Sunday 8 July 2012

The origin of the Great Wall of Filton

At their AGM, Joe Steinsky took the attendees from the showcase Bristol City infrastructure, to the "what not to do" infrastructure of S Gloucs -infrastructure that was, remember, funded out of the Cycling City program.

David Arditti has put up his review.

First, regarding the MoD paths, those were the ones where bollards without illuminated markings went up to narrow the cycle route down to less than 1m for two lanes -making it the nationally famous Bollards of Death path. It may be abysmal now, but consider this: the S Gloucs cycle team spent money making it worse, then more money reversing their mistakes.

Which brings us, naturally to the Great Wall of Filton, which as David Arditti observes is "foolishly obstructed by a wooden post".

Its far, far worse than that. The shared space went in a couple of years ago to make this stretch of road walking and cycling friendly. Instead it shows why shared space is a shit idea that actively punishes anyone cycling. By allowing cars to park on the edges of the space, and giving people the "option" of walking and playing in the centre, it created conflict with anyone cycling, and Great Wall of Filton is the result.

What they could have done is a proper, segregated path through the shared space. No, giving the (new) residents the right to park their cars in front of their houses is more important.

Going back a few years, here is the planning decision.

"to achieve a significant shift in travel behaviour away from the private car towards a greater use of walking, cycling and public transport;"

Well, did it fucking succeed?

Reasons for the closure
  • The problems identified by the residents included the use of Eighth Avenue by through traffic to avoid congestion on Filton Avenue and vehicles travelling at inappropriate speed.
  • 15 injuries on the road in the previous 3 years.
  • "Traffic calming does not effectively deter either rat- running or anti-social driving"

These are all good goals. Closing the road to through traffic has helped. It's just the shared space development completely screwed things up:

The closure ties in with Bristol City Council proposals for the Horfield Estate Regeneration. This section of Wordsworth Road forms part of the proposed Home Zone and a large volume of fast moving through traffic would undermine the Home Zone.

See that? the closure came in with the shared space zone, not after it. There was an opportunity to do things better when the houses that were there before were ripped down - a segregated route that would encourage cycling, and, while it couldn't stop motorbiking, could isolate the damage. Instead the area got a shared space with some barriered road closure, and then, last year, the Great Wall of Filton.

At the original event, who was opposed?

One resident who felt that the turning point would be blocked (probably true), it would devalue their property (bollocks) and that other forms of traffic calming would be better. Some lazy git who likes driving, by the sound of things.

Who else? The S Gloucs Taxi association
The Workers Union Taxi Branch 2/106, whose address is in South Gloucestershire, are as follows:-
  1. Closure would be detrimental to their trade,
  2. A lesser measure should be imposed
  3. Making one or two roads traffic free will not help cyclists

Point #2 isn't an argument; it's a suggestion. Point number one: "we want our rat runs". That's what it means. This road used to be a high speed alternative, especially southbound, to Filton Ave. Northbound, the right turn at end meant you relied on goodwill from drivers stuck in the Northbound jam -and goodwill is pretty fucking sparse on a weekday morning.

Point #3 is fucking hilarious. When has the S. Gloucs taxi association ever given a fuck about bicycles before or after this? Never. Did they suddenly get take over by a cycling group and decided to care? Pretty unlikely. Instead they use the "we care about bicycles" argument to say "this road should stay a rat-run for taxis."

They make a point :making one or two roads traffic free will not help cyclists, but to say that means that roads should not be closed is specious-fucking-politician-style-argument-dredging.

Unless someone in Bristol or S Gloucs is prepared to declare a dedicated road closure down a fully joined up route -and it would be wonderful, if unlikely in the city, and never going to happen if fat-arse-allinson has power- closing roads one by one is all that's left. This road has joined up with the concorde way. it could almost be a good cycling route. Yet the taxi drivers were against the initial closure on the grounds that it wasn't a good solution for cycling in the city.

At least here the council had the backbone to tell the taxi drivers to go fuck themselves:

  • Eighth Avenue/Wordsworth Road are not suitable roads to be used as a through route by taxis and it will be possible for all properties on these roads to be accessed by taxis.
  • Lesser measures such as traffic calming would have little impact on the volume of through traffic.
  • The closure will have a beneficial effect on a 2 mile long ‘rat run’ that is currently promoted as a signposted cycle route between Bristol and the North Fringe.

