Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Cycling City - Constructive Suggestion #3

No response from the Council on my previous suggestions of course, but undeterred (or spurred on perhaps?) I shall continue my series of constructive suggestions for new cycling infrastructure with an idea that we explored on our ride last Sunday.

We were heading back towards St Werburghs from UWE, just north of Stoke Park, initially following the long established cycle path (which I recall proposing around 1990) which links UWE and Lockleaze around the perimeter of Hermitage Wood. Faced with the rather bleak prospect of a long descent through Lockleaze and then a climb back up along Muller Road we agreed (I lead, they followed) to test out out a potential off-road link (just to left of hedgerow below) past the Purdown Telecom Tower.

Pic credit to Matt Taylor

The route picked up the historic ridge route, Sir John's Lane, and then to the open space down to Muller Road. The slopes here get pretty steep (as one of our company found to her cost) so careful path alignment is needed to achieve manageable gradients. There's already a proposal for a bridge across the crest of Muller Road to link Fairfield School to proposed playing fields on Purdown so this could provide an excellent public link for cyclists and walkers too.

View Purdown to Montpelier in a larger map

Our route could then continue along Allfoxton Road to Narroways Junction where the redundant railway formation could be used to link across St Werburghs to Montpelier, so creating an almost continuous off-road route from UWE to Montpelier with of course numerous local links, in particular to the top of the intriguing Boiling Wells Lane to link directly down to St Werburghs. The route would link at either end to good cycling routes so enabling say Clifton to UWE or Easton to Bristol Parkway.

The old railway bridge abutments at Narroways - new bridge opportunity?

As before I offer these ideas up for public discussion and even, if you believe in miracles, official action. To be fully appreciated the route needs to be followed on the ground (it is mostly accessible now) to get some idea of the stunning views from the Purdown Ridge. To my mind this route could give Bristol's cyclists something to get excited about, something sorely lacking in the official Cycling City proposals. Comments welcome.


SteveL said...

As far as the mountain bikers are concerned, there already is a route from UWE to purdown -one that is as fun on a dark winter night as a light summer evening. It is also pleasant and empty on a weekday morning. The main improvement would be an easier way to get to the muller road descent.

SteveL said...

also: it's a brutal route S to N because of the climb. This makes it a one-way path, except for the fit.

Chris Hutt said...

But a carefully constructed path could follow a serpentine course to keep the gradient easy and a paved surface makes for easier cycling than grass and mud.

If you check the proposal map you'll see that the route aims for a bridge at the crest of Muller Road so reducing the height difference. I'll check the spot heights later and post something.

Personally I'd always prefer to climb, whether walking or cycling, away from traffic so the sense of being disadvantaged compared to those whizzing past in cars is removed.

tag said...

Chris, I think you're on to something here. As you say, there's some stunning scenery, and this would be a really useful link from the centre to UWE, Bristol Parkway and indeed on to Bradley Stoke. At the moment much of the Purdown area falls prey to illegal two- and four- wheel activity. Let's make better use of it!

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks tag. There are of course existing road routes in the same corridor - Romney Avenue in particular - but they tend to be bleak and depressing.

I feel that cycling should be spiritually uplifting, if that doesn't sound too pompous. A journey with a good length of attractive off-road path, especially with great views, is uplifting and goes a long way to compensate for the tedious on-road bits at either end.

Harry M said...

One person's 'redundant railway formation' is another community's long fought for and much loved urban nature reserve...

Chris Hutt said...

Harry, we're not talking about a motorway or Tesco store here, just a path for walkers and cyclists. The landtake would be negligible in relation to the whole of the nature reserve.

If we aren't prepared to find a little space to make urban cycling and walking attractive then we're going to keep losing much larger areas of nature reserve to accommodate cars as at the Chocolate Factory at Greenbank.

Harry M said...

As a Millennium Green, with a 999 year lease we fortunately have a Trust Deed that protects the land against such development, whether from a Tesco or a shiny yellow self-interest group.

