Sunday 13 March 2011

Bristol Parkway to UWE. Could try harder.

Before watching the video, know that 20 years ago, you could walk or run through fields all the way from the railway bridge to the UWE entrance. Since then various office facilities have appeared, along with lots of parking, and, unsurprisingly, big traffic jams on the A4174 ring road, along which everyone will have to cross, unless they are heading north to Bradley Stoke.

That means that in the past 20 years, many of the side roads went in, giving an opportunity to have a wide bicycles-first route alongside the roads. It didn't happen, and what has gone in recently can best be described as damage limitation, or more precisely "damage limitation designed not to upset anyone driving"

This is the official video on the better by bike site. This is the best video they could do to sell the project. Imagine how much less compelling it would be if it was done on a day when rain screwed up visibility and stopping distances, bikes coming in the opposite direction, and more pedestrians.

For a citizen of S Gloucs who is not affiliated with the People's Cycling Front, here are some issues the video highlights
  • 0.14 - The chance to mix it with bus queues and their trolley suitcases  -
  • 0.42 - 1.50 The convoluted detour to do 2 left turns.
  • 1.19 - The chance to cycle on a narrow pavement under the bridge -
  • 2.15 - The chance to scare the living daylights out of pedestrians on yet another
We add:
  • 0:00 No coverage of the car parking here. Yes, that increases train traffic, and there is also some secure bike parking, but it still implies that the primary expected transport option here is by car, not walking or cycling. Compare with the NL. 
  • 0:31 the usual pavement/path problems. Two people walking side by side and bicycle traffic are not expected or supported in S Gloucs. #FAIL
  • 0:44  A  zebra crossing with a designated bicycle option. This is is good, and should be replicated elsewhere, on this route and on all other routes where pedestrians and cyclists are expected to yield to motor traffic. Well done!
  • 1:05 How can crossing be cycle friendly when the cars don't stop and the island is not wide enough for any bicycle with trailer or tagalong. Better to pull the island (removing a pinch point for the vehicular cyclists) and put in another bike+foot zebra crossing. Why wasn't this done? #FAIL
  • 1:10 the signpost is not in the path. Well done!
  • 1:19 this is a choke point you can't avoid. Yet someone was scared of, say, narrowing the road to one lane (alternating) and putting in a dedicated two way bicycle route. You know, something that says bicycles matter. #FAIL
  • 1:25 a single bollard, with the blue markings but not that reflective. Just one bollard though. 
  • 1:55 note the traffic speed. There's an expectation in cars that there aren't bicycles and you can drive at 60 on the roads. Lower speed limits would help, but the ever present dual carriageways reinforce the "cars only" feel. Yet these bike lanes are the alternative.
  • 2:08 The loopback to the bridge is now complete. If a segregated bicycle lane had gone in under the bridge, the bike journey would have saved all the time since 0:44. This is a bike path designed to encourage you to cycle on the road as it is faster. #FAIL
  • 2:10+ This is just a fucking pavement. Why not come out and call it that instead of a designated bike route. Oh, and it's no fun to walk either. The fields were prettier. 
  • 2:20 Now the pavement gets narrower. The bollard to the right is there to stop you cycling into something that would hurt, like a fence. #FAIL.
  • 2:43 Bicycles give way to staff car park. #FAIL.
  • 3:05 another crossing with no ped/bike support other than "hope for the best". #FAIL.
  • 3:20 a quiet back road with no parked cars would be the ideal place to retain a real segregated bike path;  instead you are expected to embrace the road. If you wanted that, why not just start off on the road? Oh, and what is the speed limit on this road? 30 or 60?
  • 3:54 video forgets to warn about buses coming up the RHS, especially in a morning, as its the bus route to UWE. #FAIL.
  • 4:01 we'd recommend looking right for cars doing 70+ mph before trusting the green man. Just a thought. 
  • 4:03: the roadwork sign is the A4174 road widening, way more expenditure than the cycling work. It does add a bus lane, but doesn't take away any driving space. And how long before people get fed up by an empty bus lane before they turn it into another car lane -as they did with the car sharing lane the other side of the M32 junction?
  • 4:08 - video doesn't say "These are responsive lights". There's a reason for that, expect up to a minute's wait, always including time stuck half way. You could say "well the cars are going fast here", but why not downgrade the road speed then? Why not give pedestrians and bicycles priority and give a full sequence to allow people to walk or cycle across the route without that wait in the middle? #FAIL
  • 4:21 - we'll look at the UWE site bike paths some other time. Someone on site believes that bicycles are a threat to cars and so need their own special traffic calming. 
There we have it then. A half-arsed bike route that tries to provide a safe route to UWE from the station but tries to do it on the cheap by not putting in enough safe road crossings, and for a lot of the way, just putting some blue circles on a pavement. We think the Dutch will be, well, disappointed.


  1. Just to add to the mountain of well deserved scorn this hopeless excuse for provision is receiving.

    2:22 - Not only is the path narrow here, this is is a blind bend both ways - although this isn't obvious from the video - and its the at the bottom of a hill if you're coming from UWE.

    The signage is an absolute joke as well. Ok the posts aren't in the middle of the path, but they seem to be spaced at random in the hope that you'll spot the next sign on the other side of the road, behind the bus stuck in traffic...

  2. The first section of this is just mad, why would anyone go that way round to get to UWE? Real or subjective safety seem unlikely reasons to take this detour as you have to cross the road three times. Since the bike route only uses the footway under the bridge, I wonder why they didn't use the opposite side to save crossing to go under the railway bridge? Even if you believe narrow shared footways are a good idea - unlikely - this is still a hopeless effort!

  3. Entertainingly, many cyclists do use the other footpath under the bridge. This comes with its own problem - the other footpath is only just wider than most handlebars!