to 20.

Thanks also for the info on Dutch practice. That may be very helpful.

Martyn Whitelock said...

Don't worry, this Council can't even enforce dog fouling! What I object to is the prospect of yet more ridiculous signage which ruins the visual amenity and physical environment.

Anonymous said...

I think its a great idea and even better that it'll be a precedent. Can't wait for picnic benches and street calming on all the major traffic routes into Bristol, especially the M32.