Chris Hutt said...

"..a shiny yellow self-interest group."

That's a very odd way of referring to Bristol City Council, especially when they bought the land to save it from development in the first place.

David Wilcox said...

Chris your suggesting that Narrroways nature reserve be divided in two with a paved surface, a bit like the M32 did to St Judes in the sixties.
99% of the land along the Bristol2Bath Path is classified as "informal green space" by the council parks department. Narroways is "natural green space", of which Ashley/Easton/Lawrence Hill has only 25% of the allotment that it should have.
There is already a traffic free route from Lockleaze through St Werburghs in the guize of the new Muller Road Allotment Path. I don't think we need to dual up on this.

Harry M said...

Local people raised the required £2500 in 3 weeks early in 1997 to buy Narroways before the council enabled the hill to be purchased and the money to go on infrastructure for the site. We conserve & manage it voluntarily, i.e.without any paid council employees. Nevertheless Bristol City Council have been very supportive in other ways locally.
We have no axe to grind with the council but I don't believe you are actually a spokesperson for that body, Mr Hutt.

Chris Hutt said...

A path for cyclists and walkers like the M32? Yeh, sure.

Is there a difference between "informal green space" and "natural green space"? The Railway Path margins could equally well be described as natural green space so I don't really see what the distinction is.

Surely the point of developing a network of Greenways is to foster a cultural change not only in favour of walking and cycling but also in favour of an appreciation of the natural environment around us. At least that's what I think this route could do.

Otherwise we remain slaves to unsustainable modes of living where cars and even planes are seen as necessary evils to access natural environments elsewhere because those closest to us remain inaccessible.

Surely you can see the bigger picture, beyond the obsessive preservation of every blade of grass on your little green island while all around you unsustainable modes of transport wreak havoc on the ecosystem on which it all depends.

Chris Hutt said...

"I don't believe you are actually a spokesperson for (the City council), Mr Hutt."

Well spotted Harry. But you referred to "a shiny yellow self-interest group" so if you didn't mean the City Council who did you mean?

David Wilcox said...

The M32 divided the community's in more ways than the physical divide, just like the railway's did in the 18th century.

You can find the council definition here http://tinyurl.com/c7p6m7 in it's Green Space Strategy. Informal Green space is typically for "Green Corridors", Narroways is an environmentally sensitive area that is already having enough problems with erosion and changes to it's soil chemistry with it's current usage patterns. Having 2000cycle journeys per day, both on a paved surface and off it, would be catastrophic to the flora and fauna on the site.

You don't need to convince me of the advantages of sustainable transport, I've been actively arguing the case for not using Cars and Planes, by my very actions for my entire adult life. We are a five bicycle, one very old car that keeps passing its MOT (that will not get replaced when it does die), two person household.

I am all for developing a network of traffic free routes, but put them through brown field sites, not the hard fought for "Green Islands". In this case the Natural Environment is best appreciated on two feet not two wheels.

What is the difference between land in Easton bordering the cyclepath that you have actively protested against being developed and the land inside the Narroways Nature Reserve?

Anonymous said...

"The landtake would be negligible in relation to the whole of the nature reserve"

Aah but Chris, you know that it's not the precise amount of land taken up, but the way the structure(s) fragment the landscape and impact on the surroundings, as will be found anywhere from the West Bank to the B2B railway path.

In fact, I seem to remember Kerry coming out with the line about a certain Greenbank embankment only being a small and therefore negligible area ...

Have to say that I think that Harry M and David Wilcox have raised good points as regards the protection of Narroways.

Your eyes must have gone wheel-shaped, Chris.

Jon Rogers said...

Evening all

There are a number of existing and possible future routes which would not encroach on the unique, tranquil nature reserve that is Narroways.

The area is not currently "inaccessible".

I will say that I think that the potential of linking Horfield, Lockleaze, St Werburghs, Easton and the Bristol Bath Railway Path with some form of cycling and walking greenway is an exciting one.

