Well, the War on Motorists began over 25 years ago —and the city is still suffering under it. Before the war, you could drive from temple way over the rickety flyover, straight to the centre, then past the cathedral and out to the A4, with only a couple of traffic lights in your way. Not now.
Some of the history of pre-war Bristol is still there, if you know where to look. Redcliffe Way for example —have you noticed how wide it is? Or why the road from the Jacob's Wells Road roundabout to (what's left of) the Bristol library is wide, yet deserted. All distant memories of a city before the war.
Here, in our historical artifacts, we've found an A-Z map of Bristol from 1985, when the motorists were not yet under attack by a car-hating council.
Look at the subtle differences
- Castle Park is as it once was: parking. A large amount of its surface area was dedicated to medium to long stay parking for "Broadmead Shopping Precinct" —one of Britain's premier shopping areas. Now: stolen by greenery. And of course, there's a bike path. And look what happened to Broadmead —its decline is not a coincidence.
- There's a road, "College Green", where now there is a park: "College Green". Newcomers just don't appreciate how wonderful it was to have a main road going past the cathedral entrance, between it and the council house —showing the council what mattered to Bristol: fast-moving cars. When Anchor Road was reworked in the early 1990s, it was designated the through road, and College Green taken from us; Dean Road becoming a cul-de-sac. And of course, the park added a bike path. This was one of the first losses in the war —and possibly the greatest strategically. No longer did the council get to see a main road out their windows. And without that, they lost their way: they forgot what mattered.
- Redcliffe Way goes all the way through to The Centre, via what is now known as "Queen's Square". That got captured by the tree-huggers at the turn of the century —who went out to plant trees to commemorate their victory. And of course, a bike path.
- The infamous rickety flyover has gone. Nobody who has arrived in the last 15 years will ever appreciate the thrill of driving over that single lane flyover, wondering if today would be the day that it fell down. Stolen, replaced by a lights-controlled gyratory. And of course, a bike path.
- Templemeads had a motorail terminal. Actually, this was news to us. Apparently you could drive onto a sleeper train and get to Scotland overnight. Of course, being able to drive up the M5, get stuck at Spaghetti Junction, crawl over Wolverhampton on the M6 and then eventually get to the A74 replaced that. And even now, with the M74 and new motorways round Glasgow, the speed enforcement on those motorways have made the journey worse.
- The railway path doesn't exist. While they didn't steal our roads for that —they could have converted that old railway line into a new road, or at least extra parking. Instead: a route designed to encourage more law-breaking cyclists to come into the city.
- The M32 ends at the "Allied Carpet and sex shops" junction, rather than the more convoluted "queue for Cabot Circus Parking" junction. Again, the addition of vast amounts of parking has made congestion worse on the M32. And, with more lights, pedestrian and cycle crossings.
- Nine Tree hill is open to through traffic. This was the great partition of Kingsdown. Before then you could drive down Springfield road, cut through Ninetree Hill and make your way to Jamaica street —allowing you to get all the way from The Downs to the city centre without a traffic light. Not now —and by forcing everyone to drive down Whiteladies Road, St Michael's Hill or Arley Hill+ Cheltenham road, it only makes congestion worse. And again: there's a bike path on the roads they stole.
- Prince Street Bridge. Two way, Closed to cars —possibly indefinitely.
- Lots of the other little "P" areas have been taken away by offices and housing. And what have we got in exchange? Nothing but the multi-storey parking of The Galleries, the multi-storey parking of Cabot Circus, the underground parking at @Bristol and the vast amount of parking behind Temple meads. That's it.
You can see, then, the multipronged battles which we've been fighting —and losing— in the war on motorists. Those bits of red paint on the main roads aren't the real war, they are just the victory signs, the equivalent of unionist and nationalist kerb painting. No, the battles fought have been far more strategic
- The closure of the inner ring road, the replacement of College Green and Queen's Square's main roads with parkland and bike paths. And in doing so —increasing congestion on the remaining roads.
- The closure of important rat-runs, closures which partition whole parts of the city. And in doing so —increasing congestion on the remaining roads.
- The replacement of surface parking with multi-storey parking facilities. And in doing so: encouraging congestion.