Monday, 31 August 2009

A Bike Lift for Bristol?

As we all know only too well the hilliness of Bristol is a deterrent to cycling, especially for those considering cycling for commuting or utility purposes where getting from A to B sometimes means being confronted with quite a climb, around 30 metres at a gradient of 1 in 10 (10%) just to get up Park Street for example.

There are one or two other routes that give an easier climb of the Clifton - Kingsdown escarpment but they tend to be indirect and not at all obvious to the novice. For example climbing from the Centre to Queen's Road via Colston St and Park Row will give you a 40 metre vertical climb at a gentler average gradient of less than 1 in 20 (5%) and with just an extra 40% of horizontal travel compared to College Green/Park St.

But even long climbs at 5% gradient are off-putting to many potential cyclists so we need a bit of lateral thinking. Bike Lifts have been suggested before but no one has really identified a practical location for one (Park Street being far too complicated a location for anything like the Trampe). So this is by way of #7 in my 'Cycling City - Constructive Suggestions' series (more to come when I find the time) - a Bike Lift based on that fine examplar of the spirit of Bristol, the Trenchard Street multi storey car park.

Cyclists have been known to use the existing lifts in the Trenchard Street multi storey for decades but such makeshift arrangements are far from satisfactory. The existing lifts are difficult to access, too small and of course in some demand by legitimate car park users (who one has to admit do pay for them). Indeed one of the two lifts has recently been refurbished so that it can only be operated by someone with a parking permit or ticket (presumably to stop cyclists and others freeloading).

So I'm suggesting a new lift of the external variety attached to the structure on the south west elevation of the multi storey car park and linking the bottom of Trenchard Street (where the ground is level with the Centre) exclusively with level 8 of the multi storey which has a direct, level access onto Park Row (below) just above the Red Lodge and not far below its summit level. The height gained would be nearly 30 metres, about the same as climbing Park Street!

A new lift could be designed as a linked pair so that one lift cubicle was always down when the other was up to minimise delays. Intermediate levels would not be served, just Denmark St level and Park Row level, so accent would be rapid and direct. Entry and exit doors could be on opposite sides so bikes wouldn't need to be turned. The lift cubicles could be light and spacious giving some quite impressive views.

Of course such an installation wouldn't be cheap but I believe it could prove very popular with cyclists (and others who find climbing Park Street daunting) who would suddenly find that the Clifton - Kingsdown escarpment was no longer a major deterrent. Perhaps it might go some way towards changing the image of cycling in Bristol as something exclusively for the Lycra-clad super-fit.

The map below shows some of the principal cycle routes that could link to a Trenchard St Bike Lift. On the high side Queen's Road, Whiteladies Road and the University campus would become much more accessible and even the heights of Kingsdown and Cotham could be accessed with a further climb up Woodland Road. On the low side the main core of the city could access the Bike Lift via Denmark St (how apposite!) from the Centre and via Frogmore Street from the Hotwell Road direction.

View Trenchard St Bike Lift in a larger map

The Trenchard Street multi storey is owned and operated by the Council so there shouldn't be any fundamental problem in installing such a Bike Lift, given that the cost, Cycling England willing, could be met from the Cycling City budget. Apart from the benefits to cyclists and pedestrians the addition of a smart new external lift could be part of a much needed makeover of the multi storey, which must rank as one of Bristol's most depressing buildings.

Bristol City Council has the chance to take a lead with this, but they'd better hurry because other cities have bold visions for the future, such as Seoul with this (above) planned bicycle elevator. For Bristol this really could be the iconic symbol of a genuine move towards being a Cycling City and perhaps the world's first and best example of a bicycle lift forming a key part of a city's cycling infrastructure. So let's see what excuses Cycling City manage to come up with for not pursuing this one.


Diesel824 said...

Very cool blog. I loved your content. Good Luck!

Thomas Guest said...

Reopen the Clifton Rocks railway, with a special carriage for cycles.

Jane Hopkins said...

