Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bristol Cycling City: A Troubling Reputation Already


The following was sent to me by someone who lives on the continent- someone who knows how to design proper cycle facilities and how to make cycling a priority in a city.  Because he works in the profession and doesn’t want to be seen as criticising from afar, I am posting it here anonymously:

Dear Josh,

I found this link to the details of Bristol’s job vacancy for a project manager to overlook the cycling city initiative:

There are some issues here:

1. It would appear that the domain name for the cycling city initiative has nothing on it except the vacancy.
2. The first six months of the three year period has, it would seem, been spent on deciding that they ought to advertise a job vacancy.
3. The suggestions of what needs doing seem to concentrate on the insubstantial: training a few more kids, recycling bikes…
4. There’s rather too much about “challenging attitudes” and being a “beacon”…
5. They appear to want to re-invent the wheel. Given the lack of time available and the limited budget (for all their bluff, even this amount is much lower than the budget here) this is an especially bad idea.

In my view they’d have been better off spending the first evening after being awarded the money by having a good party and then the next morning phoning up some professionals who actually know how to do this stuff and writing them a cheque to get on with it.

Perhaps they could have used such people as Ligtermoet and partners who have been involved in much of the good (and successful) design in the Netherlands:

or Timenco, a spin off of the same:

I’m sure there are other such firms. I’ve not any experience with any of them, but I can say that the list of projects on the website of the first of these two is pretty impressive, and the summary of the work experience of Tim in the second one is also impressive.

What seems to be an issue here is that, as ever, they want to take on an accountant. Everyone is supposed to be an accountant in the UK. It’s impossible to be in any responsible position unless you are that type of person.

It’s quite different here.  Our local cycling planner doesn’t necessarily know the cost of what is done. He knows what works – he designs what works. However, costing is someone else’s problem.  This means you can have someone with vision in charge, instead of someone who “knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. Compromises might have to be made, but design doesn’t start with a compromise.

I think it is a terrible mistake to have a money person in charge of the vision for Bristol.  There are two quite different jobs here and it is unlikely that one person can do both of them.

To summarise, from afar it looks very much like they are heading off down a path of managers looking after more managers, taking a very long time about it, and not consulting with the experts. I’ve seen just this sort of thing happen in business that I’ve been involved with in the past….


Dec. 9th Forum: Bristol’s Public Transport at a Crossroads

This Public Forum, organised by the Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance, will ramp up the pressure on local government to deal with Bristol's transport mess in a way that prioritises health, access, and quality of life

This Public Forum, organised by the Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance, will ramp up the pressure on local government to deal with Bristol's transport crisis swiftly and sustainably

If you are fed up with Bristol’s transport problems and want to hear about and share solutions, this forum on Dec. 9th is one you don’t want to miss.  Christian Wolmar will be the main speaker, joined by Cat Hobbs of the Campaign for Better Transport who ran the campaign to increase service on the Severn Beach Line, and also your blogger who will be speaking about my Driven to Excess research.
I first heard Christian  speak at the Driving Change conference in London, where he rightly criticised the government’s “modal agnosticism” around transport.   A compelling, hard-hitting and knowledgeable speaker- you don’t want to miss him.
Here is some of the publicity that’s been sent around in advance of the forum:
It’s no secret that Bristol’s public transport is failing both the community and commerce. It is too expensive, dirty and unreliable. People are forced to use their cars with consequential delays, parking problems, an unacceptably high death and injury toll, and pollution. We are at a crossroads in terms of the need to make the right transport decisions. You are invited to hear and discuss options which will could radically improve travel times and costs across Bristol at a Public Forum in the centre of Bristol.

Hope to see you all there!

Top Ten Bristol Transport Debacles


It just seems to keep getting worse.   As residents of Bristol continue to suffer the effects of rising traffic levels and shoddy transport choices on their environment, health, and quality of life, our political leaders are scared stiff of appearing to be anti-car.  Their paralysis, borne out of fear of intervening in society’s petrol addiction in any meaningful way- is preventing them doing anything to actually solve the problem.  Instead, like a drug addict, we increase the dose to get the same high- we widen roads and build new car parks, hoping that it will make us forget our problems.  Temporarily relieved, we wake up the next morning feeling worse than ever.   Politicians talk green, but their actions are digging us deeper into the gaping black hole of car dependence and climate catastrophe every day.

