1000 Space New Car Park and 4-Lane Road in Bristol City Centre Would be Madness!

The Living Heart for Bristol** has condemned a planning application which would demolish shops along Horsefair to create a 1000 space car park and a four-lane road. (See the living-heart-objection-to-horsefair-application). The application from the Bristol Alliance Partnership, which owns Cabots Circus and part of Broadmead, would create a four-lane road with new traffic lights to access the new car park, near where CEX is located today.  It would also close Horsefair to vehicles and re-route buses around the city centre. “To knock down independent shops to build a four-lane road and a huge new car park in the centre of the city would be an act of madness! Bond Street, already clogs up in the rush hour; it already suffers from dangerously bad air pollution.  The four-lane road they want to build would cross over the bus lane carrying Metrobus, with a new set of traffic lights to slow all the buses down.  At busy times cars wanting to turn into the new car park will have to wait in the middle lane of Bond Street, blocking the rest of the traffic until they get a green signal to turn left. The Council have consulted with bus operators and shop owners who have ‘expressed concern’ about the congestion this car park would cause.  Councillors should listen to those concerns and tell the Bristol Alliance to go back to the drawing boards. We think some other aspects of this proposal are more positive; it would close off the rat-run along Horsefair and increase the pedestrianised area.  We would welcome that, but not at the price of carving a four-lane road and turning 33,000 square metres of the city centre into another car park.” Ciaran Mundy, Director of Transition Bristol added: “Redeveloping the centre of Bristol is a great opportunity to create enjoyable public spaces that can be safely enjoyed by thousands of residents and millions of visitors. It is an opportunity to reduce pollution from traffic too - over 300 tragic deaths a year in Bristol due to air pollution is far too many and increased pollution from diesel and petrol cars could harm or kill even more. A plan to encourage hundreds of extra parking spaces for private cars flies in face of the evidence on public health and the fact that we need to create a low carbon future to tackle climate change. Car dependent development of this kind is not only outdated, in my view it is morally wrong. Let’s choose a healthier, happier future.”
  • The planning application can be viewed here.  The overall description is here.
  • The plan, showing the size of the new car park is here.
  • The four-lane road is shown on page 2 of this document.
  • The Bus Options Report, which includes the concerns expressed above is here.

Six Mayoral Candidates Back Living Heart Campaign to Remove Through Traffic and Create More Public Space

Six candidates for the mayoral elections, including all those with the highest odds of winning, have endorsed the Living Heart declaration of principles, which aims to improve the environment of central Bristol by removing through traffic, whilst retaining access for all:
  • Tom Baldwin, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
  • Kay Barnard, Liberal Democrat
  • Tony Dyer, Green Party
  • George Ferguson, Independent
  • Charles Lucas, Conservative
  • Marvin Rees, Labour
These principles also form part of Bristol’s Good Transport Plan (Objective 5).   The Living Heart has worked with the current Mayor, councillors and council officers to forward these principles in recent years.  There have been moves to implement them (e.g. in Corn Street) but progress has been slowed by a range of problems unrelated to the proposals themselves (see example).  The current Mayor, George Ferguson, said: “My objective is to make the centre and old part of Bristol car free and some of the surrounding areas low emission zones. Low emission zones will help but if we are serious about reducing traffic flows we need a city centre that only allows 0 emission vehicles to access.” The Labour candidate, Marvin Rees, said: “I am very happy to sign up to this declaration.  I look forward to putting in place a plan to deliver this.” Spokesman for the Living Heart, Steve Melia, said: “We are delighted that the Living Heart principles have been supported by such a wide range of candidates.  These issues are not party political; they are about improving central Bristol for everyone who lives, works, shops or spends leisure time in the city centre.  Remember the removal of the dual carriageway from Queen Square and College Green? That’s the sort of thing we want to see more of.  Removing through traffic is always controversial; as we have found in recent years, the devil is often in the detail.  But there are many ways it can be done, as shown by our neighbours in Bath and many other cities around Britain and Europe#.  We don’t underestimate the challenges but with this support from all the main candidates, we are confident that it can and will be made to happen.” Ciaran Mundy of Transition Bristol (a member organisation of the Living Heart) said: “the Living Heart principles are based on a simple idea that people’s physical health and happiness should be paramount. Removing the high volumes of through traffic emitting dangerous fumes and ruining enjoyment of public space in central Bristol is essential. I’m relieved to hear all main candidates for Mayor agree with that. It has been on the agenda for many years, many people have suffered and some have died through the lack of action. We want the next mayor to stick to these principles so people in Bristol have a fabulous city centre everyone can enjoy."  

