Campaigners win fight to save UK's oldest bike path

Celebration to mark victory this weekend

A controversial scheme to build a bus lane on the UK's oldest cycle path has been shelved.

Campaigners planning a protest ride against the plans this Sunday (March 30) will now hold a victory bike procession along the route instead.

Cycling charity Sustrans had planned to hold a party on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, to highlight its importance, followed by a ride into the heart of Bristol city to make their voices heard.

Local transport chiefs had hoped to build a bus route along half of the 13 mile traffic free route - a plan which campaigners said would destroy wildlife, and discourage people from walking and cycling.

But today (Saturday) the lead councillor championing the project announced it had been abandoned in its current form, due to the level of opposition, and an alternative scheme would be chosen instead.

Speaking to local newspaper, the Bristol Evening Post, Councillor Mark Bradshaw said: "From the work carried out so far, it is clear that shared use of part of the disused railway line linking Bristol and Bath would be technically complex and challenging, and would be very unpopular with the cyclists and walkers on the Bristol to Bath cycle path, with whom the route would be shared.

"Given these difficulties, and working as a partnership, we are committed to providing a full and detailed picture of those route options which do not involve shared use of the disused railway line with the cyclepath - those which are 100 per cent road based.

"In light of the complexities surrounding the city centre to Emerson's Green section of the route, we will be bringing forward detailed proposals for a first phase between Long Ashton and central Bristol in the near future."

Transport planners are now looking at a other options, including a route along a nearby motorway or main road. The path has not been completely saved from threat, as Mr Bradshaw refused to rule out the possibility that shorter sections could still be used.

But, as another route will now be built first, it seems the battle, if not the war, has been won.

And the plans for the first annual celebration of the path on Sunday are likely to raise its profile even higher.

The Bristol to Bath Railway Path was the first cycle route to be built by Sustrans, in the early 1980s, and currently sees 2.4 million journeys a year. It is the most popular route on the National Cycle Network.

Sustrans set up an online petition for people to register opposition to the bus lane plans. A previous petition set up by the Bristol Cycling Campaign received some 8,000 signatures.

Sunday's celebration will proceed down the path from the Fishponds area in Bristol at approx 2.30pm - and people can join there or as the procession passes. The procession will reach the bottom of the path in Newtown Park in St Phillips, at 3pm.

It will then continue along the roads to College Green at about 4.30pm. College Green is overlooked by Bristol's Council House, the base of many of the transport officers and councillors who backed the plans to install the cycle route. Sustrans chief executive John Grimshaw will be among those attending the celebration.

There will also be an associated bike ride, from the city centre to Mangotsfield and back which starts at 12 noon. It will join the procession on its return journey. 

To find out more click here. Those who want to attend are being reminded that the clocks go forward the night before.

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