Like it or not, it seems that the forces of darkness have decided that if they stand any chance of launching their schemes to increase road and airport capacity, they’d better do it now, and they better force them through all together before the twin realities of peak oil and climate change reshape our transport landscape forever.  This plan could divert and distract us, or it could end up backfiring on them, raising the hackles of a powerful new coalition of Bristolians who say enough is enough.

If you live in Bristol and you care about the future of your city, my advice is to gear up for a fight over the coming months.  The shit is truly hitting the fan folks- you better arm yourselves with bicycles, keyboards, d-locks and a copy of the Freedom of Information Act cause it might get very ugly.

Here (drum roll please) are the top ten recent transport debacles in Bristol:

Bristol City Council plans to use Cycling City funds to make cycling across Prince St. bridge more dangerous

Bristol City Council plans to use Cycling City funds to make cycling across Prince St. bridge more dangerous

10.  Cycling City Debacle, Illustrated Nicely by the Prince St. Bridge Project: The Cycling City project is in disarray, with council-hyped plans for Prince St. bridge being launched into the media without any consultation with cycling groups.  Turns out that, in spite of Sustrans’ misguided support for the scheme, the project would prepare the ground for a diesel bus takeover of half the bridge at the expense of conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.    The plan violates every good design rule, would delay cyclists and put people in danger.   Southbound cyclists would either have to wait with the exhaust-spewing cars, or cross over to the wrong side of the road, then have to negotiate back to the left side of the road after the bridge, through the waiting (or even worse, moving) line of cars. Northbound (inbound) cyclists would be faced with negotiating through crowds of pedestrians now using the roadway.  Pedestrians on the east side of Prince St. would be forced to cross the street twice, just to cross the river.   Fun.

We need to close this bridge to all but emergency vehicles and use this as a key restriction of traffic volumes in the city centre- a key “filter” in a city centre filtered permeability strategy.  Unfortunately, as we know Sustrans and the council don’t like to ruffle feathers, we are left with a dangerous and compromised facility.  Plus it will worsen air quality to have cars idling.

Come and speak out in favour of full closure at the Bristol City Council “extraordinary” committee meeting on Monday, the 24th of November at 6pm at the Council House, College Green Bristol.   You can e-mail comments in advance (required if you want to speak) to

If the Council want to have a project by project pitched battle rather than an open and inclusive planning process then it seems that that’s what they’re going to get.

George Ferguson wants to build innovative cycle houses- right on top of this mature hedgerow along the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path

George Ferguson wants to build innovative cycle houses- right on top of this mature hedgerow along the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path

9.  “Red Trouser Gate”: How the City Council is prepared to Sell off Public Land to Destroy a Mature Hedgerow along the Bristol-Bath Path for 25 car parking spaces at the Chocolate Factory development:  Several bloggers in Bristol, including the illustrious Bristol Blogger and the ever-gadflyish Green Bristol Blog, have uncovered this scandal that reveals the seedy underworld of Bristol planning practice- where developers get access to public land through back channels, and adopted council policy is simply “advisory.”  The problem here is precedent- if Squarepeg and the Merchant Venturer George Ferguson can get away with cutting a chunk out of the greenway, then why not a thousand other developers along the path?  Before you know it, paradise will be paved, and we won’t even have the benefit of public transport….


The bendy bus- despised by all Londoners, is Labour's vision for Bristol's transport future. OK yes it is a fancy bus. But can you say lipstick on a pig??

8.  Rejection of Trams, and Corporate-backed Embrace of Bus Rapid Transit: The bus “rapid transit” project that would connect Long Ashton Park and Ride with Bristol City Centre is out for consultation at the moment.  Ignoring a groundswell of support, the unaccountable West of England Partnerhsip chose to drive their diesel buses roughshod over the popular plan for a modern 21st century ultra light tram system to become the future of Bristol’s public transport.  Couldn’t be anything to do with the fact that central government, cozy with rubber tire, internal combustion engine, and oil companies, prioritises bus schemes over rail.   Nahhhhh……  Anyway, come see their plans, meet their high-priced consultants, and give feedback that will probably be ignored.  There’s been good recent analysis on local blogs: here and here.  Plans have been put on hold to run the BRT up the Bristol-Bath cycle path, but some observers believe it’s just a matter of time before they try again.

