First Out! Sustrans in! “To help explain the impact on the cycle path in much greater detail.”
Climb down or buying out the opposition? You decide …
Release Date: 05-Feb-2008
Below is the text of an open letter sent by Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Executive Member for Access and Environment at Bristol City Council to John Grimshaw MBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Sustrans
Thank you for your letter of 23rd January 2008 detailing Sustran’s concerns about the possible use of the Bristol to Bath cycle path to accommodate part of a bus rapid transit link between Ashton Vale and Emersons Green. I have decided to make this letter public as was your letter to me – I hope this is acceptable.
I have also been taking careful note of the concerns expressed on various websites and the e-petition, and those made direct to me. I understand the concern and anxiety felt by many people as a result of the information obtained and the lack of wider explanation about BRT available at the same time.
In my comments on 24th January I referred to the Bristol to Bath cycle path as a ‘strategic route in its own right and a powerful symbol of our city’s need to find alternatives to the car.’ This remains my view.
Promoting and encouraging walking and cycling are important to this authority given the positive implications for health and wellbeing and in helping to alleviate the transport pressures in our city.
As you know, I am personally committed to supporting the full range of travel options, including walking and cycling , and we have endorsed the successful Connect 2 bid, expressed strong interest in Bristol becoming the Demonstration Cycling City, and through Showcase and other measures, have been investing in safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. This was recognised in the recently published Audit Commission report into the City Council’s transport services.
At our meeting last week, we discussed the current status of technical work on BRT options including full or partial road based solutions. This work, undertaken by the West of England Partnership (WEP), follows on from earlier broader analysis in the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study (GBSTS), the Joint Local Transport Plan, and more recently, in the outline proposition for Transport Innovation Funding. All of which, bar the latter, pre-date my appointment.
The work on various BRT options has been progressed by consultants instructed by WEP together with some BCC officer participation. I understand that First Bus have also been involved as technical advisors, but this arrangement will cease. A formal proposal on a preferred option will need to come before the Bristol Transport Board, which I chair and this will be required before any decisions are made. At this stage there is a need to consider the full range of options and not to close anyone down withouT fuller investigation. As a city we have limited enough scope for enhancing physical connectivity so we need to make best use of existing routes where possible – and that includes our roads.
It is vital that any evaluation of this and the other route options should take into account the effect on existing and potential growth in walking and cycling, plus impacts on local residents, biodiversity, and whether the proposed route offers a strong enough incentive for car users to make the modal shift required.
We will also need to be clear about the citywide and sub-regional objectives underlying this work and proposed investment.
There are also additional issues surrounding the technology (vehicles and track), detailed mitigation of physical barriers (bridges etc), and possible enhancement of the cycle path and walkway (improved lighting, widening etc). This will all form part of the ‘mix of factors to be assessed. We will take as long as required to complete this work and I will want to work closely with Sustrans to ensure we have used the most appropriate methodology. In reality, this means looking at all the alternatives and making sure we can explain the impact on the cycle path in much greater detail.
I’m sure you will be interested to learn more about what might form part of this assessment package.
I have asked officers to ensure that the latest guidance on sustainable transport systems is adopted for this work. I know that you and colleagues have helped shape this work published recently by the Department for Transport.
At our meeting, I spoke about the potential for Sustrans becoming a key advisor to the BRT programme, perhaps (and subject to agreement by our partner authorities) as a member of the BRT Executive Board and Project Team. My officers are sending you further information on the role of each group. I do hope that you will give this positive consideration given the need to ensure that BRT adopts high standards of sustainability and complements, not
diminishes, other travel choices.
The last few weeks have shown the need for Bristol City Council to better engage with the expertise within our city – in sustainable, environmental technology and transport engineering in particular. I will bring forward proposals to assist in making this happen through the appointment of advisers to the Bristol Transport Board. I also propose to establish a revamped Bristol Transport Forum, one of whose early tasks will be to examine the BRT concept and proposals.
Let me finish by assuring you of the need for full public involvement in shaping the options and my personal commitment to work with Sustrans to ensure that we strengthen the role of cycling as part of the overall strategy to encourage less dependency on the car.
Councillor Mark Bradshaw
Executive Member for Access and Environment
Bristol City Council
Author: Cllr Mark Bradshaw
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Having spent a considerable time with a colleage asking questions of BCC officers and piecing together the history of this developing saga. We examined minutes and presentations and officers did their best to help…..
1 The concept of guided buses is Ok but it is a sad loss that central government are restricting the choice by controlling the purse strings.
2 The plan was not a threat until around May this year when the cycle path was clearly identified as the preferred route.
3 The transport executive (Cllr Bradshaw) became fully aware of this in June/july but the info was not shared with other parties and it seems possible that Cllrs in his own party were kept in the dark.
4 Whilst it is probably technically possible for the 2 to be squeezed on to the available area the nature of the path would be severely damaged.
5 Other routes where BRT could have significant benefit were looked at but have been dropped from active consideration over recent months.
Sustrans would be ill-advised to accept a seat on the BRT board, or even to be appointed as advisors. It would give the impression, rightly or wrongly, of a potential sell-out and thousands of cyclists and path users would sense betrayal.
Bradshaw must surely realise this so why make the offer, unless it’s designed to put Sustrans on the back foot? If Sustrans decline the offer, as I think they must, they may appear to some to be taking a negative stance, which is far from the truth.
Of course if the Railway Path BRT route was eventually dropped in favour of say the M32/Fishponds Road option then things would be different, but would they still want Sustrans on board, so to speak, if they didn’t hope to win him over on the Railway Path option?
Bradshaw has expended around a thousand words and said nothing.
Trying to co-opt Sustrans is simply a smokescreen.
This madcap proposal deserves to unleash the maximum amount of civil disobedience possible.
It’s high time that we claimed our city back from these unelected quangos – half of whom most of us have never heard of.
Democracy? Bristol? The two words have nothing in common at the present time.
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