We don't however need to bisect Narroways to achieve it.


Anonymous said...

PS David, I think you'll find that Narroways IS a brownfield site, ie one that has been previously developed or industrialised.

Brownfield sites are often extremely valuable for wildlife and recreation. We have many wonderful brownfield sites that need protection, such as Narroways. Troopers Hill and Conham River Park are two more examples in Bristol.

So-called "brownfields" need our love, appreciation and protection too!

Chris Hutt said...

David, you contradict yourself. First you say that there is no need for the proposed path because we already have a path through the allotments, then you say that 2000 cyclists would use it every day, in which case there is a very strong case for building the path.

If there were 2000 cyclists using it, why would they also go off the paved surface as you suggest? I suppose a few would see the banks as good sport for mountain biking, I'll grant you that, but might there not be ways to manage that?

The usual way to resolve such matters is to weigh up the costs and benefits of such proposals, but it seems in this case that no debate is to be allowed, much as what happened at Greenbank where the proposals to destroy 130 metres of hedgerow were slipped through on the quiet to pre-empt a public debate.

There difference, since you ask, between Greenbank and Narroways is that the former involved the loss of Railway Path land to allow 250 car parking spaces to be provided on-site while the latter proposal is to allow a path for cyclists and walkers. That's a pretty fundamental difference don't you think?

And isn't it instructive that the Council is about to agree the loss of the Railway Path land to accommodate car parking (conveniently delayed till after the elections of course) but will not countenance a path for mere walkers and cyclists?

Herbert Half Brick said...

"By shiny yellow self-interest group", it seemed perfectly clear to me that Harry M was referring to the cycling lobby.

This is simple Mr Hutt. Narroways is not up for grabs for your cyclopathic self-promoting schemes. Now go away, and before you start to come up with any more bright ideas, do a little research - and I don't mean just riding around, I mean finding out how local people think about things, and, if you can't be bothered to do this, then might I suggest you go out and buy yourself a pair of red trousers?

Chris Hutt said...

Herbert, very witty but the 'cycling lobby' is not as coherent as you seem to imagine. Cycling City is the City Council's project and I merely indicate some of the opportunities for the development of new or improved cycle routes.

I think it's well known how local people think, characterised as NIMBY. I'm not in the least surprised to find the same attitude around Narroways. But if Councils always give in to the NIMBY lobby then virtually all development becomes impossible.

AT Greenbank the council and developer managed to slip one past the NIMBY lobby, but it required an expensive PR smokescreen to divert public attention away from such awkward details as the destruction of 130 metres of Railway Path hedgerow.

So we find that the only developments that have a chance of overwhelming or by-passing the NIMBY reaction are the more expensive and grandiose ones, like BRT routes, Stadiums and Urban Extensions, or those that sink to some underhand tactics like Ferguson's Chocolate Factory.

Meanwhile more modest, low impact schemes like cycle and walking routes simply don't generate the resources to fund the same sort of diversionary PR tactics and fall foul of the NIMBY reaction. Is that how it should be?

David Wilcox said...

Chris, Heaven forbid that I should contradict myself. The point that I was trying to make was that why should you build a path through a nature reserve when there is a perfectly good off road path running parallel to the narroways route not 200 yards away for those 2000 cycle journeys?

I do agree with you that the Hedgerow in Easton should not be developed, it's intended development use is of no matter. It should not be destroyed. Full stop. Just because you think cyclepaths would be a good use of redundant railway land, when it is actually a nature reserve, managed by locals, for everyone else to enjoy on foot, actually seems to be the redundant idea.

Narroways is relatively successful as a Nature Reserve because wheeled transport is prohibited from the site. If bikes and motorbike where allowed on site, there would be huge problems with erosion and the crushing of plants. It's the calcareous grassland that makes Narroways special.

