Bristol City Council, who make so much of their aspirations for improving public transport, walking and cycling, are pressing ahead with plans to spend £40 million on a new road linking the A370 at Long Ashton with the A38 and the A4174 Hengrove Way. This will form another element of the Avon Ring Road and will increase the pressure for a further link between Hengrove Way and Hick's Gate on the A4 Bath Road where the Avon Ring Road currently terminates.
View Avon Ring Road in a larger map
To put the money in context £40 million is around 4 times the extra investment allocated to cycling for the whole of greater Bristol through the Cycling City project, which gives you a pretty good idea where their real priorities lie. This £40 million investment in new road infrastructure (£10 million per kilometre!) is just one of many planned and ongoing projects to increase the capacity to accommodate car traffic, which together add up to hundreds of millions of pounds of public investment. Such largesse in favour of the car allows major engineering works to be undertaken (e.g. the viaduct below), the kind of thing that is simply out of the question as far as cycling and walking are concerned.
Of course development of this scale never occurs in isolation and in this case it will be an integral part of the proposed Ashton Park 'urban extension' between Dundry and Long Ashton, which includes the proposed football stadium which is in turn dependent on a major new Tesco at Ashton Gate, or so we are told by the developer. Extra traffic generated by these developments, which include around 10,000 new homes, will probably more than offset the extra road capacity created so congestion is likely to continue to get worse.
Building road infrastructure just locks us even more rigidly into car dependence and makes a transition to a sustainable transport system even more difficult. Ring roads in particular encourage travel around the fringes of a city in patterns that are too dispersed to serve with public transport, walking and cycling. Public transport really only works on radial routes focussed on traditional city centres. Ring Roads undermine those patterns of movement so weakening the viability of existing public transport.
So what are Bristol City Council playing at? Do they have a coherent and sustainable transport policy or is it just a question of making gestures to cycling and walking while continuing with 'business-as-usual' aimed at perpetuating the unsustainable, car orientated growth of Bristol, even though few of us actually want that growth?
Later edit - Stockwood Pete has kindly supplied a link to the West of England Partnership report which the decision was based on . Also worth following up a Pete's earlier blog posts on this.
Laer still edit - The Bristol Blogger is back and has covered this issue too, in his inimitable style.