The campaign to save the UK’s oldest cycle path has stepped up a gear.
The Bristol to Bath Railway Path was the first route on the country’s National Cycle Network and was built by cycling charity Sustrans in the early 1980s.
Plans are afoot to turn part of it into a bus route – a proposal which has outraged local cyclists. Now Sustrans has launched an online petition calling for the idea to be scrapped. A previous petition set up by the Bristol Cycling Campaign has already attracted some 8,000 signatories.
Sustrans has met with Bristol City Council, one of the four councils backing the bus route scheme, to pile the pressure on.
In a letter to the council after the meeting, Sustrans chief executive John Grimshaw said: “It is flying in the face of these facts to seek to implement a scheme that actually positions walking and cycling in competition with public transport. We need much more of both if we are ever to persuade people out of their cars, not one or the other.
“We are also hearing from people all over the UK appalled at the principle that walking and cycling be sacrificed to improve public transport."
Bristol Cycling Campaign met with Bristol transport chief Councillor Mark Bradshaw last week, to lobby again against the proposals.
The council is consulting on the project this spring, with people asked for their views on three options:
A bus route along a local motorway and main road
A bus route along the cycle path
A combination of the two.
If the cycle path proposal got the go ahead, it would see buses running parallel to the currently traffic-free path.
Campaigners have said the only way to make the route wide enough for buses and bikes would be to rip out hedgerows and trees along the route. There are also doubts about the viability of the plan due to a number of low bridges along the path.
Bristol resident Murray Wilson said: “I bought my house because it was beside the path, and it is the only open green space left in one of the most deprived areas of Bristol.
“Its loss as a unique place to enjoy a traffic-free walk or cycle would have a significant effect on the health of the people of east Bristol.”
A poll in the Bristol Evening Post local newspaper found 95 per cent of respondents were against the scheme.
The Bristol to Bath Railway Path saw 2.4 million journeys made by walkers and cyclists last year and is the most popular route on the National Cycle Network.If the bus route went ahead it would be operational by 2014, with buses running every two and a half minutes.