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.