The Bristol Harbour Festival (cost circa £0.4 million) this weekend involves the closure of many city centre roads to allow the crowds to circulate more freely around the St Augustine's Reach area. Our old friend Prince Street Bridge is completely closed to motor traffic, as it should be, and the change in the ambiance on and around the bridge is palpable. People amble across in a relaxed, unhurried manner. Cyclists pick their way through gingerly, not daring to disturb the pedestrians in their way. For walkers crossing the bridge becomes something to savour rather than something to be negotiated cautiously.
Could Prince Street Bridge be like this on a daily basis? The numbers of pedestrians would be less and the numbers of cyclists more, and both would be in more of a hurry, but that is easily resolved by allocating one half of the bridge to each so the Arnolfini side becomes pedestrian only and the Redcliffe side becomes two way for cyclists. In that way all significant conflict is removed and everyone can enjoy crossing the bridge in a relaxed way, except of course for motorists but they have the nearby 4 lane Redcliffe Bridge, not to mention virtually the entire highway network, so are amply provided for elsewhere.
But it seems Bristol City Council do not want to explore such possibilities. As was first revealed here on this blog they plan to use the Redcliffe half of the bridge for Bus Rapid Transit (banning other motor traffic) and then cyclists will either have to share that side with the 18 metre long bendy-buses or share the limited width on the Arnolfini side with pedestrians, neither of which is acceptable.
As we see below from a picture taken during our brief summer the pedestrianised half of the bridge is already under pressure from current levels of use by walkers and cyclists. Further growth in numbers, which is to be expected and desired, may well provoke conflict unless more sensible use can be made of the overall width of the bridge.
One might wonder why general motor traffic cannot be diverted to more suitable crossing points right away as it will have to be if and when BRT is introduced. But that would allow people to become accustomed to a truly traffic free bridge and might result in opposition to the introduction of BRT.
So we must continue to suffer so that nothing may impede the introduction of their precious BRT, on which they pin such ridiculously high hopes. It is after all little more than a tarted up bendy bus with some exclusive lanes and junction priorities, not exactly a "step change" in public transport.