What a bunch of useless weeds!  Let's pave it over shall we?

What a bunch of useless weeds! Let's pave it over shall we?

7.  (Taken for a) Park and Ride: Now comes news from the Evening Post that the Council is looking into plans to pave over food-growing allotments in Bristol for a park and ride scheme.  Never mind that park and ride projects have been found to encourage people to switch from public transport to driving and increase the distance of car journeys.  Never mind that local food production and the use of fertile urban farmland is urgently needed as part of the transition to communities less dependent on fossil fuels.  As long as the corporate interests are happy and people can feel good about using public transport while still getting their car fix, things are fine- plus if you need veggies you can always drive to the out of town Sainsbury’s (featuring a huge, free car park) and buy vegetables flown in from Kenya!  Who needs an allotment anyway?  More details about this horrible scheme here.  You can sign a petition against the plan here.


We said "NO!" They said, "democracy is so 20th century- let's expand by stealth instead."

6.  Bristol Airport Expansion- Just Plane Stupid: Bristol Airport is still pushing for a major expansion project and on Wednesday evening were unfortunately successful in their application to bypass the planning process and build a “walkway” that would expand the airport by stealth.   Stay tuned for more irresponsible climate vandalism from the airport bosses and be sure to join Stop Bristol Airport Expansion.

One day soon (if we don't act) this will be a new polluted ring road and a car-dependent suburb with 10,000 new houses

One day soon (if we don't act) this will be a polluted ring road and a car dependent suburb with 10,000 new houses...

5.  South Bristol Ring Road-Invasion of the Greenbelt: The West of England Partnership is also plotting to build a new road through greenfields- the South Bristol Ring Road (now rebranded the link road) that- together with the tens of thousands of new homes planned- will generate more traffic, more carbon emissions, and further deteriorate communities.  Join the Alliance Against a South Bristol Ring Road and say no to new roads in the consultation process that’s currently underway.

Some Bristolians believe this is actually an alien spacecraft, sent to Earth to mesmerise us to consume more junk.....

Some Bristolians believe this is actually an alien spacecraft, sent to Earth to mesmerise us into consuming more thing is for sure- it certainly encourages us to drive more...

4.  Cabot Circus Transport Nightmare: The “Car-boot” Circus mall opened in September, featuring one of Europe’s largest car parks, a behemoth of 2500 spaces, lit up with neon that’s visible for miles, and (count them) 6 cycle parking racks, hidden in a corner. (mortified by negative media coverage, they’ve hurriedly added more in recent weeks). Plus not a single additional public transport service was added to prepare for the influx of shoppers. The extra traffic generated by the scheme is bound to tarnish the lungs and shorten the lives of the already deprived population of St. Pauls (but that’s okay because corporate profits are more important than the lives of voiceless brown people).


Tolerance of pavement parking and removal of a key cycle lane combine to create hostile conditions for pedestrians in Bristol

As part of the knee-jerk planning panic surrounding Cabot Circus, the Bristol City Council- in their infinite wisdom, decided to add a new lane on Lower Ashley Rd, in the process removing the cycle lane and narrowing the pavement, which as you can see in the photo above, is now a perfect width to park your car on.  This blogger discovered yesterday that one reason for the Lower Ashley Rd. project was that benzene levels during peak times were some of the highest ever recorded in a residential area in the UK.   So out of a sincere desire to protect the lives of the residents of Lower Ashley Rd. (or, if you are more cynical, to avoid the political ignominy of being known nationally as a toxic hellhole) the council quickly sacrificed the cycle lane and half the pavement to put in a new vehicle lane.  So much for long term solutions…