What a great idea - as a resident of Cotham I would find this very useful. Like you, I wonder what excuses BCC might come up with you. Jane.

SteveL said...

Oddly enough, the Bristol Traffic page covering the existing facility is very popular with searches, people are clearly looking for this. Its a shame then, that non-car owning citizens are now banned from the lift, though it may reduce car theft in the car park.

* We need something for Nine tree hill as well, that also takes pedestrians.

* the clifton railway -yes, that would not only make hotwells to clifton not hurt, you could go downhill from there to other parts of the city...

McD said...

I'm loving this - and the photo of the smart woman waiting for the lift is a beaut!
The Rocks Railway would be brilliant but not what's currently planned for it I gather.
Are there any other cycle lift type things - I just experienced my first "chair lift" at a ski resort (no snow just now though!) and wonder whether something similar might exist for bikes - just hook yourself on and off you go!
Who was it used to cartoon design weird and wonderful machines - Emmett or something like that? Da Vinci probably had a good solution too!
Keep the ideas coming Chris.

Chris Hutt said...

The Clifton Rocks Railway is a multi-million pound project (and quite frankly won't happen any time soon) whereas this I think could be realised for something in the order of 6 figures, so a realistic possibility within the context of Cycling City funding levels.

Nine Tree Hill might well be a suitable location for something more like the Trampe lift or a cable lift since there are no vehicle accesses on one side. But I think demand is far more predictable in the Park St/Park Row corridor so that should be the first such installation.

Steve L, I've now put a link to Bristol Traffic's post on the Trenchard St lifts into the post above.

SteveL said...

Chairlifts suck with panniers; you sit there staring at your bike hanging by the front wheel, worrying about your luggage. It's also really unpleasant doing it in a thunderstorm, but when you are running late its that or get stranded in the wrong country. At least when you are doing the alps XC style, you don't have to worry about lift closing times.

No, we want a cable car coming up from Southville.

Adam said...

@ McD
"I just experienced my first "chair lift" at a ski resort (no snow just now though!) and wonder whether something similar might exist for bikes - just hook yourself on and off you go!"

It's called a car. Grab hold of one at the bottom of Park Street and hold on for dearlife untill you find yourself and your bike at the top. If people want to be able to accuse me of being a freeloader on a bike on the road then I'll do it properly :)

Jon Rogers said...

Interesting idea!

There have been discussions to regenerate that whole area around Trenchard Street. Might include bike lift plans in longer term.

Another possibility might be a "Trampe type lift" up the road by the side of the car park?

How much is the Seoul example costing. and how high does it rise?


Chris Hutt said...

Jon, the trouble with Lodge St as the location for a Trampe style lift is that it would only deal with less than a third of the total climb from the Centre to Queens Road.

If people weren't put off by the climbs to get to it and from it they probably wouldn't bother with it for the sake of a short 10 metre climb which doesn't take long to walk.

For a Trampe style I'd be looking at somewhere like Nine Tree Hill, Marlborough Hill or even St Michael's Hill where you'd get a decent climb. But I doubt those locations would attract the levels of use to justify the investment.

SteveL said...

How about we add some good signs from the centre for the designated "easy" way up the hill, which is colston-street, then left towards woodland road? Low cost, easy to roll out. Park street is suffering.

Thomas Guest said...

I wasn't being entirely serious with my Clifton Rocks railway suggestion, probably because I can't get my head round the idea of a cycle lift. What's wrong with getting off and pushing?

Clifton/Kingsdown isn't the only elevated ground in Bristol and you can't move a cycle lift to where it's needed. Maybe we need a sag waggon, which could tour Clifton, Kingsdown, Totterdown, Brislington etc. offering help uphill to weary cyclists? Looking at the background image to your blog, I think I've identified a suitable vehicle.

Chris Hutt said...

How about this for the easiest way of climbing the escarpment in the absence of a Bike Lift?

