Cyclists vs drivers in Bristol’s battle of petitions

Calls for improvements to notorious Gloucester Road

by John Stevenson   January 2, 2014  

Congestion and parking problems on Bristol's Gloucester Road (CC licensed Sam Saunders)

Bristol’s Gloucester Road, identified as one of the most dangerous commuter routes by cycling charity Sustrans, is the subject of two rival petitions, one calling for the lifting of parking restrictions, the other demanding a bike lane along the length of the road.

According to the Bristol Evening Post, Gloucester Road is the scene of confrontations between road users at peak periods. Its bike lanes are intermittent, and some drivers say it needs more parking spaces.

A petition by cyclist Jorge Sved calls for a continuous cycle lane along the full length of Gloucester Road.

“Why are there cycle lanes only on some portions of the Gloucester Road?” he says in a petition addressed to Bristol City Council.

The council, he says, should “make them continuous all the way from Zetland Rd to the British Aerospace roundabout.”

“Eventually there should be fully segregated cycle lanes on this route used by hundreds of cyclists every day. Until then, at least paint cycle lanes to stop motor vehicles from driving near the pavement forcing cyclists to weave between cars slowing down their progress and increasing the risk of injury.”

But city councillor Dr David Willingham wants parking restrictions lifted at peak times to make it easier for drivers to get to shops on Gloucester Road.

His petition calls for the council to remove restrictions on parking bays that don’t obstruct traffic lanes, and bring in ‘tidal’ parking rules so that drivers can park on the outbound side of the road in the morning peak, and the inbound side in the evening.

He told the Post: "Parking your car in some of the spaces which are currently restricted takes no longer than a few seconds.

"When you consider that some junctions on Gloucester Road may be at as much as 143 per cent capacity during peak times, it is not going to change the speed of the traffic.

"It will make no difference to congestion but will bring parking spaces back into use – for the benefit of the traders."

However, he concedes that cycle lanes the full-length of Gloucester Road and fewer parking restrictions are not compatible.

"As a cyclist, I support making a safe cycling route into town. I don't think continuous lanes are possible all the way but I also don't think my petition would affect the safety of cyclists," he said.

The cycle lane petition currently has 182 signatures and can be found at http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_core/community/petition/2519.

The parking petition has 103 signatures and is at http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_core/view/glosrdparking

23 user comments

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Tidal parking seems like quite a good idea to me. If all the cars are parked on the 'other' side of the road, they can't be obstructing the edge of the road on the 'flow' side - and what you need is a clear path, whether there's a bit of paint on the road or not.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [954 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 13:35

12 Likes

city councillor Dr David Willingham wrote:
As a cyclist, ...

Ah yes. The popular "I'm a cyclist myself" preamble, and of course immediately followed by the usual motorist's bovine excrement.

Work harder. Buy a tank.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [323 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 13:54

30 Likes

The moment you allow parking you automatically cause a problem for cyclists, If you are not confident you find yourself boxed in by cars to the front and the side. plus all too often you find a pinch point as drivers squeeze through gaps.

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posted by mrmo [1353 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 14:09

23 Likes

Gizmo_ wrote:
Tidal parking seems like quite a good idea to me. If all the cars are parked on the 'other' side of the road, they can't be obstructing the edge of the road on the 'flow' side - and what you need is a clear path, whether there's a bit of paint on the road or not.

Never heard of the idea before but I would have to agree allowing parking on the non-use side of the road seems reasonable

posted by jarredscycling [456 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 15:15

11 Likes

Something to factor in here is the Concorde Way which is a cycle path/quiet road route that runs parallel and 0.75 miles west of Gloucester Rd. Must have cost a bit as it includes new cycle paths and a bridge. We can't have it all ways, although I accept that for some people a detour to a cycle route might not be a realistic option.
I used to be a Gloucester Rd regular a few years ago; a bit challenging but not the worst place to cycle. I only go that way occasionally, but the Concorde Way is pretty good and gaining popularity with other people I talk to. I have to admit (perhaps grudgingly) that some cycle routes, whilst not that direct, are quicker than the direct route where you're dodging traffic, being stopped at lights etc. Less stress as well. When you spot someone cycling on a dual carriageway with a good cycle path that runs parallel, you just wonder what point they're trying to make; and, guess what, motorists know exactly where the cycle paths are so have 'zero sympathy' for cyclists who stick doggedly to the road when cash has been spent on new cycling infrastructure.

Shades

posted by Shades [232 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 15:17

12 Likes

North Street, Stokes Croft, Cheltenham Road, Gloucester Road and Filton Road are to all intents and purposes one road: the A38 going north out of Bristol City Centre. Although there was a (non-collision) fatality this winter and although serious injuries do happen the road's cycle casualty record is notable for a large number of carelessly delivered slight injuries associated with exactly what you would expect: doorings, "failed-to-looks" at minor junctions and pulling into approaching traffic from a parked-offside position. Prosecutions are not usually pursued. There is an excellent account of this on the Bristol Cycling Campaign website over here: http://www.bristolcyclingcampaign.org.uk/campaign/232-no-road-justice-on-gloucester-road.