Occupation of pedestrian lands is provoking anger throughout Bristol

Occupation of pedestrian lands is provoking anger throughout Bristol

3.  Pavement Parking: Pavement parking has reached epidemic levels in Bristol.   Yes it is definitely illegal.  Yes it is definitely selfish.   And unfortunately the council has decided to turn a blind eye to the practice, leaving the disabled trapped in their homes and mothers with pushchairs forced out into traffic.  The criminal occupation of walking areas by motor vehicles has become so standard and accepted in Bristol that the fire department is now leaving notes of complaint on the windscreens of vehicles which are NOT parked on the pavement! Wow.  It’s this attitude of entitlement- the the city somehow owes you a free piece of public land to store your car on- that if there’s no space for two rows of cars in the street- well screw you we’ll just take the pavement— that is what is so irksome to an increasing number in Bristol, illustrated by blogs like Bristol Traffic and Southville Roads.  Print out this great flyer from Living Streets and use it on offending cars in your neighbourhood today!

Look carefully Bristol City Council because these are the people who will be locking themselves to your diggers if you try shoving asphalt and diesel down our path again...

People Power: Look carefully Bristol City Council because these are the people who will be locking themselves to your diggers if you try shoving asphalt and diesel down our path again...

2.  Threat to the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path: It’s hardly a surprise that this inept local government would attack the one transport facility in Bristol that is truly a pleasure to use, that is free, environmentally friendly, and healthy.   But it’s true- earlier this year, some high-paid transport consultants who probably didn’t even step foot on the path or speak to anyone who uses it, came up with a brilliant plan to pave over Bristol’s favourite linear park.  Thankfully, some dedicated, knowledgeable, and energetic volunteers mobilised a 1,000 strong march on the Council house.   Mark Bradshaw, Labour leader in charge of transport, and responsible for much of this top ten list, finally visited the path and was forced to admit the plans were just a bit stupid.   Just think we could have saved half a million quid if he had thought to stop by the path a few months earlier… you can e-mail Mark at

And the number One Bristol Transport Debacle………..

What's more important to us?  Heartbeats or 30 seconds saved by drivers?

What's more important to us? Heartbeats or 30 seconds saved by a driver?

1.  M32 Junction 2 Blood Alley: Sorry I Killed Your Grandma, But I Didn’t Want to Spill My Latte

Three deaths of elderly Bristol pedestrians at one junction in 12 months is no accident- it’s a preventable tragedy.   When you locate a Tesco across a motorway from a residential area, and then fail to provide any safe level crossing across a 3-lane slip road where drivers are accelerating to 60mph, instead expecting people to go hundreds of metres out of their way, passing through a dark underground passage reeking of urine, home to drug dealers, muggers and prostitutes— it’s no accident.  It’s death by design. Sacrificing the most vulnerable, the slowest among us, so that the traffic can keep flowing.

The short-term solution here is to install a signalised crossing of the slip road to allow safe pedestrian access along what is clearly a significant desire line.   The entrance to Stapleton Rd., currently a residential one way speedway, should be closed to motor vehicles entirely at Junction 2- this would also close a longstanding gap in the cycle network between the Easton Bypass Path and Eastville Park.

The Bristol City Council’s official response to these needless deaths was to put up a sign for pedestrians: “DO NOT CROSS M32- 3 PEDESTRIANS KILLED HERE IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS PLEASE USE FORMAL CROSSING POINT.”  No corresponding signs to drivers speeding off the motorway to watch for pedestrians, of course.   Typical blame the victim attitude.

I wrote to Bristol City Council’s “safety” team, asking what they were planning to do to respond to these deaths. They responded:

“Our road safety budgets are allocated against specific projects at the start of the financial year and therefore the budgets for this year have already been set aside for other projects and as such any significant works in this area would have to wait to be considered when the budget for next financial year, April 2009, are known.”

Three people have lost their lives because of your failure to fix this dangerous condition and you’re telling me you have to wait six months for your budget to come out?   It’s funny how money just appears from nowhere when it’s needed to build a 2500 space car park or a new ring road.   But £25,000 for a new pedestrian crossing to prevent more senseless loss of human life?  Sorry we just can’t spare any change.  Serves them right really- don’t they know that walking is dangerous?  They should have driven the 200 metres to Tesco, anyway….