Make the Green Capital Money Worthwhile: Implement the Good Transport Plan

The Living Heart for Bristol* has called on the West of England authorities to incorporate Bristol’s Green Capital ‘Good Transport Plan’ into the strategy it is writing for whole area.  A failure to do this would be a waste of public money, they claim. The four West of England authorities have been conducting a consultation into a joint transport study for the West of England area.  Their draft strategy makes no reference to the Bristol Good Transport Plan which was developed by Bristol2015 and published last week.  Though not a formal document, it was supported by the Mayor and Bristol’s head of Transport.  Objective 5 of that plan is ‘a living heart for Bristol’. Spokesman Steve Melia said: “There has been a lot of controversy over whether the European Green Capital year made any difference to Bristol and whether the money spent was worth it.  Well here is a key test.  Hundreds of organisations and individuals worked for a year to produce the Good Transport Plan.  It was funded by Bristol2015 and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.  They produced a good plan but is it going to be implemented or was it all just talk? Quite separately from all this the West of England authorities have been consulting on a plan that will be implemented.  It will decide how transport is organised, what gets built and where money is spent.  If all the effort and money put into the Green Capital is to mean anything, then we need to see some results from it.  We call on the West of England authorities to incorporate the Good Transport Plan into their strategy on Bristol City Council, who supported this process, to push for its implementation.”

Let’s Treat Prince Street Bridge Closure as a Trial

Bristol City Council has announced that Prince Street Bridge will be closed for 6 months starting on Monday August 17th for “essential structural repairs”.  The Living Heart for Bristol* has called for the closure to be treated as a trial.  They want the Council to monitor the impacts of the closure and make the findings public before any decision is made about how to reopen the bridge.  If the traffic system is able to cope with the closure, then the Living Heart would like to see the bridge re-opened for pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles only with two new public squares created on either side of the Bridge.  The Living Heart website has published photo-montages of how the new area could look. [gallery link="file"] The two new squares would be on Prince Street at the side of the Arnolfini (see above) and on Wapping Road by the side of the MShed. Many other cities, have removed general traffic from bridges in their centres, including Pultney Bridge in Bath. Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol said: “This structural work offers a great opportunity to create a better living and working environment in the city centre.  Two of the objections we often hear to public realm improvements are that it will cause traffic chaos and it will cost too much money.  Well here is an opportunity that will cost no money, because the bridge is being closed anyway.  Will it cause traffic chaos? Will it make businesses bankrupt? It’s going to happen anyway for 6 months, so the Council should take the opportunity to monitor the situation.  If those predictions prove wrong, then why not take this great opportunity to improve our city at no cost?”                

