Sunday, 17 May 2009

Cycling City - Constructive Suggestion #4

Despite the rough ride I had with Constructive Suggestion #3 for daring to suggest a link impinging on the Narroways Hill Nature Reserve, I shall press on with #4, which is for a change in South Gloucestershire rather than Bristol City, although still in the Greater Bristol area covered by Cycling City. The map below shows the current Cycling City proposal (green route) for a cycle route through the north fringe from Brentry, around the west end of Filton runway, through Cribbs Causeway and on to Patchway, Aztec West and Bradley Stoke.

View North Bristol cycle routes in a larger map

Those that came on the exploratory ride two weeks ago will recall that the overall route is surprisingly attractive but that Cribbs Causeway itself, with its mega sheds, car parks and disorientating network of roundabouts, is rather a forbidding prospect to the cyclist (and even to many motorists). The cycle route proposed by South Glos attempts to find a route through all this but in doing so ends up ludicrously convoluted, particularly where it approaches the centre of the Mall from the south-west and then has to detour almost 700 metres around the southern tip of the long block and back towards the centre on the north-east side to pick up a rather pointless bit of cycle path.

Now a 700 metre detour around the outside of the Mall may be mildly amusing the first time it's followed, but this route is supposed to serve regular cyclists making purposeful journeys and they are soon going to tire of such an obviously daft deviation from their 'desire line'. A commuter using the route twice a day would clock up an extra 350 kms (approx 25 hours of cycling) in the course of a year just on that detour alone! Once again we have to question the competence of the officers charged with devising these routes.

Ramping up - little used infrastructure could help cyclists

But in the uncharacteristically constructive spirit I adopt for the purpose of this series I have identified an alternative route, shown in red on the map, which as you can see provides a far more direct link through Cribbs Causeway yet still gives good access ot the Mall and better access to many other retail outlets. My route is 994 metres overall compared to 1,676 metres for the proposed Cycling City route, which is therefore almost 70% longer! Both routes involve some new construction and include two road crossings so implementation costs are unlikely to be very different.

Finally it's interesting to note that much of the overall route is presented by Cycling City as 'new infrastructure' (map below, click to enlarge) and yet most of it already exists and is readily usable. For example in the section we are looking at that marked by the number 18 will be 'new infrastructure' but that marked by 15 already exists and just requires some localised upgrades. The links marked 17 were to be provided as part of the Filton North Field development which has recently fallen through so won't happen within the Cycling City time frame (a possibility that hangs over much of the proposed 'new infrastructure').

When Jon Rogers returns (subject to the will of the voters of Ashley) to the Cycling City fray in June we must hope that such blatantly misleading documents and maps as that above, which date from the dark days under Labour's 'championship' of Cycling City, are finally withdrawn and replaced with something that fits with the new spirit of openness and transparency.


The Editor said...

Very interesting .... I cycle from Redland to Aztec - less often than I'd like - and have looked for a more pleasant route than up Cribbs Causeway and this looks promising. One thing - the part of route from Aztec West on to Coniston Road is currently a designated footpath and is the subject to some planning application to move so that buses can follow the route. As far as I've heard there hasn't been a great deal of discussion about Cycling City arount this.

Chris Hutt said...

I suppose the proposed route might work for Redland - Aztec West journeys when the Brentry link is developed. At present you only have the choice of the A38 or the A4018, either end of Filton runway, neither of which are very pleasant to cycle along.

One of my concerns is that Cycling City infrastructure is rarely convenient and direct for the purposeful traveller. Convoluted routes which require frequent ceding of priority to conflicting movements limit the effective range of the cyclist as average speed declines.

The Editor said...

From my place the A38 is the straightforward option - and is shorted as the crow flies. But it is on-road, full of traffic and very dusty/gritty alongside BAe.

I avoid the A4018 - Parrys Lane; Combe Lane; Blaise, or if being more adventurous, Holly Bush Lane; Ebenezer Lane, along by The Trym and into Blaise. So it's from Balise to Aztec that things could be improved.

Bigwok said...

It appears that the short timescale of Cycling City is effecting the choice of routes. Your proposal is the clear desire line with potential for better links to the bus interchange at the Mall, as well as other retail parks on the West side. It seems that implementation and targets are the driving factor, even if this means convoluted routes based on existing paths in the vane hope that they will double cycling or can claim X miles of cycle paths. Shame really!

Chris Hutt said...

Bigwok, you're absolutely right that the short time scale (just two more years now?) severely limits what infrastructure can be implemented within that time and so benefit from extra money.

However the government (Cycling England) money has to be matched by local money so presumably the locally sourced half of the expenditure will be able to continue beyond 2011. This could be in the order of £5 million p.a. so sufficient to fund a fair amount of new or improved infrastructure in the longer term.

The 'Constructive Suggestions' that I've put forward are based on routes that could be implemented quite quickly, at least in part. For example the first stage (up to Pegasus Road) of my red link at Cribbs requires only minimal works and no land acquisition. It would still be useful pending the completion of the second stage.

I think it's vital that the Cycling City leadership recognise that the project must continue well beyond 2011 to develop significant change. The target to double cycling looked 'ambitious' a year ago but with virtually nothing implemented almost a year later it's beginning to look ridiculous.

Bigwok said...

I agree, the target is symptomatic of all that is wrong with the current political system and how it is portrayed by the media. The target makes a nice headline when they have actually done nothing.

I know its considered something tangiable to strive for, but Local Government already has an objective to increase cycle use. This is just not sensational enough though!

We rarely see the (Bristol City Actually Doubles Cycling) sort of headlines because the target is rarely achieved, so whats the point of setting an arbitary target other than spin?

I get they are striving for something, but the timescale and funding committments are so short. It undermines the objective by seeking results, even if they imvolve poor decisions.

The problem goes hand in hand with our political system, Election every 3out of 4 years = no stability. Central Goverment now provides funding certaintly for 3 years to local government, why don't we have elections every three years? Ideally Local elections should happen every 4/5 years and funding committments should match that timescale.

Then we can really see who achieves the most with available resources and who is wasteful with public money. Your constructive suggestions are all clearly worth further investigation by the Cycling City Team.

I share your optomism that funding will continue after the Cycling England funding finishes. This is probabaly as important as getting the infrastructure right in the first place and definitely something that people should lobby for now. However, I do have doubts about this, given the bid culture for public funding.