Starting on the centre climb about 15 metres via Colston St and Pipe Lane to enter the Trenchard St multi storey via the level 2 exit ramp. Then take the internal ramps up to level 8 (so 6 up ramps giving an internal vertical climb of about 20 metres, but sheltered from rain and with level sections between each short climb) exiting onto Park Row for the final 5 metre climb to reach Queen's Road.

Overall distance is a about 1 km compared to about 0.7 km via Park St. Total climb is around 40 metres but broken up into lots of short climbs with pauses in between to recover breath/stamina. Why not give it a try and report back?

Chris Hutt said...

Thomas, the 'sag wagon' approach is probably the most cost effective, but leads us back to the question of sticking bikes on the front of buses as has been tried and tested elsewhere.

I agree that getting off and walking isn't so terrible and I do it a lot more than I used to. Park St is quite an interesting street to walk up too. But that doesn't create a very inviting image of cycling for those who might be persuaded to try it.

Jon Rogers said...

Bikes on front of buses was mentioned by a chap from Seattle on Sunday. I have emailed him for more details.

Chris commented, "let's see what excuses Cycling City manage to come up"

Officer responses so far:

(1) "it would be very expensive."
(2) "not very keen to spend a lot of time on this idea."
(3) "a better option might be..."

I tend to agree with all three responses.

The better option suggested was

"why not give over some of the spaces in the car park itself for secure bike parking?" and "to enable the use of one of the existing lifts if this can be made safe for all users"

Remember, these are Bristol City Council officer responses. Do I detect progress of sorts?


Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for the feedback Jon.

The officer responses are pretty much what one expects. May I make a few comments on them?

(1) "Very expensive". That of course is relative. It's peanuts compared to £1 billion for GW electrification or £40 odd million for a BRT from Ashton.

The point is surely not whether it's 'expensive' but whether it offers value for money. If it paid for itself in say 20 years it would be much better value than GW electrification!

(2) "Not keen to spend a lot of time on idea". No need to spend a lot of time on it since it is only necessary to establish something like a shadow toll system to give an indication of potential revenue to make it worth the while of independent consultants to work up and promote the idea. That could apply equally to a wide range of infrstructure investments.

(3) "A better option might be.." By all means let's hear better options, but if using existing lifts is an option why is the Council going to some lengths to PREVENT cyclists using the lifts? On that point the officer response doesn't have much credibility.

Besides I don't think the existing lift access is very inviting. The point of a Bike Lift is surely to change perceptions of what is possible by showing cycling as something prestigious with attractive and cared for facilities.

Anonymous said...

You Clifton/Cotham poshos have too much time on your hands and not enough appreciation of the world the rest of us live in, to be spouting so much arse.

Just get off and push and before you know it, you're at the top of the hill.

What about us pikeys who live in tower blocks with broken down lifts ? We can't even get the shopping home, never mind the bike. If we leave it downstairs, it gets nicked or trashed.

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear - I hope Hutt is happy to have made the front page of the Evening Post with his stoopid ideas. He's certainly making sure that cyclists continue to be seen as a minority bunch of idiots

Anonymous said...

Isn't that Hutt going the wrong way up a one way street on the Evening Post website...

Seems about right judging by most cyclists knowledge of the highway code in Bristol.

Chris Hutt said...

I was asked to pose cycling up the hill by the Evening Post photographer. I did point out to her that it was one-way but she didn't seem to think it mattered very much.

As it happens the world didn't come to an end and there was only minimal inconvenience to one or two motorists coming down the hill.

I'd say that we should all allow a little give and take on these things, as long as no significant road safely hazard is involved.

Anonymous said...

Good to see your crystal ball allows you to see when there is no safety hazard involved.

Please do let us know where we can get one.

Chris Hutt said...

No crystal ball, just common sense. I'm sure you could get some too if you drop the obsession with trivia like whether I was photographed on a one-way street or not.

Anonymous said...

No crystal ball, just common sense. I'm sure you could get some too if you drop the obsession with trivia like whether I was photographed on a one-way street or not.

Some might say..some of your posts are very much focused on trivia..but maybe not trivia in your world.