Six Quick Steps Towards Quieter Safer Streets in the City Centre

As the Metrobus works are delaying any potential changes to streets along its route, the Living Heart for Bristol* has proposed 6 potential schemes where progress towards quieter, safer streets could be made in the short-term.  The 6 potential schemes, which we have been suggested to the Mayor and the Council are:

  • No right turn from Tower Hill onto Passage Street
  • Filtering point to prevent rat-running between Three Queens Lane and Saint Thomas St in Redcliffe
  • Removal of general traffic (buses only) along Newgate
  • No entry to motor vehicles at the city end of King Street
  • Make Prince Street Bridge One-Way
  • Pedestrianise the northern end of Fairfax Street
More details about the 6 schemes are explained here Spokesman Steve Melia said: “The Council declared an aim in 2012 to gradually remove traffic from the central areas of the city.  Since then relatively little has happened.  We would like to see quieter safer streets in the central areas, to improve air quality and the quality of life for residents, visitors and people who work here.  We understand that the Mayor shares these aims and wants to make progress but cannot make changes along the Metrobus route until that project is finished.  With that in mind, we are suggesting 6 small-scale changes which could help to move us in the right direction.  We want to see big change, but small steps can help along the way.” Susan Carter of Bristol Ramblers said: "These small changes could make walking round Bristol's historic and scenic core much pleasanter.  and safer."  

Bristol Must Think Bigger: 6 Ideas to Make a Real Green Capital

The Living Heart for Bristol** has called for Bristol to “think bigger to make the city a real Green Capital”.  It has suggested 6 ideas to leave the city transformed for the better at the end of this year.  Looking at the list of strategic projectsapproved by Bristol 2015.  (Appendix 2 of this document gives more details).  Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol said: “There are several good projects on this list; we wouldn’t disagree with many of them, but we see nothing that will leave Bristol transformed when 2015 is over.  The Council has other plans, some of which may bring improvements, but nothing to compare with the transformation of Queen Square and College Green 23 years ago.  Where is the imagination in all this? If Bristol wants to be taken seriously as a green capital we need to think bigger.  To stimulate that debate, the Living Heart has suggested 6 ideas which would transform the central areas of the city:”
  1. Pedestrianise* the eastern side of The Centre (scrap the new road planned to cut across it)
  2. Pedestrianise* the western end of Baldwin Street
  3. Pedestrianise* the Old City, starting with Corn Street and Fairfax Street
  4. Make Prince Street Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists only and create a new plaza on Prince Street.
  5. Join up the unfinished fragments of cycle paths around the central areas (e.g. on Baldwin Street, Nelson Street) to create a coherent network around and across the city centre.
  6. (For the longer-term) Start a feasibility study into burying sections of the M32 and the Inner Ring Road, a process Birmingham has been following for many years (see latest plans here) and London is now considering.
(* with cycle access – preferably on separate cycle paths) Ciaran Mundy, Director of Transition Bristol added: “2015 is here, we are European Green Capital. We need very tangible and lasting changes that make it significantly safer and more enjoyable for walking and cycling across the centre of our great city. Living Heart Proposals are just that.”  

Be Bolder on Nelson Street and Properly Pedestrianise The Centre

The Living Heart for Bristol has welcomed the consultation on changes to Nelson Street (which closes on February 9th) but has called on the Council to be bolder and clearer in removing traffic and improving the environment of Nelson Street and surrounding streets. The Council’s plans include plans for a partially segregated cycle route along Nelson Street.  Quay Street will be made two-way “for access and taxis only”.  An area of The Centre, around the cenotaph, will be partially pedestrianised as part of the Metrobus plans, although the plans do not make clear how rat-running from Quay Street across this “access only” area will be prevented. The consultation asks for views on pedestrianising part of Fairfax Street and on making Bridewell Street one way.  The Living Heart Nelson Street Consultation Response welcomes the general approach and:
  •  Supports the option to pedestrianise Fairfax Street
  • Calls for traffic from Bridewell Street to turn left only, removing the ability to use All Saints Street as a rat-run
  • Calls for the Eastern side of The Centre, around the cenotaph, to be pedestrianised with access for bikes, and deliveries at limited times
Spokesman Steve Melia said: “The consultation is welcome but we wish the Council would be bolder and clearer in their plans.  That area does not need to provide rat-runs for through traffic.  The buildings are being redeveloped.  There’s no point in spending lots of money on improving the appearance of streets if they remain as rat-runs.   We support the option to pedestrianise the bottom of Fairfax Street and we want to see traffic removed from at least one side of The Centre.  The three simple changes we are suggesting would improve the whole area for everyone.”  