If you want a debate, come to the next Narroways Management meeting on Monday at 8pm at the Miner Arms. If you can make it a bit earlier I'll personally give you a tour of the site and introduce you to the Corky Fruited Water Dropwort which is quite rare around Bristol.

Chris Hutt said...

David, I've already accepted your point that a cycle route through the reserve would result in some off-road cycling which might well cause erosion. That's a valid point.

The existing cycle route that runs more or less north-south under Narroways is serving a rather different demand to the east-west route I'm suggesting.

The advantage of crossing Mina Road up on the Narroways railway embankment rather than coming down to the level of Mina Road is of course that less height is lost in linking between the higher ground at either side. As a cyclists you will probably appreciate why that should make it an attractive corridor for a cycle route.

There may be other ways of linking from this embankment over Mina Road back to the land on the east side of the mainline railway which do not cut through the nature reserve, for example on the line of the existing mainline footbridge and then along the side of the Severn Beach line cutting. Directness is less important than minimising gradients in this area.

However there's little point in even investigating such an option if the Narroways lobby is so antagonistic to the very idea of a cycle route.

Anonymous said...

Reading this comment thread, Chris, you are discrediting yourself badly. You are the one who comes over as antagonistic, arrogant, stubborn, blinkered, and quick to ridicule or put down anyone who has the nerve to disagree with your mighty wisdom.

This isn’t about “walkers and cyclists” - walkers love Narroways as it is and don’t need a load of tarmac to access the area - this is about turning over the soft targets of traffic-free spaces to traffic in the form of cyclists. “My people” as you like to call them. It wouldn’t stop at tarmac either, there’d be the inevitable demands for lighting, gritting, and all the rest.

Cyclists need more space, for sure, but the stupid thing here, is that you are trying to grab space at the expense of walkers, nature and tranquillity, when it needs to be motorists and roads who are made to move over and give up territory. We need to be talking about cutting car journeys drastically, major traffic calming measures on all roads and even closing some roads, not carving up the few precious green spaces and traffic-free areas we have left.

The weasel word “NIMBY” is not one which belongs in the lexicon of any genuine environmentalist, as it is a pathetic insult generally deployed by the rich and powerful in devious attempts to neutralise ordinary people. It makes me pretty sick to see anyone who calls themselves a Green using such a term to try to put down other people who care about their environment and are prepared to work to conserve it.

David’s quite right, the Greenbank hedge issue is about protecting the hedge for its own sake. “it's intended development use is of no matter. It should not be destroyed. Full stop.” For you to wriggle around now and try to say that destroying the hedge would be OK so long as it was to make way for cyclists just shows you up for the one-track-minded opportunist you must be.

It is very sad that when you’re in the proverbial hole you can’t seem to stop yourself stubbornly digging deeper in.

Chris Hutt said...

Dona, I happen to disagree and since this is the blogosphere rather than a polite drawing room I say so in forthright terms, as you and other commenters do too.

However I take your point about the lighting being intrusive and David's point about off-path cycling, so I can see that there are some valid arguments against a cycle route. But there are also, in my view, valid arguments for one so we should be willing to consider the potential for some compromise.

I don't agree that hedgerows or grassland or whatever should be sacrosanct. I would have accepted the loss of the hedgerow at Greenbank if it had been for a purpose I felt was of greater benefit, but as it was essentially to compensate for the generous provision of car parking on the Chocolate Factory site I objected.

How ever modestly we live we all depend on the use of land that could otherwise support wildlife of some sort, particularly in our need for food but also for housing, work, travel and recreation.

The trick is surely to find a sensible balance between the human needs and those of the natural world, rather than simply objecting absolutely to any loss of natural environment.

The term NIMBY is hardly a 'weasel' word. I use it simply because it aptly describes a natural reaction that we all experience to change than impinges on the territory that we regard as 'ours'.