Meaning :you shouldn't be rat-running here, traffic calming would miss the whole point of the proposal, and it is on a sign posted cycling route.

What has happened in the last eight years, then? The housing is done, the shared space built, and the residents -suburban car drivers that they are- don't see the point in a cycle route. All they see are motorbiking teenagers coming through their shared space, and are happy to have the route blocked.

Here's what happened, as an email forwarded to us says:

The changes were made through the Bristol Neighbourhood Partnership budget for Horfield & Lockleaze and were jointly funded by South Gloucestershire, (as it is right on the border of the two authorities). The issue was addressing a road safety concern with motorcycle speed through the stopping up, which was affecting pedestrians, cyclists and local residents using the facility. Bristol has received phone calls and correspondence from Ward Councillors, the Police, local residents and users on this particular issue. The speeding issues had been reported throughout the day as well as the night and were not easy to address through enforcement due to numerous motorbikes using this as a short cut.

As there was very little funding to address this, CCTV or completely re-engineering the stopping up was not an option, due to significantly less funding within local government currently. We believe the amendments probably do act as a very minor inconvenience for cyclists, in much the same way as a York-style staggered barrier may act. We also agree for the minority of people using a tag along or tricycle this is not perhaps a route we would advise using. Yet for the majority of cyclists it is still possible to use the route in a far safer way, without potential or actual conflict occurring at high speed with motorbikes. For tricycles or tag alongs we would suggest using The Concorde Way, (if they are heading to the MoD or other employers in the area), or the other alternative would be Filton Avenue. Although we do not envisage the amendments stopping motorcycle misuse, it will slow the current speeds and be a road safety improvement for most users and residents. Unfortunately a solution to this age old conundrum, which allows access for all, but stops issues with motorbikes has yet to be invented, although we do try trial new solutions to regularly check this.

In terms of alternative design solutions we did investigate at a number of other options including one to three bollard/s either side of the islands allowing cyclists to weave around them, but due to bollards potentially being struck by turning traffic, (particularly large lorries or refuse vehicles) and little or no budget the current arrangement was the best placement in terms of future maintenance.

As regards the footway, the staggered barriers have been implemented within our current BCC Environmental Access Standards and are as such DDA compliant, as far as we are aware. Finally, in terms of making the bollards visible at night, they do already have a retro-reflective band around the top.

There you have it. The Great Wall of Filton was the easiest and cheapest way to keep motorbikes out the shared space. And if you have an odd-shaped bicycle, Filton Avenue is your option. Which is fucking ridiculous.


  1. "Instead it shows why shared space is a shit idea that actively punishes anyone cycling."

    Indeed there is tremendous confusion in this country between the concepts of "Shared Space" or "Home Zones" and "Cycle routes". This is sometimes encouraged by cycle campaigners who think that we will never achieve proper segregated cycle routes, so they think Shared Space residential streets are the next best thing. No so. They are, if done properly, entirely inimicable to routes for cycling as transport. The last thing you want in a street designed for play is commuting cyclists bombing through it.

    The Dutch understood this a long time ago, and though they pioneered home zones or Woonerven, they do not confuse them with the transport cycle routes, but keep them quite separate. You don't cycle in a Woonerf unless you live there.

  2. But if you're a council with limited funds and residents shouting at you about motorised 2 wheelers knocking people have to be seen to do something...what are the alternatives. I agree with the sentiment here...but the rationale for fitting the post is understandable. Not what anyone here wants to hear but there was no alternative under the current circumstances. Things need to change but if filton has wall, we are all surrounded by them. We need to produce alternative instead of banging on about the same old issues. The council have done their duty to residents and it affects a minority..we don't like it but its true..should it change? yes of course it should, how will it change without balanced considered arguments and putting forward workable alternatives. Then of course its a numbers game, there are not enough people on bikes yet to make us more 'important' than residents or knocked over kids....complaining/whinging that a bicycle has to shuffle past a bollard to get through a space is not a valid argument..makes the whingers look foolish.
    The Motorised two wheeler issue is a huge one that needs addressing nationally, we need to find workable alternatives then try to slowly get all barriers that restrict bicycles removed. Its a complex issue but the folly that has become the 'great wall of filton' could be more of a barrier to advocates progress than it is to cyclists.