Historic UK cycle path under threat from buses

Bus lane plans for flagship cycle route

The first ever path on the UK’s National Cycle Network is under threat.

The 13 mile Bristol to Bath Railway was the first to built by the country's leading cycling charity Sustrans between 1979 and 1986.

But local transport chiefs want to turn part of it into a bus lane.

The path is used by thousands of cyclists and walkers each year, and is completely car-free, but parts of it run parallel to busy main roads in Bristol and a disused railway.

It is on these sections of the route that the West of England Partnership – an umbrella group for the four main local councils, wants to install the bus lane.

The proposals were first mooted several years ago, including the use of hybrid fuel buses along the path, but then seemed to die a death.

However, they have now been revived and form a major part of the partnership’s plans for the next decade. 

Stretches of the path from Emersons Green into the city centre could be used for a Bus Rapid Transport route - which could then continue out to BristolInternationalAirport.

But much of the path is not currently wide enough to take a bus lane, prompting fears that trees and hedgerows which border the route will be destroyed, along with local wildlife.

Sustrans has yet to comment fully.

The charity’s marketing director Melissa Henry told the Bristol Evening Post local paper: "We are seeking clarity on the exact proposals from the West of England Partnership so we can base any action we take on the full facts. We expect to make a formal response next week."

Pete Taylor of Bristol Cycling Campaign called for the plans to be dumped.

He said: "The path is essential for people's well-being. They don't want to get rid of cyclists, and there is the problem of upsetting nature and losing the rural feel of the path.

"It is the jewel in the crown of the national cycle trail and I think it should be left well alone."

The partnership has pledged to consult cycling groups, but if the plans go ahead construction could begin as early as 2011, with completion expected by 2014.

Mark Bradshaw, Bristol's cabinet councillor for transport and the environment, said: "We are aware of the concerns of some cyclists - although we believe many will welcome the improvement to public transport this proposal offers."

Local cyclists are planning a public meeting on Tuesday, February 5, to discuss what action to take.

If you're not familiar with the historic path, you can have a look at its official site or follow a virtual version online.

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