Monday, 5 August 2013

Suspension Bridge: last day to get your responses in

This is the last day to get some feedback in to the Suspension Bridge Proposal,  -the council page has the details.

The BBC also covers it, saying the plans will make it "more pedestrian and environmentally-friendly "

We fail to see at all how this makes it more environmentally friendly at all. It tries to slow us down, but as we can go up to 30 mph once the speed bump is cleared, that doesn't save any fuel or CO2.

It doesn't encourage cycling to the bridge, because it doesn't encourage cycling.

And yes, it may be "pedestrian friendly", but as the pedestrians they have in mind are walking round from the coach parking bay, that's not very environmentally friendly.

Are we going to write in opposing this measure? We are unsure. Given all it does is add a speed bump and a pinch point, it doesn't make that much difference: another 10 seconds of sitting 50cm behind a cycling family nervously worrying about our revving engine -and we'd do that for fun anyway.

The tax dodgers, now they may want to say "there is nothing environmentally friendly about a proposal that makes it even more hazardous and bicycle unfriendly"

This is why we are not at all surprised to read this objection.

We're a bit worried about their grand vision of making the Suspension Bridge a cycling gateway to the city. We don't want more cyclists and making all the bridges dangerous can do that -the "London Style Cycle Route" plan.

Fortunately, we are confident that the traffic planners handling the Clifton area see eye-to-eye with us, what with the new Pinch Points on Whiteladies road and the Triangle, and the (currently on hold) proposal to add parking to Clifton to make it worse to cycle.

From: SteveL
Date: 31 July 2013 17:58
Subject: response to proposed improvement works Suspension Bridge Road area


I am writing to object to the current plans for the bridge on the basis that not only does if fail to identify and address the current cycling hazards, the addition of a pinch point will make it worse, I propose instead a cross-bridge plan to make the bridge a safe and more popular cycle route, and so enable the city to achieve its cycling goals.

  • The proposal will actually make exiting the bridge on a bicycle even more dangerous than it is today, especially for families and young cyclists.
  • The bridge exit and entrance plans need to be urgently reviewed by stakeholders in safer cycling: the council cycling officers, the cycling campaign, the cycling team in the N. Somerset council. 
  • There is a opportunity here to begin to implement a coherent design for a safe cycle route over the bridge, spanning the Abbots Leigh side, the bridge itself and the Clifton side. 

As it stands the proposal appears to be using myself and my son as a traffic calming measure in the name of  pedestrian safety. 

I cycle over the bridge three times a week on my own, addressing the risks by cycling fast and taking the lane, despite the frustration that builds up in the vehicles behind. I also cycle with my family, including my 11 year old son. It is he that I'm worried about.

Here is the experience of trying to cycle across the bridge today:
The approach has a a bike lane painted on it that is too narrow to be safe, runs into the parked cars at the bridge, and effective vanishes at the pinch point created by the central barrier. All it does is create unrealistic expectations in drivers that the cycles are not to be in their way.

The drop off to the road from the toll bypass is not in a good position. In fact, the new toll booths "to improve traffic flow" make it worse when cycling, is there is now a shorter interval between cars. When an adult is trying to get a child out as well as themselves, this change is noticeable.

The bridge crossing itself is usually relatively calm, though you invariably end up with a car driving behind you, waiting to get past. Sometimes they do this on the bridge, which, with the oncoming traffic means that they tend to cut in as soon as they can. Thankfully, this is rare.

It is the exits that are most problematic.
  1. After being held up by cyclists -in the case if a family group, slow moving cyclists, by the end of the crossing the impatient drivers invariably want to get past them.
  2. Because the central reservation prevents them front doing so safely, yet the slightly wider road invites the possibility. Here there is a tangible risk of a collision with a car trying to squeeze past.
  3. On my own, I can stay at 15-20 mph, stay far enough out in the lane to block the cars. I continue like this until the reservation goes away. At this point I can move to the left, where there currently is enough space to go, and let the cars past.
  4. With a family, getting on the bridge is harder, crossing it mildly worrying, but it is that exit that I fear. With a family you've taken longer to get across, the number of vehicles behind will be higher, and the other family members lack the speed and aggression to "take the lane". It's is where we are most at risk. 
  5. If there was somewhere to pull over, I'd be tempted to get my family to do so -but instead we have echelon parking bays where vehicles reversing out become yet another hazard.
  6. Once past the area with the central reservation, it becomes safe to cycle again, as we can keep to the side and let the cars that have been held up past.
It is at this point where cars can pass safely that a pinch point -the build out- is proposed. The area where my family and I can cycle leisurely while cars go past is to be replaced with a road where I will need to aggressively pull out and block the cars so that my family can safely cycle. Any cyclist without fitness and aggression will be in trouble.