My opposition to the loss of the hedgerow at Greenbank was essentially a NIMBY reaction because, like many others, I view the Railway Path as an extension of my back yard. I didn't say or mean to imply that NIMBY reactions were invalid but they are often exaggerated, as was shown here by comparisons of the proposed path with the M32.

Chris Hutt said...

One more point Dona. You say that cycling should be accommodated by displacing cars from the streets rather than with new routes created at the expense of open space.

I'm inclined to agree in principle, but is that a realistic aspiration at this point in time? So far there isn't a single Cycling City proposal that would displace motor traffic or car parking to any significant extent and I don't expect that to change.

We need to be pragmatic as well as principled. We need strategies that foster a transition towards sustainable lifestyles and I think the evidence of the popularity of such motor-traffic-free paths (greenways) as the Railway Path show that such greenways can be potent tools in bringing about such a transition.

sued said...

Nice idea, but I think it's a no no to think that putting a track through Narroways is insignificant. Narroways was a very hard fought and won battle by the local community, and it shouldn't be turned over for transport of any sort (except feet!). It's there for everyone to enjoy, but not on wheels, which potentially do a lot of damage. I'd like to know what Jon Rogers has up his sleeve in the way of alternatives.

Anonymous said...

“I would have accepted the loss of the hedgerow at Greenbank if it had been for a purpose I felt was of greater benefit”

Well, that’s very big of you, Chris, but I think you would find yourself up against the great majority of local respondents to the Chocolate Factory consultation. Your attitude is very single issue; saddening and disappointing. You talk about the blogosphere and “drawing rooms”, but if you think, as you seem to, that hosting a blog is about having some kind of 007 licence to patronise, or to slag off any commenters who disagree with you as “antagonistic”, “nimbys” (and, yes, it is a very offensive, anti-environmentalist jibe) not to mention insulting our intelligence with transparently inadequate, after the event excuses, then I feel sorry for you, and would despair of the blogosphere were most people to follow your example. You may have noticed that Bristol has some very insightful bloggers, and the better ones among them treat commenters politely, and avoid indulging themselves in fruitlessly obstinate self-justification and invective against honest commenters.

Even more so when, as in this case, commenters are local people, whereas you are not, and not necessarily as hardened blogospherites as you are either.

I’m sorry but as this thread has progressed the similitude between yourself and George Ferguson has become more and more painfully obvious. There you are, talking down to us from a great height, ex cathedra, telling us what a great idea you have had, giving the impression that you think you know best how things need to be arranged. Are the natives a bit restless? Tell them not to be so stupid, worrying over their pointless bits of scrub, not seeing the big picture and what’s best for us all.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I remember it, you got involved with the Chocolate Factory campaign well before uncovering facts about the parking spaces. More importantly, you seem also to have forgotten that we in Easton / Greenbank, unlike yourselves in Clifton with your Downs protected by Act of Parliament, Leigh Woods, and so on, that we have very little green-space for recreation and wildlife, and that is in good part why the hedgerow is so very important. St Werburgh's is similarly disadvantaged in having tightly packed small houses and very little green-space. Have you also forgotten the importance of the tranquil nature of the greenway, and the bad precedent for piecemeal development of the path-side set by the Squarepeg development? Have you forgotten, or do you think that others are far stupider than yourself, or was it all simple bullshit on your part, just to annoy the great and the good anyway?

You are being disingenuous yourself also, with your prating about “balance”. There is no balance in our society. Just think of the space given over to the motor car; acre after acre of concrete and tarmac devoted to wheeled vehicles speeding around, or just sitting there taking up space. Wasting space. This is not balance, and we may not have too much longer to learn this basic fact.

You are deliberately missing the point. Trying to take over the last few precious bits of green-space for your obsession with bicycles, because you don’t feel up to taking on the real problem - the destructive car obsession - is a complete non-answer.

Of course we need more traffic free paths, but they must, absolutely must, be reclaimed from the vast acreages currently wasted on the polluting, environmentally and socially destructive private motor car.

sued said...

Dona Quixota - respect!