Monday, 29 June 2009

Cycling City - Constructive Suggestion #6

My last suggestion for south Bristol seemed to generate a more positive response than usual so here another idea to improve links between the city centre and the Southville / Bedminster area, an area that is mostly fairly flat and all within one and a half miles of the centre. General traffic routes are constrained by the River Avon and New Cut, so traffic congestion is high on the main river crossing at Bedminster Bridge.

Cyclists and pedestrians however have the option of using a number of traffic free bridges of which Gaol Ferry Bridge is the most popular. In fact Gaol Ferry Bridge is itself quite congested at times (above and below), with cyclists and pedestrians channeled into narrow 'pens' in a crude attempt to minimise conflict between them. If cycling continues to grow the limitations of Gaol Ferry Bridge will become even more critical. The other traffic free bridges are either remote from the main desire line (Ashton Avenue Bridge) or unsuitable for cycle use due to access problems (Vauxhall Bridge).

So how about a new pedestrian/cycle bridge over the New Cut, say halfway between Gaol Ferry Bridge and the next crossing point, to relieve the growing pressure there and perhaps give users a more direct link towards Prince Street Bridge? Such bridges need not be particularly expensive - perhaps around a million pounds - providing the approaches and abutments can be engineered fairly simply.

The most logical locations (shown as red links below) would feed directly into the best available links to Prince Street Bridge, either the link under Cumberland Road or near the southern end of Wapping Road. I favour the former link because it minimises conflict with motor traffic by passing under Cumberland Road and could make use of existing structures to provide abutments. There may even be a case for building bridges at both locations!

View South Bristol Routes. in a larger map

The map above shows how such bridges could link on in, including back to my last suggestion at Ashton Gate where a direct link can be made with the proposed Colliters Greenway to continue into Ashton Vale. Improved links southwards to the Malago Greenway would also be desirable and might be more readily achieved from a new bridge than from Gaol Ferry Bridge.

Providing the project was handled by an outside agency rather than the City Council it might all be achievable within a modest timescale and budget, possibly within the remaining two years of the Cycling City project. As with my other suggestions it's up to others to pick up and run with this if they think it sounds promising. But if we don't look at resolving the capacity constraints in corridors like this then cycling will not be able to grow to its full potential.

Cycle Bridge Chic - is it just me or are cycle bridges really sexy?


Martyn Whitelock said...

Even without the present growing congestion and inevitable future popularity of cycling, two cyclists travelling in opposite directions simply can not pass in safety on the extremely narrow cycle lane. It has always been dangerous, even with three people on the bridge.

The city planners seem content to force pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate their own right of way on many shared routes throughout the city centre so removing the central railing could be a possible solution, since neither pedestrians or cyclists stick to their designated lane anyway! Rather than restricting the current space, this would create more space.

Tim Muller said...

All great ideas.

I have to say, I don't really get why a simple pedestrian/cycle bridge should cost as much as a million altogether, but I guess the price is the price.

I believe a bridge from St.Johns Rd to Commercial Road is planned anyway as part of some bus/rapid transport route (might be a few years off of course). For cyclists and pedestrians a bridge a bit more to the west would probably make more sense, since the cycle/footpath link from Commercial Road to the mini roundabout in front of the Louisiana is pretty poor and cars go pretty fast over the bridge, and there's little opportunity to cross safely (that might change of course once they close Prince St. bridge to general traffic or some traffic lights are added).

Chris Hutt said...

Hi Tim, thanks for the comments.

A cycle/pedestrian bridge could be far cheaper than a million if kept simple and utilitarian, but I'm trying to allow for some finesse in the design to reflect the prominent location.

I'm not qualified to go into any detail on costings but I've taken some advice. Apart from the bridge structure itself one has to allow for abutments and approach ramps and highway accesses with traffic signals, etc.

For comparison the 55 metre span 'cheesegrater' bridge at Temple Meads built last summer came in at £2.4 million (presumably including abutments and approaches) but that was specially commissioned in stainless steel almost as a work of art.

You may well be right that the optimal position for a bridge at the St Johns road / Commercial Road would be location would be slightly further west, but there you have the old entrance to the Bathurst Basin which complicates matters (general rule - keep it simple).

I suppose one option, if one was being really ambitious, is to cross in the location you suggest, pass under the road bridge at the old basin entrance (stopping off the water at the north western end of the old entrance lock) and then onto Bathurst Parade to follow a traffic free link around to Prince Street Bridge, or even a new crossing of the Floating Harbour near the Thekla.

But a more prosaic solution to the difficulties you highlight is simply to traffic calm the Commercial Road bridge and the Wapping Road/cumberland Road roundabout. If/when Prince Street Bridge is finally closed to general traffic the amount of traffic using Commercial Road or Cumberland Road should reduce substantially.

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