Bristol City Council have been planning improvements and changes, including (I believe) an option to create cycle routes closer to the main road than the Concorde Way (mentioned by jarredscycling). Local traders are keen to encourage short-term parking (the most dangerous sort) so that they can maintain sales but it is easy to see that the existing cycle parking is oversubscribed and that a lot of local people use bikes or would like to use bikes to go to the many good shops in the area.

posted by Sam Saunders [20 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 16:56

11 Likes

I imagine tidal parking will be just like a tidal river, when its in your favour it will be great, but when its not it will be deadly.

posted by Mart [109 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 17:17

14 Likes

There was a study kicking about recently which, frankly, i cant be bothered to go looking for right now which essentially said that parking spaces on this kind of road had negligible or no impact on trade one way or another.
Wasnt there also something out of New York recently claiming cycle friendly streets increase trade too?
I would suggest that Dr David Willingham do a bit more research.
But then again i see he is a LibDem so .........................

posted by Some Fella [820 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 17:55

8 Likes

Why is it so essential to park outside the shop?. Surely if it's an arterial route the priority ought to be ensuring the traffic (what ever form it takes) moves freely so there should be no parking on the main roads, rather like the double red lines they paint in London, but never seem to expert to the provinces.

posted by GREGJONES [140 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 18:12

11 Likes

Shades wrote:

When you spot someone cycling on a dual carriageway with a good cycle path that runs parallel, you just wonder what point they're trying to make;

I fully agree with that - if the cycle path is actually in a good condition. That's a big if though, sadly.

Up here in Fife and around Edinburgh, cycle paths are hopelessly neglected in general, with broken surfaces that never get repaired and littered with glass shards and other debris.

The one laudable exception is the Forth Road Bridge, where I've actually seen a maintenance vehicle scrubbing the debris off the segregated cycle path once.

Shades wrote:

motorists know exactly where the cycle paths are so have 'zero sympathy' for cyclists who stick doggedly to the road when cash has been spent on new cycling infrastructure.

Motorists that pass too closely or exhibit other dangerous behaviour have 'zero sympathy' for cyclists either way.

People simply know "there is a cycle path right there", but they don't have the slightest clue what condition it is in because most of them wouldn't ever use one to save their lives.

GREGJONES wrote:

Why is it so essential to park outside the shop?

My knee-jerk reaction to this would be "It's not! Wouldn't hurt the fat buggers to walk a few metres!" - but then, any lack of business from customers that cannot be bothered to do that (and let's face it, that'll be pretty much most of them) will hurt the shop owners.

So I can see why increasing parking space would be in their interest. I just wish there was a way of helping both, them to increase business and the cyclists to stay safe. We all know what usually happens if safety costs money.

Work harder. Buy a tank.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [323 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 19:48

11 Likes

Shades wrote:
Something to factor in here is the Concorde Way which is a cycle path/quiet road route that runs parallel and 0.75 miles west of Gloucester Rd. Must have cost a bit as it includes new cycle paths and a bridge. We can't have it all ways, although I accept that for some people a detour to a cycle route might not be a realistic option.
I used to be a Gloucester Rd regular a few years ago; a bit challenging but not the worst place to cycle. I only go that way occasionally, but the Concorde Way is pretty good and gaining popularity with other people I talk to. I have to admit (perhaps grudgingly) that some cycle routes, whilst not that direct, are quicker than the direct route where you're dodging traffic, being stopped at lights etc. Less stress as well. When you spot someone cycling on a dual carriageway with a good cycle path that runs parallel, you just wonder what point they're trying to make; and, guess what, motorists know exactly where the cycle paths are so have 'zero sympathy' for cyclists who stick doggedly to the road when cash has been spent on new cycling infrastructure.

I'm a Gloucester Rd regular now, and I've tried Concorde Way - it's a nice idea, but I've found it a *lot* slower than going up and down the G Road, largely as the road surfaces are poor and there are a stack of junctions on the quiet residential roads it uses (I'm also grumpy as it spat me out in a building site outside the back of UWE first time I used it ...)

I didn't realise Gloucester Rd was rated as being that dangerous, though I can understand why it might be - you just have to be switched on.