All I can say is I bet they’d find the money pretty damn quick if these were rich white people being slaughtered in the street in Clifton.  Perhaps a Merchant Venturer venturing to their local Waitrose…..then something would be done.  Enough said.

The fact that three innocent people lost their lives here in the past year demands that we stage a protest- a direct intervention to prevent any more people being killed.   If you are interested in helping to organise this, please e-mail me at In the meantime, you can write an e-mail to MP Kerry McCarthy at asking that funding be made available to carry out the improvements outlined here, and asking her to direct the Highways Agency to undertake emergency safety improvements to the junction.


Phew!!!  we made it through that rather ugly and scary tour of Bristol’s transport hall of horrors.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.  It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t be paralysed into inaction.   Yes it’s horrible, inhuman and selfish, but that doesn’t mean that a wonderful, human-scaled, safe, and responsible future isn’t possible.   But one thing is certain- we deserve a better Bristol than we’re being offered- so keep that in mind when you vote in the next local election in May, or when you decide that maybe it is worth organising your neighbours against pavement parking or that new ring road; maybe it is worth getting arrested on the slip road at Junction 2 so that we can all have a future.

That may be what it takes to turn this rusty Cadillac called Bristol Transport Policy around…..

Bristol Transport Policy

Bristol Transport Policy

Maybe there is hope after all……maybe we’re not all sheep


In 1989, Ben Elton wrote his novel Stark about a conspiracy of wealthy industrialists to “deal with” the threat that climate change and subsequent ecological collapse posed to their profits:

“it’s the producers that count.  The consumers just want their car and their cooker and their cheap fuel, they’re sheep.  We must influence those in power, the people that profit from the disinterest that the general population seem to be showing in their future.”

Well this last week there are glimmers of hope on the horizon- hope that human beings do have slightly more capacity for independent thought than our woolly friends above (whom I was surrounded by on a cycle tour through the French Alps).  First the election of Barack Obama in the States, showing that the selfish consumerist gluttony that characterized the Bush years may finally be yielding to something else…

Then, yesterday, the UK Dept. for Transport released their traffic data, which showed a decrease in the volume of traffic over the past 6 months.   To understand how unusual this is, look at the inexorable rise in traffic volumes over the past 60 years:


Yesterday’s Independent article, which Chris Hutt kindly brought my attention to, says:

“Britain is in the early stages of a recession, with unemployment rising and industry shrinking, leading to fewer cars and HGVs on the roads. But during the recession of the 1990s, traffic remained static, suggesting there are other reasons for the decline.

It would appear thousands of motorists are giving up driving, either because of soaring fuel costs, rising parking and car taxes or because of the environmental cost.

What if- when all is said and done- we actually developed the ability to see the state of our roads and streets, our cities and countryside, indeed our planet as it really is- to see human and ecological communities under stress- pushed to the breaking point by filthy polluted air, the screeching roar of traffic, the senseless destruction of life by speeding steel and chrome, blood on oil-stained asphalt, kids growing obese because they have nowhere to play, people deprived of the ability to get around as humans have for centuries- using muscle power.   What if we could see the thin film of atmosphere of our planet being thickened irreversibly by the trainloads of coal heading to a fiery end in our power plants, the millions of little tin boxes mindlessly speeding along their post industrial arteries?

What if we could see all of this and just say no- a critical mass of individuals deciding that we have driven too far down this road- that our transport habits are jeopardising all that we hold dear- and that change is now critical.

The last month I have been traveling around the UK, presenting my research, Driven to Excess, to community groups, conferences, and even at the Houses of Parliament last Tuesday.   The response has been tremendous- it’s incredible the effect solid research data has- like Appleyard, I’ve managed to document the social erosion caused by our car habits, and when I talk about our predicament, I see these lightbulbs flicker on- it’s almost as if people realise, “that’s what’s wrong with our lives.”

There seems to be a real interest in car-free lifestyles these days, a willingness to get a taste of the freedom that a good bike can provide, and to get the automotive monkey off our backs.   It’s this shift in human perception that excites me most, more than the cycle expressways, the dream public transport systems, or the multi million dollar social marketing contracts- the simple individual decision to pull the bike out of the garage, and pedal away from that rusting hulk of an illusion that we can maintain the “great car economy.”

