The River Avon tow path from Netham up to Hanham and Keynsham, subject of my previous post, is one of our local gems and deserves to be made more accessible to all. Comments on the last post drew attention to one of the worst discontinuities, the 300 metre length of Conham Road (shown red in map at end of post) that cannot currently be avoided when connecting the Netham - Crew's hole section with the Conham - Hanham section. There is a narrow footway but perversely it runs on the opposite side of the road to the tow path connections at either end.
Here we see a family attempting to cross from tow path to footway at the Conham end. They've moved as far as they can down the road to keep away from the blind corner to the right behind the photographer. Visibility in the other direction is better but still not very good, so the crossing manoeuvre remains risky despite all their precautions. Sadly their concern for their safety is not shared by the highway authority, Bristol City Council, who appear to have done nothing to resolve this problem.
Eventually a brief gap in the traffic gives our family a chance to cross, but they will be confronted by a similar problem just 300 metres further on to regain the tow path at Crew's Hole, hardly an incentive to enjoy the Avon Valley as a walker. So what's is to be done? Well, probably nothing unless Bristol City Council have a big change in attitude and 'priorities', putting safety before the right of motorists to treat our streets like motorways. But let's suppose that such a day arrives, what are the options?
The most obvious option is to switch the footway from the inland side of the road (below, looking towards Conham) to the riverside. At the same time the footway could be widened to say 3 metres to be suitable for shared use with cyclists on the same basis as the rest of the route from Netham to Hanham. However this would effectively reduce the carriageway (road) to a single track road so motor traffic would have to be managed differently.
Apart form a limited amount of local access Conham Road is mainly used as a rat run to avoid the A431 above the valley and as such there is little justification for maintaining the existing traffic volumes and speeds. Since the section of Conham Road in question is just 300 metres one option would be to introduce traffic signals to allow shuttle operation one way at a time. Alternatively this section of could be made one-way to give sufficient space for a cycle/walkway on the riverside. Such measures need not be prohibitively expensive and could be implemented quite quickly on an experimental basis to establish their practicality.
So why have Bristol City Council, and Avon County Council before it, done nothing for more than 30 years? And more importantly, why will Bristol City Council continue to do nothing for at least the next 5 years, despite its pretensions to be a cycling city and to promote walking? May I suggest Institutional Motorism - a deep rooted prejudice in favour of motorised traffic at the expense even of the safety, let alone the convenience, of those that dare to travel on foot or bicycle?
View River Avon - Netham to Keynsham and Bitton in a larger map