Sunday, 13 September 2009

It's That Bridge Again

It looks like Bristol City Council may be getting something half-right down at Prince Street Bridge. The ugly concrete kerbs than restrict access to the cycle/pedestrian half of the bridge were removed for last week's Bristol half marathon, as they had been for the 10k run in May, when I blogged with my expectation that -
"bollards will be installed instead (of the concrete kerbs) which will allow cyclists to percolate through the closures instead of being funnelled into narrow, sub-standard gaps by the footway."

I was soon disillusioned back in May when the concrete kerbs went back in, suitably embellished by a member of the public with "cycling city - my arse". A long debate with Jon Rogers followed in the comments on that blog post in which he said
"the decision on the Prince Street Bridge trial should not be made purely on the basis of 'Hutt rants', informed though they often are, but be evidence based and follow the planned site visit".
Well it seems that a decision has been made that my 'rants' may have influenced because they're now putting in bollards instead of kerbs as I anticipated in May.

Of course I must quibble with it.
  1. Why do we need any bollards at all on the north side where motor vehicles would not normally enter the right half of the bridge anyway?
  2. Why are the bollards painted black so as to be difficult to see in conditions of poor visibility (when we cyclists are encouraged to wear high viz clothing and the bollards on the motorists' side are brightly painted in red and white stripes)?
  3. Why is no specific provision made to help cyclists who need to switch back to the left hand side of Wapping Road?
  4. Why weren't cycling interests consulted on the changes?
  5. What was the 'evidence basis' for the decision?

But at least it is progress of a sort. Cyclists can percolate through the bollards and so have more options for making the difficult manoeuvres required when travelling south as a result of the Cycling City funded changes. However there remain concerns about the capacity of the bridge to cope with the growing volume of cyclists and pedestrians together with motor traffic. We urgently need to send some strong signals out about changing priorities and a complete closure of Prince Street Bridge to motor traffic would help that.


Anonymous said...

I'm seeing this from a European perspective, but wouldn't it be simpler just to close the bridge to vehicles and have half cycles, half pedestrians on each direction to avoid conflicts?

Chris Hutt said...

That's exactly what many of us have been advocating, as you will see if you hit the 'prince st bridge' label at the end of the post and scroll down through all the postings.

We discovered that the reason that the Council don't want to close it to traffic at this stage is that they plan to run bendy-buses (BRT) over it in the future and if the bridge was first made motor traffic free people might not want buses introduced.

The whole bizarre set up on the bridge was designed to pave the way for BRT but was presented as being a benefit to cyclists in order to use funds from the Cycling City budget! In fact cyclists now have more difficulty negotiating their way southwards across the bridge than they did before the alterations were made.

Adam said...

I still just ignore what's been done to it and ride across as I always ave done.. on the left, whichever direction I'm going. Waiting around to cross to the wrong side of the traffic you're already part of and then having to navigate your way back across through traffic to the left on the other side is absurd.

It is now a passable safety-wise for pedestrians which is a good thing, but anyone who says this has been improved for cyclists needs help.

Was it really paid for out of Cycling City funds? How much has it cost? Is the change to bollards also coming out of Cycling City money?

Chris Hutt said...

I think £40,000 of CC money paid for the alterations which included new vehicular barriers, new wig-wag lights, new traffic signals, new paint job, etc. I expect the bollards are also funded from CC money.

I should point out that all of that happened when Bristol was under Labour control at the beginning of the year. I think Jon Rogers is much more cautious about making such claims.

Chris Hutt said...

I've just been informed that there was in fact some consultation with 'cycling interests', unknown to me.

I rather naively assumed that in view of the immense amount of work I've done on Prince Street Bridge that I might at least have heard something about any consultation, but that's Cycling City for you, nothing if not exclusive.

Ben S said...

Maybe this is the councils contribution to getting us out of recession - a job-creation scheme to just do the same bit of work over and over again...

Linda said...

I find that it is very confusing for cyclists and just ends up encouraging people to cycle on the wrong side of the road (all the way along) as they approach the bridge from the centre. I've given up using it going south and just cycle as if I was a car.

Jon Rogers said...

Chris Hutt said, "I rather naively assumed that in view of the immense amount of work I've done on Prince Street Bridge that I might at least have heard something about any consultation"

Er, I personally asked you if you wished to be involved in the stakeholder forum and you stated "definitely not"

If you are revisiting that decision, then it would be very welcome, as Cycling City would really benefit from having you scrutinising the proposals at an early stage.

There is an infrastructure stakeholder group who help with prioritising developments, and carry out site visits when appropriate. There is nothing secret about these meetings. You would be very welcome.

And I said nothing about tents and micturition either in or out!


bikecat said...

