Our challenges for the new Cabinet Member for Transport in Bristol

This article was first published on Bristol247.com

Congratulations to Don Alexander, who has just taken on the role of Cabinet Member for Transport. This is an important position given the impact our city’s transport challenges have on the lives of residents across the city.

Getting the balance right between giving hope and managing expectations will be a key challenge as we start an important period for cycling.

We take a look at Don’s ‘in-tray’ and some of his key work when it comes to cycling in the city.

1) Start implementing key strategic cycling routes in line with the Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan.

Everyone knows the best way to get people cycling is to build them continuous, separated cycle routes (Space for Cycling). Bristol has a couple but we need a network to really get people cycling.

In Autumn the council will go to consultation regarding cycle provision on the A37/A4018 bus route and it is essential that this is delivered to a high standard with officers and politicians being really forthcoming and ambitious in their vision for this scheme.

Don and his colleagues in the council will also be challenged to find additional funding to add further cycle routes to the network and to create a clear vision for cycling, using initiatives like CyclingWorks Bristol to demonstrate the support of major employers.

2) Six Liveable Neighbourhoods by 2024.

With the council currently consulting with Bristol Cycling and other organisations on its Liveable Neighbourhoods strategy, we hope that this signals the start of a pilot scheme.

It’s been strongly hinted that the first pilot will take place in St George, taking in the Beaufort Road area that was consulted on last summer. We then expect further pilots in BS3 and around the University to follow.

Getting these right is essential to the success of the strategy – another ‘Easton Safer Streets’ failure and the programme will be pushed back by years. Getting councillors across the political spectrum on board with the benefits of Liveable Neighbourhoods is vital.

Fortunately, it seems like this journey has begun, with Nicola Beech and Marley Bennett recently visiting Waltham Forest in London to see how successful it can be if done well. Reflecting on the feedback from the 12 schemes consulted on last summer will also be crucial to see what can be learnt and what needs time to deliver a quality scheme.

3) Accelerating the School Streets programme.

It was fantastic to see a recent Mayor’s Blog by Cabinet Member Helen Godwin praising the value of School Streets, but with circa 140 schools in Bristol, the current plan to create a total of eight School Streets by June 2022 still seems like slow progress.

What are the barriers to accelerating this? School Streets don’t face the same debate and pushback as other measures, so with further funding (and officer time) could eight by 2022 become 20 by 2022 and 50 by 2023?

Making the case for funding for School Streets, as well as working out how the recently allowed use of ANPR cameras can help, will be an important project in 2021.

4) Greater provision for safe cycle storage in the city.

We know from the reaction to our Cycle Hangars manifesto that this is a big topic of conversation in the city; if you have nowhere to securely store your bike, you can’t own or ride one.

Fortunately, there is a solution and the council seem keen on the idea: Cycle Hangars. There are currently 15 in Bristol but we want 1,000 by 2024. We also want to see the process shift so that residents don’t need to make the case to their neighbours; an unnecessary and unfair situation.

We look forward to working with the council on this process and we hope that funding can be found to roll out hangars at a record pace.

5) Focus on key routes within the city centre.

Many successful cities start their network within the city centre and Bristol should be no exception. We hope the consultation on Park Street and Victoria Street in the autumn will be well received and these key links can be delivered by 2023.

Working out how other key links like Temple Way, Wine Street and Cumberland Road can be brought forward for consultation will be yet another important project.

Finally, whilst it wasn’t part of our manifesto, reviewing the role of e-scooters in our transport mix will be an interesting challenge. What is their future?

There certainly are questions remaining over the decision to store them on pavements. Can the use of e-scooters help the council accelerate applications for funding for cycle lanes? And if so, do these lanes require a new name?!

Our main purpose at Bristol Cycling is to make Bristol a better city for cycling; we look forward to working with Don Alexander to make this happen and wish him the best of luck in his new role.

Toby Wells is Co-Chair of Bristol Cycling Campaign