Thursday, 16 July 2009

Spending the Cycling City Millions

At the beginning of the three year Cycling City project we were told there would be £22.8 million of funding of which £17.6 million would be spent on infrastructure (cycle routes and facilities). A year in and there isn't much to show for it, just 700 metres of upgraded path in St Werburghs and some new cycle racks and signs here and there.

Yet we were told to expect almost £3.5 million to have been spent on infrastructure by April of this year. As mere tax payers we are not party to information about the cost of such projects as the St Werburghs path upgrade, but I think we can safely say it falls a long way short of £3.5 million. Understandably it takes time to get these projects up and running, but even so people are beginning to wonder where the money is going.

Here's one possibility. This old stone bridge over the River Frome at Wickham Hill in Stapleton is being repaired, mainly it seems repointing the masonry. The bridge has been closed to general traffic for many years and is now only used by occasional walkers and cyclists, and a pipeline of some sort.

However the bridge is part of a route identified by Cycling City as requiring some 'new infrastructure' and one element of 'new infrastructure' appears from this leaflet to be located at or near this bridge. The text of the leaflet also refers to 'improvements' to bridges (but how do 'improvements' transmogrify into 'new infrastructure'? Oh yes, we've been there before). Just to confuse the issue (it wouldn't be Cycling City if we weren't confused) the marginally more detailed notes issued by Bristol City Council in March of this year refer to the need for the 'replacement' of this and another bridge.

If the bridge repairs are indeed Cycling City funded then one might ask if this is really the sort of thing that ought to be funded out of the that budget. It could be said that such bridge repairs are just part of the ongoing maintenance of our civic heritage and don't really count as 'new infrastructure' for cyclists. Still, they've got to find some way to spend the Cycling City money and in the continuing absence of any significant 'new infrastructure' perhaps this is as good a way as any.


Mike said...

Difficult to add an interesting comment to this - you have it right on the nail.

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for that nevertheless Mike.

It's always a nervous moment when I press the 'publish' tab, wondering if I'm about to reveal to the world how foolish I really am with some blunder.

So positive feedback is always appreciated. And of course negative feedback too. I try to be provocative to stimulate debate, so if anyone disagrees, don't be shy about saying so.

Anonymous said...

BCC are spreading the spending on improvements around the city (some more relevant than others, it appears). Maybe they should instead take the same approach as they took with the busses: create a few "Showcase Cycle Routes". This would focus improvements on a few cycle commuter 'corridors' where the improvements could be joined-up. Maybe the A38 or A420 from the 'burbs into the city centre - flat(ish) routes which are already used by a fair number of cyclists and which already have a fair but of cycle infrastructure. These routes would benefit from more improvements and have many more potential cyclists.

If part of the Cycling City aim is to attract non-cyclists or occasional/leisure cyclists to replace their peak-hour car journeys with cycle journeys then maybe having whole routes which are cycle friendly might be better than fixing problem spots on a large number of moderately cycle friendly routes.

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, there is an element of Cycling City which fits with what you describe. Various arterial routes are being assessed for cycling as part of the implementation of the Greater Bristol Bus Network (GBBN). There are current consultations on the A4 Bath Road GBBN proposals.

As you say there is great potential here to make a few key arterial roads cycle friendly, but do their proposals make the grade? I hope to tackle that in a future post.

Meanwhile the consultations can be accessed via this link -

Neil said...

Hi Chris,

Just stumbled on your blog/posting today, via 'cyclingdigest' on Twitter, and found it very useful and informative.

A big problem I have in Bristol is simply getting across the city. I realise that getting across ANY city is a headache, especially on a bike, but Bristol seems particularly difficult. I live in Bradley Stoke and have tried a few times to cycle through to the south of the city to head out towards Cheddar to visit relatives. This is a complicated route (though we can't change the layout of the roads!), notoriously badly signposted (I'm not a native and have little local knowledge) and are very cycle-UNfriendly, with heavy traffic changing lanes over short distances and I always feel that my life is on the line! I don't suppose the BCC has plans in this direction, providing cycle-friendly routes across the city in various directions?

Keep up the great work!