I would really really like to see the back of the cycle lane painted on the North approach to the bridge. It persuades cyclists to go into it and then cross back again to enter the cycle/pedestrian bit. They would be better off staying in the middle or slightly to the right to gain the entrance to the ped/cyclist bit. The lane is a false siren. Those wishing to use the bridge as the cars do would also be better off in front of the cars or behind them in the centre of the lane so they can go through the bridge without having to negotiate from a poor left hand position

Chris Hutt said...

Jon, your comment seems to imply that membership of the Stakeholder Forum is a precondition for being consulted on Prince Street Bridge.

Having made about 15 detailed investigative posts on this blog about Prince Street Bridge and even a submission to Cabinet I would have thought my interest was well known and one might expect it to have occured to someone to invite my comments on any proposed changes.

Besides my own interest I think the range of comments made by others on this blog (over 100!) and elsewhere shows that there is considerable interest in how Prince Street Bridge is managed, enough to justify consulting more widely on any proposed changes.

The fact that those of us outside of the Stakeholder Forum weren't even informed of the proposed changes can hardly be justified by our non-involvement with the Forum. Either those arranging consultations weren't aware of wider public interest (in which case one might ask what planet they are living on) or they were aware but preferred not to involve us (which is what I am assuming).

That is why I used the term 'exclusive'. There is scope for a far more open governance of Cycling City making better use of the Internet with officers entering into open, on-line discussions with cyclists and other interested parties. But the prevailing culture in the City Council doesn't allow it.

Jon Rogers said...


These appear to me to be minor, interim and overdue improvements to the Prince Street Bridge scheme.

They don't need wide consultation.

Your previous feedback has given some of the reasons to encourage such an early review.

The officers went with interested members of the Stakeholder advisory group to discuss "quick fix" options.

There are other schemes which are likely to be the subject of such visits.

If you want to be part of the infrastructure group directly working with officers then you would be welcome.

That wouldn't interfere with your ability to snipe from the sidelines (and you are good at it!)!

Many of us are trying to change the culture to one of more openness and public debate.

I am also awaiting an officer report on the site visit which I intend to forward to you.

I hope that my engagement on these and other blogs with interested members of the public will progress the agenda of openness and accountability.

There are some critics in the Council, but I hope that the results and benefits will start to appear soon to help answer them!



Chris Hutt said...

Jon, it seems that one can never get the consultation right. It's either too little, or too late, or too much and a waste of resources.

But in this case, and many others, it would surely be possible to flag the proposed changes up on a public on-line list with links to any council reports so that people have the opportunity to be informed of proposed changes and to find out more and/or comment if they wish.

The point about Prince Street Bridge is that the officers have made a pig's ear of it and would do well to listen to the criticisms made by those with practical experience, such as 'Bikecat' and 'Linda' above who make good points. They could for example comment here on some of the points raised. But they seem to want to remain aloof and only consult via arcane structures which few people relate to.

Pedestria said...

You're right, Chris, that could be a great benefit of a blog like this; ever better communication. And even in these days, I still feel that the phenomenal value of communication is under-rated.

Adam said...

One of the main things that worried me about the changes to the bridge was that it was probably the first really visible bit of "progress" that Cycling City made and it was such a terrible mess of confusion. Not a promising start. I don't know what else is being changed by Cycling City and I'm trying to remain optimistic but it does seem like it's quite far into the scheme now and not a lot has happened. Or maybe it has and I'm just unaware of it all, as are most of my friends and colleagues?

Apart from trying to alter road layouts to help cyclists I hope that Cycling City is aware that anything it does in Bristol will be seen as representing the wishes of cyclists by the general public. When people see the Prince Street bridge they will assume it has been changed to be like that because that is what cyclists want, which as far as i can can gather from almost every cyclist I've ever spoken to about it, it isn't.

Ultimatley making a mess of it and then changing it and messing it up again is just making cyclists and cycling in Bristol look indecisive and idiotic.

Chris Hutt said...

Adam, I think your comments are spot on. I plan to look again at the progress, or rather lack of it, on Cycling City in due course. But I can say briefly that most of what is happening infrastructure-wise at this stage is out in the suburbs, particularly Hengrove and South Gloucs.

That is mainly because it is easier to do things in these less intensively developed areas rather than in response to the greatest need. Inner city Bristol, being intensively developed, offers fewer opportunities for easy gains at low cost and without controversy.

My view is that the Cycling City timescale is far too short to allow significant infrastructure development. There is of course the possibility of the project being extended beyond 2011 but I expect that will depend on Bristol's performance in delivering under the current agreement with Cycling England.

The situation is exacerbated by the economic downturn which has stalled a number of developments which were to have provided elements of new cycling infrastructure and by the prospect of public spending cuts after next year's election.