While public lifts perform a valuable role in the wider world, acting not only as an encouragement to pedestrians and cyclists but also as major tourist attractions, as we see in pictures here from Lisbon (45 metres high) and Oregon (40 metres), here in Bristol, with its proud tradition of technical innovation and now Cycling City, even a modest suggestion for a 30 metre high public lift for cyclists and pedestrians to be built on the side of the unprepossessing Trenchard Street multi-storey car park is met with contempt.
However to his credit the City Council's Executive Member for Transport, Cllr Jon Rogers, has not joined in the popular derision but is, he says, keeping an open mind about the possibility. In fact he made some enquiries about the status quo with the existing Trenchard Street lifts which have been used by cyclists for decades as a way of avoiding slogging up the Park Street escarpment. He helpfully posted the reply he had from officers as a comment on yesterday's Evening Post Traffic Lights piece (in response to an earlier enquiry about why the "NCP car park on Park Row now prevented people - primarily the elderly and disabled from using their lifts") and it's worth a read -
"Trenchard Street Multi-Storey Car Park is serviced by three lifts. The original lift cars were constructed with the car park and are approximately 40 years old. We commenced a major refurbishment programme of the lifts in April 2009. Two of the lifts have now been fully refurbished and the third one should be completed by the end of November 2009. The cost of the refurbishment project is £340,000.
"The refurbishment of the lifts has been undertaken for the following reasons:
"There were health & safety concerns regarding the reliability of the lifts. The age, general wear and tear and vandalism of the lifts had resulted in a significant number of lift failures resulting in poor customer service, and unfortunately, an increasing number of more serious incidents of customers being trapped within the lifts causing distress and inconvenience.
"The increasing difficulty in maintaining the lifts and sourcing spares because of the age of the installation.
"The lifts failed to comply with the DDA 1995.
"It has been found that approximately 60% of the users of the old lifts in the car park were not people who were parking there. Instead they were pedestrians and cyclists who were using the lifts as a short cut between Trenchard St and Park Row. This practice had resulted in fee-paying customers either being delayed or, in some cases, being excluded from the lifts because of the space taken up by the bikes and other users. There were also incidents of customers having their clothes marked by oil and dirt from bikes. Usage of the lifts by non-customers has added significantly to running costs (maintenance and energy), as well as reducing the life of the lifts.Jon Rogers goes on to note in the comment that "The interesting thing about this response is that it does show a demand for the lift in Trenchard Street by cyclists, pedestrians, parents with buggies and disabled people who don't have a car parked there. This was part of the suggestion from Chris Hutt for a bicycle lift up the outside of the car park."
"In view of the above, it was decided that when the lifts were replaced the car park tickets would operate them, as this would improve the environment and service to our customers by reducing waiting times. Limiting their use to fee-paying car park users will also reduce future wear and tear to the lifts, and hopefully also reduce the amount of vandalism occurring. We should also benefit from reduced energy and maintenance costs.
"If we were to allow non-customers to use the lifts again this would counter the above benefits of the refurbishment project for the management of this car park.
"Arguably if we were to introduce a charge for using the lifts the associated additional maintenance and energy costs could be recovered but customer wait time would increase making it a less attractive car park for users. It would also be difficult and expensive to introduce a charging regime for non-car users. If a scheme of charging none car-park users were to be introduced we would once again encounter problems of lift overcrowding and the potential for customers to damage their clothing. On balance therefore it is believed that the current limitation on lift usage is appropriate.
Indeed the officer reply informs us that the majority use of the lifts was by pedestrians and cyclists rather than motorists! Clearly such an intolerable situation could not be allowed to continue in Cycling City and they have now spent a substantial sum on a mechanism (above) specifically to deny the opportunity of using the lifts to mere cyclists and pedestrians. Need I say more?