Widen Paths and Separate Cyclists Along Hotwells Harbourside

The Living Heart for Bristol* has welcomed the City Council’s plans to widen bridges and walkways along the Harbourside at Hotwells, but has called for a clear separation between cyclists and pedestrians.  The Council’s plans would widen the existing pathways at Merchants Dock (near the Pump House pub) and the bridge that crosses Junction Lock.  They would remove a barrier but would not separate cyclists from pedestrians. Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol said: “The proposals to widen the paths in that area are welcome.  We also welcome the proposal to remove the barrier that squeezes cyclists and pedestrians together near the Pump House pub.  But the Council should take this opportunity to create separate cycle paths and paved areas for pedestrians.  Most people are sensible most of the time but there are occasional conflicts along that route, which are inevitable where the two are mixed and squeezed together in large numbers.  The Council should also plan to improve that route where it continues towards the city centre, creating separate cycle paths wherever possible.” Martin McDonnell, Secretary of the Bristol Cycling Campaign added: “We welcome the improvements to this route and particularly the removal of the barrier that causes a real problem, not just for bicycles, but pushchairs, wheel chairs, mobility scooters and creates unnecessary queues. These changes are intended to make the area more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and disabled people and to encourage more people to take advantage of these forms of active travel.” ENDS   * The Living Heart for Bristol aims to improve the central areas of Bristol and create new public space by removing through traffic, whilst retaining access for all.  It was created by the following 8 organisations: Bristol Cycling Campaign, Bristol Green Capital, Bristol Living Streets, Carfree Bristol, Friends of the Earth, the Open Spaces Society, Bristol Ramblers Group and Streets Alive.  Several other organisations have endorsed its declaration – shown on  

Sticky: How do we let our city grow without traffic strangling us all?

Article in the Bristol Post October 17th 2014

Proposed Cycling Budget Represents Just 5% of Transport Budget

Recently-published figures by The Treasury have cast doubt on the claims of some local politicians that Bristol is planning to spend too much on cycling.  The Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis for 2014 show that total public spending on transport in 2013/14 was £22.2bn – equivalent to £315 per person.[i]  The Draft Bristol Cycling Strategy is planning to spend £7m per year, equivalent to £16 per head.[ii]  Some local politicians have criticised the budget, describing it as “unrealistic” and calling for the money to be spent on rail instead.[iii] Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol* and a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning at UWE explained: “Across the UK, public spending on transport was £315 per person last year.  Most of that money is spent centrally on roads and railways.  Less than a quarter was spent by local authorities.  By contrast money for cycling, or for improvements to the pedestrian environment, are almost entirely spent locally.  If you look at the local budgets in isolation the small sums of money for cycling or walking may seem much bigger than they really are.  Bristol is planning to spend more than most British cities on cycling infrastructure but measured per head it only represents about 5% of transport spending – when 8% of journeys are made by bike.  We would certainly like to see more investment in the rail network, but sums of this size are peanuts compared to the rail or road budgets.  To give just one example, the two extra tracks from Filton to Temple Meads are expected to cost £50 million.  In any debate about spending on cycling or pedestrian improvements, we should never lose sight of that bigger picture.” Martin Tweddell of the Bristol Cycling Campaign added: “In this context it's worth reminding some of our local politicians that we all pay for the roads through general taxation.  There is no such thing as ‘road tax’ – it was abolished in 1937.  Vehicle Excise Duty (the tax disc) is a tax on pollution – it has nothing to do with roads.  The least polluting cars are exempt.  Roads, railways and cycle paths are all financed from general taxation, so the argument that motorists pay for the roads is an urban myth.”
The Living Heart for Bristol campaign aims to improve the central areas of Bristol & create new public space by diverting through traffic.
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