Cycle-friendly homes for Bristol-Bath railpath?

New development designed to 'put the pedestrian and cyclist first'

Councillors have indicated their support for a major new development next to the Bristol to Bath railpath in south-west England. It includes plans for 'cycle houses' with bicycle storage and their own bridges onto the traffic-free route. 

However, a planning committee yesterday decided to put the scheme on hold because it did not include enough housing for people on low incomes. Members said they supported the scheme in priniciple, but the developer had until 1 April to come up with a revised proposal.

Architect, developer and cyclist George Ferguson is one of the driving forces behind the development of the former Elizabeth Shaw chocolate factory in Greebank, Bristol. Development company Squarepeg's own planning literature describes the development as "putting the pedestrian and cyclist first".

Squarepeg's plans mention communal and individual cycle storage, and "a positive landmark building ... called the Cycle Dock, [which] will have a cafe and bike shop on the two lower levels, with a budget hotel on the upper floors".

Bristol City Council has pledged its backing for the 'cycle houses', which will front onto and overlook the railpath. Councillors say they will help deter crime and anti-social behaviour on the route.

But local cyclists have been questioning what effect the development of the derelict site will have on the well-used Sustrans route.

Critics such as Chris Hutt, who runs the Green Bristol Blog, have pointed to the fact that the cycle houses will make up just a fraction of the 250 houses and flats planned for the site – which come with a  similar number of car parking spaces. He argues that the extra motor traffic the development will generate outweighs the benefits of the cycle houses and Cycle Dock.     

Mr Hutt is also worried that the cycle path will be spoiled by the loss of green space alongside it and proposed 'traffic-calming measures' – payments by the developer to the council include "£25,000 relating to cycle improvements on the surrounding streets and/or traffic calming for the Bristol-Bath Railway Path".

A number of public works – such as extra cycle facilities – are still to be agreed between the developers and the council, so it seems cyclists will have to wait to see the exact effect of the decision on the path.

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