review of the plans
  • The build out/pinch-point represents a significant new danger to cyclists -it is critical that this is dropped. It endangers cyclists while failing to provide a significant improvement in pedestrian safety.
  • The raised areas are likely to be slippery in the wet or ice. Whatever material is used it must be a high friction surface.
  • The failure to recognise and address the exit-side cycle safety issues: the central reservation and the echelon parking -mean that the existing features will remain hazardous.
  • The failure to identify and address the hazards on the approach: the unusable cycle lane, the pinch point created as the central reservation appears, and the now shorter safe period to exit the tool booth bypass means that it is just as hazardous as ever.
  • The coach parking will remove part of Clifton Down. Dedicated coach parking cold be provided further round the corner- this would also handle the situation where more than one coach visits. The space for such parking will be made available once Clifton becomes an RPZ.
Overall then, it is a disappointing design that implies that the needs of cyclists have been completely neglected - more effort has been put in to provide coach parking than a safe and pleasant cycle experience.

Here then, is a counter proposal.

Making Clifton Suspension Bridge a cycling gateway to the city

Rather than ignore the needs of cyclists, recognise that the bridge is a key commuter and leisure route for cycling -and could easily be made a key destination for visitors to the city who come by bicycle.
  1. The parking areas on the  bridge exits to are removed. On the Somerset side a segregated cycle path can be implemented -it must be segregated to prevent it being downgraded to parking. On the Clifton side, I propose providing cycle parking and a permanent bay for the ice cream van, which will no longer need to occupy the cycling approach to the bridge.
  2. The pavement on the Clifton approach should be widened, the bushes cut back, and a cycle lane installed on it -by raising the currently allocated on-road cycle lane. 
  3. The Abbots Leigh approach should have a gradual reduction in speed limits starting before the bridge itself is reached. I believe there is also room of a segregated cycle path on this approach.
  4. A means is provided for cycles to go on the left side rather than the right side of the gatehouse. It's was of course a requirement when bicycles had to pay the toll, so is demonstrably possible.
  5. A cycle traffic sensor is installed in the toll booth bypasses, a sensor which keeps the barriers down when bicycles are passing through. It's I'd entirely consistent with the councils's hierarchy of provision model. This. Sensor could also collect cycle traffic statistics.
  6. The bridge speed is lowered to 15 mph. It was 20 mph until the mid 1990s, to no ill effect. Reducing e speed would remove unrealistic expectations from car drivers as to how fast they can safely driver over the bridge.
  7. The actual road at both ends is converted into a shared space are where pedestrians have priority. This should eliminate the need for a central reservation, the build out and the speed bumps. The surface must still be high friction in the wet.
  8. Vistors to Bristol and clifton are encouraged to explore the city and environs by bicycle, with signing to link up the Railway Path, the proposed Avon Promenade, Festival Way and the suspension bridge, as well as more signage from Templemeads and Clifton Down stations.
This may seem an ambitious plan, but it is necessary. the bridge is a key cycle roué in and out the city, popular with commuters, leisure cyclists, be they road or MTB, and families. West of Templemeads it is one is one of the sole two crossings that are relatively safe and pleasant to cycle., of the The other, by Hotwells, has the BRT2 route planned for it, and while it will remain open to bicycles, the BRT building will take it out of action for some time -diverting more cyclists to the bridge. The growth in cycling and diverted traffic means that making the bridge safer to cycle over is essential -especially now that the Long-Ashton extension of Festival Way is designed to bring in more cycling traffic.

The bridge can form a a key access point to a city with ambitious cycling goals -an access point which my proposal offers. The overall plan may take time to be implemented, but individual parts of the grander proposal can be -of which the Clifton side, the gateway to the city, must be a core part.

If the council is unwilling to draw up ambitious plans to upgrade key cycle access points to make the safer and sustain a higher load, then the city's overall plans to increase the percentage of cycle traffic is doomed. This bridge proposal, then, represents a test of where the city really wants to go.

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