We ride because it’s pure.

We ride because the car is broken.


(images courtesy Andy Singer)

Quick Update on Cycling City

Just a quick update for those who couldn’t make it to the meeting last week:

There were really no surprises at the meeting.   There are some good elements of the plan, and there are still some poorly thought out aspects.   The public nor the main cycling organisations in Bristol (Lifecycle UK, Bristol Cycling Campaign, and CTC) still haven’t seen the whole plan- it looks like they will keep it under wraps until it is ready to be approved by the larger council, scheduled for the 30th of October.  This is apparently how they do things in Bristol- move forward their plan in private and then run it through the council before anyone has a chance to provide input or feedback.

The long and the short of it is:  if you care about the future of Bristol and its quality of life, get involved with your local cycling organisation and write to your local councillor and CC supporting the points below (in the previous post).   You can join the very active Bristol Cycling Campaign listserve and tell your friends to do the same.    Thanks for everyone who turned out last week. See you on the Halloween Critical Mass!!

Bristolians- Speak Up for a REAL Cycling City!!

Speak Up for a True Cycling City in Bristol!
Come to the Public Meeting this Wednesday evening October 8th from 6- 8:30pm at Fairfield High School, Allfoxton Road, Horfield!

Rusting Eyesore or 21st Century Bicycle Expressway? You decide...

Rusting Eyesore or 21st Century Bicycle Expressway? You decide...

You may have heard that Bristol is now Cycling City UK.  It’s hard to believe the hype after the last few months: the Council “forgetting” to include a single bike rack as part of the Cabot Circus development (boasting over 2500 car spaces), removal of a key cycle lane on Lower Ashley Rd., and an attempt to destroy the best bits of the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path.

Yet Bristol remains on track to receive over £11 million in funding (added to the City’s £11 million for a total of £22 million) to improve cycling in Bristol.  The “public outreach” and “consultation” has quite simply been a debacle.   This blogger recently learned that members of the public were turned away from the last public meeting on September 10th at Armada House.  Planners also told members of an advisory panel “not to tell anyone else about the plan,” less than two weeks before it gets approved by the City Council.   Now they’re finally presenting the plan on Wednesday, but they tell us “we’re terribly sorry but it’s simply too late to accept public comment.”

THIS IS JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.   This is £22 million of taxpayer money being spent on cycling in Bristol- truly an unprecedented amount of money, and an incredible opportunity to develop a high quality cycle expressway network in Bristol.  Yet we could end up seeing the money spent on more of the same: inadequate cycle lanes- often in the dangerous ‘door zone’ that end just when you need them the most, ill-thought-out facilities that don’t join up and abandon cyclists at junctions, and underwriting the payrolls of existing city council staff and large charities.

At the meeting on Wednesday, many of us will be asking the City Council to meet their responsibility to consult the public and make the Cycling City plan work for the people of Bristol, specifically:

1) Set aside £1 million for construction of the first phase of a Cycling Expressway that would connect St. Werburgh’s, Bishopston, Lockleaze, Montpelier, and St. Andrews directly across the M32 to Easton and the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path, via a level, traffic-free pathway along the rail line.

2) Funding development of a 10 year Cycling Plan for Bristol:  If we don’t have a plan developed in consultation with all of Bristol’s neighbourhoods, we will end up with a fragmented network and disjointed policy (more of the same)

3) A 20mph speed limit in all of Bristol’s residential areas, to encourage cycling and walking.  A pedestrian hit at 30 mph has a 45% chance of being killed, while at 20mph it’s only a 5% chance.

4) Ensure that key on-road cycle lanes are included in the plan- such as striping a continuous bike lane on the A38 (Upper Gloucester Rd.)

5) Funding of grassroots initiatives to market and promote cycling, and hiring of a visionary, inspirational project leader.

6) Key restraints on motor vehicle traffic to prioritise cycling: closure of medieval City Centre streets to car traffic, filtered permeability at key locations along minor roads (allowing biked/ peds through while creating cul-de-sacs for cars)

If the City Council is serious about truly making Bristol a Cycling City, then this is one way forward.   If we’re happy with the way things have been, we can always just let £22 million be frittered away and continue to sit in our cars spewing more CO2 and cursing the traffic.  The choice is ours.

