West of England Joint Transport Study Consultation Nov 2016 – our response

The West of England Joint Transport Study sets out the future for transport in Greater Bristol over the next 20 years, against the context of  growth and an ambition for 85,000 new homes in the region. We’ve been active in trying to improve the ambition for cycling and sustainable transport with a response to the initial consultation in January 2016, and participation in events and discussions leading to the December 2016 consultation version. Overall we still feel not enough has changed. You can make up your own mind by considering the Transport Vision Summary Document, our initial thoughts on that, and now here is our formal response to the consultation.

Bristol Cycling Campaign has made the following responses to the structure consultation questionnaire:

  1. Is the level of ambition for the Transport Vision about right? No, the level of ambition is a little lower than where it should be
  2. Do you think we are proposing the right mix of public transport investment (bus, rapid transit, park and ride and train)? No, disagree
  3. To what extent do you agree with the principle of diverting non-local traffic, including onto new roads, to accommodate public transport and cycling schemes? Strongly agree
  4. To what extent do you agree with the concept of a light rail (tram) solution on some rapid transit corridors? Agree
  5. To what extent do you agree with using financial incentives and financial demand management at a local level to raise funds to help pay for the transport vision? Agree
  6. What kind of schemes would be most appropriate to deliver an upgrade to sustainable travel between the East Fringe and Bristol city centre?
    1. The most sustainable transport modes are walking and cycling.
    2. The Bristol to Bath Railway Path is heavily used by cyclists and pedestrians and is currently operating at close to full capacity. More capacity is needed for these modes, both by widening the Railway Path and creating additional new cycling and walking routes with separate space for each mode. The cycling routes should form part of a comprehensive network of cycle routes throughout the region, enabling people to cycle safely, comfortably and efficiently between all locations. To achieve this, a MetroCycle project should be prioritised and funded as part of the JSP and JTS proposals (for more detail, see answer to question 9 below).
    3. The next most sustainable transport modes are rail, tram and other light rapid transit schemes powered by electricity and not by diesel or petrol. These should be considered for the east fringe, but not along the alignment of the railway path, nor at the expense of improvements to cycle routes along other strategic corridors.
  7. What is your level of agreement with the following elements of the package?
    1. Marketing and education to change travel behaviour – Slightly agree
    2. Area packages of improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and buses – Strongly agree
    3. Strategic Cycle Routes – new or upgraded routes – Strongly agree
    4. Park & Ride – new or expanded sites – Slightly agree
    5. Bus network improvements – Slightly agree
    6. Expansion of the MetroBus network – Don’t know
    7. Light Rail routes – Slightly agree
    8. Rail improvements – improvements to existing services and facilities – Strongly agree
    9. New railway stations – Strongly agree
    10. Road improvements, including junction improvements and addressing bottlenecks – Slightly disagree
    11. New road connections – Slightly disagree
    12. Freight management including consolidation centres – Slightly agree
  8. Are there any other schemes you would like to see in the package?
    1. A MetroCycle Project. See Question 9 for rationale. We welcome the aims in the existing JSP proposals to improve strategic cycling routes. However these improvements are needed short-term, say in the next 3-5 years. Over a 20 year time-frame a much more ambitious and comprehensive MetroCycle project is needed.
    2. Further expansion of MetroWest proposals. For longer journeys, electric rail transport is the most sustainable option. Trains provide flexible bi-modal travel options because they can carry bicycles, at least at off-peak times. There should be more ambitious plans to open/reopen rail stations on existing rail routes, e.g. at Coalpit Heath where new housing is being proposed. Investment in bay platforms may be needed to enable fast trains to overtake slow trains at new stations.
  9. Do you have any other comments about the proposed transport vision?
    1. Congestion is already causing significant delays with consequent economic harm to the region. However the current JSP proposals place too much reliance on bus improvements to mitigate this. A major attraction of the private car is the expectation amongst travellers that it will enable them to travel from where they are to where they want to go at the time that they want to travel and to come back when they are ready, the timing of which often is not known in advance.
    2. Obviously this expectation cannot be met in an urban environment where excessive car use leads to gridlock and difficulty finding convenient parking spaces.
    3. However car-journeys have a vast variety of different start- and end-points and timings and even the best bus network can offer a satisfactory substitute for only a fraction of these journeys.
    4. The bicycle on the other hand can meet the flexible travel expectations of the private car- owner for a far greater proportion of his/her journeys, in particular for journeys of between about one and five miles, which represent a large proportion of car journeys being made. With a little practice most healthy people can quite comfortably cope with cycle journeys of less than 5 miles, and if they make themnregularly, they are much more likely to remain healthy.
    5. Therefore the JSP should prioritise investment in a MetroCycle project to create a comprehensive network of high-quality cycle routes throughout the region, enabling people to cycle safely, comfortably and efficiently between all locations.
    6. This MetroCycle project should be prioritised ahead of bus or rapid transit schemes and is likely to be considerably less expensive. The potential impact on congestion is illustrated by the Dutch experience, where comprehensive cycling networks already exist and where up to 40% of journeys are made by bicycle, about 10 times the proportion in our region. If even half of that level is achieved here, some of the expensive bus and tram proposals are likely no longer to be needed, thereby reducing the overall cost and potential disruption of implementing the JSP.
    7. We are sceptical about the benefits of new road schemes. When new road schemes increase the total amount of road space available to general traffic, they tend to make car travel more attractive and lead to a modal shift away from sustainable forms of transport. Although a particular road scheme may relieve a particular bottleneck and therefore appear to be successful, the impact on the total road network tends to be higher traffic levels and more congestion. Faster traffic flow at the relieved bottleneck merely speeds up its arrival at the next one, thus making other bottle-necks worse.
    8. However if a new road scheme enables the removal or restriction of general traffic along an existing strategic corridor, thus freeing up road space for cycling and other sustainable travel modes, then it may be desirable.
    9. Any new roads which do get built need to be designed with care to ensure that they do not create barriers hindering sustainable travel between locations on opposite sides of the new road. In particular, existing public rights of way which cross the alignment of the new road should under no circumstances be severed and should continue seamlessly across the new road preferably by means of an underpass and should ideally be upgraded to enable easier use by bicycle.