Docsavage said...

regards your comment Neil, the CC scheme was meant to address the cross city issue (at least thats what they showed us in early public meetings)but as with so many things nothing concrete has been developed or even proposed.
Instead possible cross city car free options have actually been eradicated over the past few years (the overpass between the car park behind River street and Castle Park - an up and over route that would have neatly taken bikes and peds away from the central traffic streams of broadmead and the M32 access roads). Chris has illustrated many new exciting possible options on this site, to what can only be described as some councillers luke warm and mostly hollow reaction. My fear is that the drip drip drip of the funds for CC will see nothing ever substansive done, as the council overall lack the vision and bravery to implement tangible and effective change.
I'm not clear on the use of the FOI act, but what can be gleaned from the councils accounts regards CC spending that would help illuminate current expenditure?

Chris Hutt said...

Hi Neil,

To get from Bradley Stoke to Cheddar have you considered using the cycle track beside the M5 bridge where it crosses the Avon near Avonmouth?

A route based on this river crossing would allow you to avoid the bulk of Bristol and follow mainly low traffic roads or traffic free paths.

I've drawn up such a route on the Google map to which this links -

I've shown a route via Clevedon which will avoid major climbs by following valleys and levels.

Cap'n said...

i have just heard from a council worker in neighborhood Arts, who was trying to organise a meeting with a community group, about 70 people in all, the cost to hire a room from within the council 500pounds,
that's where does the money goes
cheaper to book a restaurant and take em all out for a meal I say

PeteJ said...

Small suggestion, Chris: if you plotted routes like that on Bikely, you'd get a handy elevation profile, and more-useful-than-irritating road following for on-road bits.

For anyone unfamiliar, here's a randomish example that intersects with your route in a couple of places (though I wouldn't recommend anyone taking a bike with road tyres down the Clevedon-Portishead coast path :) - select Show » Elevation Profile from the menu,

PeteJ said...

Arse. Here's the correct bikely link.

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for that PeteJ. I'll have a proper look at that sometime. Another source of cycle route mapping that I find useful is

This shows most of the NCN routes in a more user friendly format than Sustrans' site.

PeteJ said...

and thanks in turn: open cycle map is exactly what I've been looking for for a while (it's probably not possible to create a less useful or user-friendly set of maps than Sustrans')

Chris Hutt said...

Here's another one that's based on open maps but attempts to do much more, including route finding. It's under development (beta version) and has many obvious failings, but I feel it might be worth getting involved with.

sued said...

On the subject of the bridge pictured in your post, Chris, Wickham Bridge is very close to where I live. It is a route used by commuters who cut across the park to avoid the traffic, and well used by pedestrians as well. I suspect you're right in thinking CC money is being used for infrastructure maintenance which should have been done anyway. This bridge was in a poor state, with ash trees growing out of the masonry, so I was surprised and pleased to see it getting some attention at last, but am less impressed if CC is funding the work.

Neil said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the various info and great links (new to me and very useful). Just to clarify, I'm a roadbiker (700x23 tyres) and often make a point of looking for hill climbs, so I need roads/tarmac and don't need to avoid hilly routes. (That sounds like I'm being critical and ungrateful, which I'm not, I've just realised that I was rubbish at leaving useful information!)

That route looks interesting, Chris. Less direct than going through Bristol, but probably a lot safer and, if avoiding a lot of traffic, probably no longer time-wise. Is the whole route 700x23 friendly, do you think?

Best regards,

Chris Hutt said...

Neil, it would be quite simple to identify a much faster, more direct road route based on the same Avonmouth Bridge crossing, especially if you're not bothered about climbing hills. I suspect that would be faster than going through the city centre.

Try the cyclestreets site since that seems to ignore hilliness and gives you a choice between fast and quiet routes, although it also doesn't seem to distinguish between different traffic speeds and levels on non A or B roads.

Neil said...

In a couple of months I'll be starting a new job in Chippenham and plan to commute at least 3 days a week by road bike. I've been on to Bikely, as recommended by PeteJ above (thanks, PeteJ!), signed up and started creating a route to see what's achievable. One question - how do I get the elevation profile you mentioned?

Best regards,

Neil said...

Ah, found it! Often the best way to find an answer for yourself is to post a question first! LOL