Come speak up for a better Cycling City Plan at the Cycling City Public Hearing on Wednesday October 8th at 6pm -8.30pm at Fairfield High School, Allfoxton Road, Horfield.  For more information about this campaign, contact Josh Hart at

Talkin’ Bout a Velorution

Bristol, we need to talk....

Bristol, we need to talk....

This interview appeared today in Venue Magazine, Bristol and Bath’s Weekly Magazine.  Since they don’t post their content online, I am posting it here.

Joshua Hart: Talking ‘Bout a Velorution

Interview Darryl W Bullock

Joshua Hart arrived in Bristol two years ago, travelling from San Francisco by train and cargo ship rather than flying. He has just completed a Masters in Transport Planning at UWE, where his research showed that residents on streets with heavy car traffic have less than one quarter the number of local friends as those on a nearby quiet street.

Q: Why don’t people talk to their neighbours anymore?

A: Many residential streets have become inhospitable; you’re choked by fumes, the roar of traffic drowns out conversation, and children can’t play safely. If you don’t spend time on the street you don’t meet your neighbours. We are so terrified of our kids being run down that we drive them around, keep them inside the house or in the back garden. This has serious health impacts: we are the most obese, inactive generation ever.

Q: Why have cars become such a threat to our neighbourhoods?

A: The number of cars in the UK has increased more than 1000% since 1950; this has had a major impact on our quality of life, our communities and our social lives. For many of us cars might seem essential, but their side effects are proving to be more harmful than smoking. Social norms change though – one day driving a car in the city may be like lighting a cigarette in a pub.

Q: Just how many vehicles use Muller Road (the heavy traffic street in the study) each day?

A: Over 20,000, and residents expressed a great deal of frustration with the environment that results. One couple have a 4-year old girl suffering from upper respiratory disease, and they are desperately trying to move her to a healthier environment. Several people have been killed or injured on the street in recent years. If current transport policies continue, more and more residential streets will become like Muller Road. Simply put, we cannot all expect to drive everywhere and still have a livable city.

Bristolians are increasingly frustrated with transport, both the side-effects of traffic and the lack of viable alternatives. Many feel that the Council is failing to address this crisis.  Indeed, they seem to be heading in the wrong direction: removing cycle lanes on Lower Ashley Rd and threatening the Bristol-Bath Path, the flagship of sustainable Bristol travel.  If they’re serious about a Cycling City, they’ll have to do better than this.

Q: The research is based on a previous study conducted in San Francisco. How do Bristol streets compare with those back home?

A: Bristol and San Francisco are both beautiful cities, but many of their best bits are being spoiled by traffic. Over 100,000 Bristolians live in areas where air pollution fails to meet government health standards. Average rush hour speed is 16mph, the slowest in the UK, with more of us than ever sitting in traffic growing obese, wasting fuel, and spewing carbon into our atmosphere. Another 5.7 million cars are expected on UK roads by 2031.  It has got to stop.

Q: Is there any hope for the future?

A: Holland was in a similar situation in the 1970’s; traffic was increasing, children were being killed and injured, communities were being torn apart and pollution was unbearable. People demanded change and cities were re-designed to prioritise public transport, walking and cycling. Many residential streets in Holland have become home zones where cars are allowed, but pedestrians have priority. When I went to Groningen last spring, families were cycling around the city centre.   It was quiet, people were socialising, and the air was clean.  The word that comes to mind is civilised.  Why can’t Bristol be like that?

Q: What can ordinary people do about this?

A: People can drive less, walk and cycle more. You see the city in a different way when you ride a bike. I challenge everyone who doesn’t cycle yet to get hold of a decent bike, pump up the tires and head out on the cycle path.  It really is so much fun! We could have a whole network of continuous, high-quality cycle expressways throughout Bristol if we wanted it.   People can also talk to their neighbours about having a street party or getting a home zone in their street, and write to their MP and Councillors to support a 20mph limit in residential areas.

Ffi: or or contact Josh at