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Mayor promises to reassess “risky” cycle route diversion on busy “unsafe” road – but says making cyclists use narrow pavement will not create conflict with pedestrians

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees also criticised a Green Party councillor for claiming that motorists are at the “bottom” of the road user hierarchy

The mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees has promised to “go back over” and reassess a diversion on one of the city’s main cycle routes, which redirects cyclists onto what councillors and local campaigners have described as a “risky” and “unsafe” main road, as well as forcing them to walk their bikes along a stretch of narrow pavement.

However, the Labour politician also insisted that the “temporary closure” of the Concorde Way cycle route – which will be closed for a year as work begins on a new railway station in Ashley Down – will not bring pedestrians into conflict with cyclists, and that the council is comfortable that “there is no better solution” to the current diversion.

Rees also refuted a Green Party councillor’s suggestion that private motorists belong at the “bottom” of the hierarchy of road users included in the Highway Code, claiming that the councillor’s language “betrayed” his attitude towards drivers and that “everyone in the road user hierarchy must share space in a safe way”.

> Cyclists call on council to reconsider “unsafe” cycle route diversion

Earlier this month, reported that a section of Concorde Way, a flagship cycle route which connects the north of Bristol to the city centre and is used by 1,000 cyclists a day, will be closed for at least a year to make way for the construction of the new station and a diversion put in place.

But Bristol Cycling Campaign has claimed that the plans are rushed and that the 500 metre stretch of Muller Road used by the diversion is unsafe.

The diversions at Ashley Down (Travelwest)

In a meeting with the campaign group, Bristol City Council recommended that cyclists should walk their bikes along the pavement instead of riding on the busy road, and told the group that the installation of temporary safety measures such a pop-up cycle lane or a 20mph speed limit “both appeared unlikely”.

The Bristol Cycling Campaign’s chair Ian Pond said at the start of March that the diversion was “rushed through and inadequately implemented” and will increase “the risk of incidents and injury during the closure”.

> “Crazy” plans to scrap key cycle lane – because of flash floods – shelved by council

Since then, the diversion has been criticised by Green Party councillors, who have argued that pushing cyclists onto the busy Muller Road “puts them at risk” and that the diversion fails to comply with the government’s guidance on cycling infrastructure.

Emma Edwards, the leader of the Green group in Bristol City Council, told Bristol 24/7 this week: “While the news of the works starting on Ashley Down train station is very welcome, there are sadly many concerns about the diversions put in place for cyclists to use Concorde Way. While we appreciate and accept that Concorde Way has to be closed in part for the duration of the project, we don’t accept and appreciate the diversions put in place.

“The diversion sends cyclists onto a section of a busy road, a lane prone to flooding, and in some parts makes cyclists dismount. Concorde Way sees over 1,000 cycling journeys a day. It’s a commuter route for Ashley Down, Lockleaze, Horfield, Southmead, Filton, and beyond. It serves Fairfield School and is used by pupils there.

“Pushing these cyclists, some of whom may be children or less confident cyclists, onto a busy road puts them at risk. This diversion is not LTN 1/20 compliant. This diversion is not for a few weeks or a few months — it’s for at least a year and likely more, and therefore should come under the same guidelines as any permanent cycling route would.”

> Council warned that removing key cycle lane would be “real PR risk” – but pressed ahead anyway

The issue was also brought up at a council meeting last week, where Green councillor David Wilcox claimed that the diversion – and the apparent need for people on bikes to dismount and use the pavement on Muller Road – was bringing cyclists into conflict with pedestrians, and called on mayor Rees to reconsider the diverted route.

“The cabinet member for transport has spoken in this chamber about how he and the administration support the concept of the transport hierarchy, with pedestrians and cyclists with the most priority and private motor vehicles at the bottom,” Wilcox said.

“But the plan is to mix pedestrians and cyclists on a narrow stretch of pavement, so there’s conflict designed into that. I need to make sure that the council has looked into every possible situation to avoid that, because it is creating conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.”

In response, Rees denied that the diversion’s design created conflict – while also lambasting Wilcox’s interpretation of the Highway Code – but later relented by promising to have a second look at the new route.

“There is no design to bring pedestrians into conflict with cyclists,” the Labour politician said.

“Everyone in the road user hierarchy must share space in a safe way. Nobody is at the ‘bottom’ as everyone is important. Your use of language betrays your attitude towards some road users.

“We’ve considered all the options for the temporary closure and are comfortable that there is no better solution.”

But when pressed on the matter again during the meeting, Rees responded: “I’m always happy to go back over. What do they say, ‘measure twice, cut once’? So I can go back. I’m happy to have another check over again and get back to you with the results of that.”

> “There is never a Plan B for cycling”: Cycle route diversion putting cyclists’ lives at risk, say Sustrans and Cycling UK

Earlier this week on the live blog, we reported that a similar cycle route diversion – taking cyclists off a popular Belfast towpath and onto a busy road with a painted cycle lane usually filled with parked cars – was criticised by locals and active travel charities as “not fit for purpose” and putting “lives at risk”.

Sustrans said the diversion, put in place to facilitate the installation of flood defences on the Lagan Towpath, is “not safe” and called on the government to implement safe cycling infrastructure in the area.

Meanwhile, Cycling UK noted that the closure of “one of the only safe cycle routes through Belfast” was exacerbated by the failure to deliver the proposed Belfast Bicycle Network, while the suggested diversion only served to highlight that “there is never a plan B for cycling” in Northern Ireland.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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