TRESA supports active travel (both walking and cycling) for environmental and health reasons . It is therefore with regret that the directors of TRESA objected to the proposed cycle route through Victoria Park. Our reasons for objecting are set out in full below. If you would like to know more about the application, or to make a comment, a link to the planning application is here:
The initial community consultation process appears to have been inadequate. Recent discussions with local residents and park users suggest they were either not aware of the proposal, or were not aware of the extent of what is being proposed. The current opposition to the route is an indication that many members of the local community feel their views have not been sought or, when expressed, have not been taken into account. A much more comprehensive and inclusive consultation is required. We note that many of those who are objecting to this proposal are people who cycle.
The Cycling Ambition Fund (CAF) team appear reluctant to consider an alternative, less disruptive, route. We understand the need to spend money on improving routes for cyclists but, if there is local support, TRESA would favour a different route: from Wedmore Vale across St Johns Lane, through the quieter streets towards the park, up Nutgrove Avenue, and then an improved link to Somerset Terrace. The link could be constructed as a short, fully segregated, cycling section ‘outside’ of the park with no barriers for cyclists, who could then continue on the quieter side-streets towards Bedminster train station (where we understand CAF is consulting on further works). This would be more direct, cheaper, and far less disruptive of the park. The suggestion that Nutgrove Avenue is steeper than the proposed route, and therefore unsatisfactory, appears spurious when the Filwood Quietway inevitably involves cycling up and down from Filwood. Cyclists who feel Nutgrove Avenue is too steep can continue to use the various pathways as they currently do while acknowledging that pedestrians have priority.
TRESA is in favour of improving disabled access. We note from the Design and Access Statement for this proposal that Victoria Park has 12 entrances and “The majority of the entrances are Equality Act 2010 compliant”. However, we would support measures to further improve access by installing improved K-barriers with widths that can accommodate wheelchairs, double buggies, mobility scooters and bicycles with trailers.
The CAF guidance is clear that proposals should “do no harm” to the pedestrian environment. We are concerned that the proposed route, although described as “improvements”, will be harmful. There are eleven potential ‘conflict points’ where existing pedestrian pathways meet or cross the proposed cycle route. This in itself should alert the CAF team that there are serious problems with the proposed route.
Along the whole route, a 2.5m width is proposed for cyclists (to comply with standards provided by Sustrans). However, space for pedestrians will be reduced and ‘sub-standard’ in places, giving the impression that cyclists have priority. This is a significant change to a long-held tradition in the park that considerate cyclists are welcome but pedestrians have priority.
The proposed route is a busy walking route between Totterdown and St Mary Redcliffe Primary school. It is often busy with parents/carers, babies and children. The reduction of space for pedestrians, the sudden reduction from 4.7 metres to 3 metres width, and the removal of the barrier at Windmill Close, all contribute to a potentially dangerous situation. This seems to have been ‘glossed over’ in the Design and Access statement. We are aware of persistent problems on the Bristol to Bath cycle route near Whitehall Primary School where cyclists believe they have priority over school children. This problem is acknowledged by Bristol City Council, Sustrans, the Neighbourhood Partnership and the police. We are anxious that a similar situation should not be created at an important entrance to our local park. The current situation, where pedestrians and cyclists are aware they have to stop and pay attention to each other is much safer.
A large section of the proposed route is currently used for the Junior Parkrun. This running route for children is chosen because it is relatively flat and therefore accessible for a wide range of physical abilities and fitness levels. It would not be appropriate to superimpose a wide cycle route on this area.
Victoria Park is designated as an area where dogs can be let off the lead (with enclosed play areas for children). It is one of the few places where this is permitted in an area of densely packed houses, and it is important that dogs do have some space to exercise and play. In contrast, Sustrans argue that dogs should be kept under control on routes used by cyclists (http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-you-can-do/cycling/cycling-safety-and-rules/advice-using-shared-use-paths). There is potential for conflict, even accidents, if dogs run into the cycle route (especially if cyclists believe they have priority and are travelling at speed).
People of all ages play ball games on the flatter area of the park through which the cycle route is proposed. This area is also a place when people have picnics and parties in the summer. Given that most of us have small gardens, the park is a wonderful place for adults and children to relax, play, and meet friends and neighbours. Running a wide cycle route on such an important area for socialising and relaxing seems entirely inappropriate.
TRESA is against removing barriers at gates to the park. It has been suggested that, after the route has been constructed and the barriers removed, the police will monitor (for 12 months) whether motorbikes become a nuisance. Given current police staffing and funding pressures it seems unlikely they will be able to prioritise this. It will be for local residents to monitor the situation and ‘complain’ to the police, causing additional stress for local people.
Lighting in the park is a difficult issue. The park is a Dark Sky Discovery Site and we are also aware that there are bats. We note Sustrans (Lighting of Cycle Paths, Technical Note 29, March 2012) states: “Dutch experience shows that cycle routes remote from natural surveillance, such as those across parks, may not be used after dark once user levels have fallen, even if lighting is provided. In these cases a lit on-road alternative should be identified that matches the desire line as closely as possible and avoids heavily trafficked roads”(p3). This would seem to favour a road route such as the route along Nutgrove Avenue (as proposed earlier). The proposed lighting, on 4.5 metre high posts, does not seem appropriate. Lower level lighting may be more appropriate. For example, Sustrans suggest bollard lighting: “The bollards spill light down across the path and the lower level of the lighting from these reduces light pollution and is less likely to affect bats” (p7)
Overall, TRESA believes Bristol City Council and CAF should not impose this route on Victoria Park. A much more thorough consultation is required with the local residents and community organisations, in particular Victoria Park Action group who have worked tirelessly to improve and care for the park. Alternative routes and designs should be scoped, and full consideration given to ensuring that any future plans do not spoil the use and enjoyment of this much-loved green space for a wide variety of users.