Where is Bristol's £23m of cycle cash going?

Money needs to be spent by 2011

Local cyclists are increasingly asking questions about exactly where Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils will spend the £22.8 million of 'CyclingCity' money they have to invest by 2011.

The huge pot of money came as a result of the area being chosen as the country's first 'CyclingCity' in mid-2008. With half the cash coming from central government via Cycling England and half match-funded by the councils and other bodies. 

Cycling Councillor Dr Jon Rogers recently found himself excluded from a meeting of the Stakeholder Executive Board - those who decide how the millions will be spent - despite the fact he is the Liberal party lead councillor on transport and the CyclingCity award was obtained with the support of all parties in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

In the past members of Bristol Cycling Campaign have also complained of being excluded from meetings.

Dr Rogers explained to BikeRadar how his interest was simply that of many Bristol cyclists - he wished to observe, not disrupt the meeting, and to find out what plans were in the pipeline for the money that was heralded as making the city into a flagship demonstration town where cycling levels would double by 2011. 

Instead of being enlightened about spending plans Dr. Rogers found himself ejected from the meeting by an employee of the Marriot Hotel where the Stakeholder Executive Board was meeting.

“I wanted to know why the cycling developments that are happening in Bristol - and things are happening on the ground - are happening despite the CyclingCity cash rather than because of it,” Dr Rogers commented.

As to why the meeting was at an expensive hotel and not at council offices Dr Rogers added "that is a good question."

The cycling 'Delivery Strategy' posted by the council on its website says that nearly 70% of the Cycling City money is to be spent on infrastructure but the appendix attached to the report shows a list of particular schemes none of which appear to be major new projects such as traffic-free corridors, motor-traffic restriction projects or city-wide bike hire schemes mooted at the time the money was awarded.   

A Bristol City Council (BCC) press office released the following outline of intended works recently:

  • 21km of new track
  • 29km of improvements to the existing off-road network
  • 34km of on-road improvements on major routes into the city

Typical figures for cycle path construction vary hugely but road safety charity Brake quotes figures of between £5,000 per km (basic on road provision) and £65,000 per km (fully engineered railpath). Even with the highest quality routes and improvements the above works would only amount to a small proportion of the £23m.

BCC did provide limited extra scheme detail in a launch document, though much of it was a reiteration of what many councils do on a daily basis - for example the provision of 'free cycle parking and maps'.

The accompanying map made it impossible to distinguish what was new infrastructure, what was to be improved and what was simply existing.   

The launch document mentioned the following:

  • A continuous, safe route on the A38 in South Gloucestershire
  • New long distance routes to the north and south of Bristol city centre and cycle routes between Emersons Green and Yate, and Cribbs Causeway routes
  • Two large 20mph speed limit pilot areas within Bristol
  • Trial to close one side of PrinceStreetBridge to motor traffic (already done at a cost of £40,000)
  • City centre improvements
  • Options to improve sites with the highest number of cycling accidents
  • Connect 2 new traffic-free link from the centre of Bristol to
    Ashton Court
    and onto Long Ashton and North Somerset
  • Many smaller schemes including more advance Stop Lines at traffic lights, contraflow cycle streets, improved timings of existing signal crossings, cycle signage and parking, new links to the Bristol Bath Railway Path and bus priority measures to provide benefits to cyclists on busy roads
  • Free Bikeability Cycle Training for Year 3 pupils upwards through school-based courses

BikeRadar asked Terry Cook, Bristol City Council's 'Cycling Champion', the following and received responses via BCC Press Office:

BikeRadar: Does the council have a list of the major traffic-free routes to be built with the Cycling City budget - location, length, cost and quality (cycle path width and surface)?

Bristol City Council: No approvals have been gained as yet for specific schemes. We are looking to build all new infrastructure in accordance with the best practice guidance…Major traffic free routes will be subject to land negotiation, mitigation of impacts on wildlife, local consultation and planning approval.

BR:  Why are the cost figures omitted from the strategy - even for completed schemes?

BCC: We need to be clear that what we have so far is a strategy which has necessarily been some time in the development and approval process with the partner councils and Cycling England. No detailed schemes have as yet been worked up in terms of materials etc, except the trial at PrinceStreet Bridge the cost of which is already public at £40,000.

There are broad costings budgeted for individual elements. But publishing detailed budgets too early is problematic for public organisations.

BR: Are there any plans for a city-wide bike hire scheme a la Paris's 'Velib'? This was widely reported to be on the cards at the time the money was awarded.

Hourbike is being reviewed*. The scheme was worked up before we got the funding, and we are now re-scoping the plans in light of the new circumstances.

* Hourbike's website shows four rental stations to the north of Bristol, two within a university campus.

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