I think a permanent segregated cycle way isn't a bad idea up there (though make it wide enough to overtake on, as there are some dawdlers up that road). Loads of parking spaces won't work as there's already a bus lane taking up a significant amount of space, and there's plenty of parking in the residential streets each side. Might have helped if they hadn't flogged to car park by the swimming baths for flats mind ...

posted by Sherlock Ohms [16 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 20:43

9 Likes

In Plymouth the council closed lane 1 of a dual carriageway, added cycle lane marking adjacent to the kerb then chevron marked the balance of the lane out. The cycle lane is a greet place to park a car outside your house saving you from using your driveway. Totally useless as a cycle lane now and riding on lumpy chevrons is likened to cycling over railway sleepers. We'll done.
Re. Gloucester Rd, clear case of confusion to cyclists by having intermittent cycle lanes. Either have a continuous lane or don't bother.

We're all entitled to a reasonable opinion!

posted by Guyz2010 [291 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 21:09

7 Likes

Lots of conflict, as always, but what are the facts?

Traders want to do business, drivers want to park outside shops, cyclists want to stay safe, pedestrians want to cross the road. And, crucially, there's neither the space nor the funding to provide the sort of segregation seen elsewhere.

The obvious solution, and capable of being implemented within 24 hours at minimum cost, is a 20 mph limit, where 20 really is the absolute limit, backed by regular and unannounced enforcement, with much stiffer penalties for miscreants.

If we can get drivers used to driving at perhaps 15 mph, in all streets like these, then at least we could dramatically reduce KSIs, whilst we work on more ambitous infrastructure.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 21:26

14 Likes

There's research (some of it carried out on this very road, no less) which indicates that shop owners massively overestimate the number of shoppers who come by car, the number of shops they visit and the amount they spend.

http://cidadanialxmob.tripod.com/shoppersandhowtheytravel.pdf

Personally I'd rather be stabbed in the eye than go shopping by car on Gloucester Road. The traffic is usually terrible, even after you've fought your way across central Bristol, and it's much nicer doing short hops up the road on your bike than parking and re-parking.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 21:36

8 Likes

Living in Melbourne, Aus we have tidal parking in shopping strips and a couple of points - not objective but my impression is that vehicle speeds and fast close passes increase on sections of roads clear of parked cars because drivers perceive that the road is designated for them to commute on - this is despite 40km/h being the typical limit in shopping areas.

Not sure if applies in all of Australia but here in Victoria you can't park against the flow of traffic (that is driver next to kerb on opposite side of road) - one concern I would have in UK is that you would get a lot of cars parking on "the wrong side" - I used to ride through a shopping area in the UK with this issue and for cyclists it is very dangerous as drivers with very limited view of oncoming traffic are looking for gaps using the same skill set used at junctions and roundabouts - the one that doesn't include factoring in cyclists

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [174 posts]
2nd January 2014 - 22:50

6 Likes

Sherlock Ohms wrote:

I'm a Gloucester Rd regular now, and I've tried Concorde Way - it's a nice idea, but I've found it a *lot* slower than going up and down the G Road, largely as the road surfaces are poor and there are a stack of junctions on the quiet residential roads it uses (I'm also grumpy as it spat me out in a building site outside the back of UWE first time I used it ...)
...

Agree that the cycle route designers should send a few 'testers' out to trial new routes, although I accept a bit of 'trial and error' when I'm checking them out. If it's a viable alternative that eliminates a risky part of a ride, then I often ask myself why it's taken me so long to look into it. Cyclestreets has been pretty good in getting me to consider alternatives.
Going back to Gloucester Rd, it's always easier to negotiate going into Bristol centre as its downhill/flat and you have speed on your side.

Shades

posted by Shades [232 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 9:39

10 Likes

Shades wrote:

Agree that the cycle route designers should send a few 'testers' out to trial new routes

Those involved in designing cycle routes should be made to send their own children or young relatives out on them unattended.

If they have any hesitations then it can't be fit for purpose and they will have to go back to the drawing board.

It's a very simple solution really.

posted by farrell [1579 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 10:53

9 Likes

Shades wrote:
I used to be a Gloucester Rd regular a few years ago; a bit challenging but not the worst place to cycle. I only go that way occasionally, but the Concorde Way is pretty good and gaining popularity with other people I talk to. I have to admit (perhaps grudgingly) that some cycle routes, whilst not that direct, are quicker than the direct route where you're dodging traffic, being stopped at lights etc. Less stress as well.

Completely agree on the stop, start and stress. Having spent a lot of time going up and down Gloucester Road over the years in cars and buses, and on (motor)bikes, I have to say I won't touch it with someone elses as far as commuting by bike goes. Despite it being a reasonably straight line for me to / from work (just south of city centre to Aztec West) I go via the Portway, past Westbury and up and over Cribbs Causeway - it's obviously longer but still under 12 miles, most of it is quiet-ish, wide residential roads or cycle routes/shared pavement and you get to see the Avon Gorge every day. The small amount of interaction with traffic proper (down the A4018) is still less than the agro i'd go through just getting to Gloucester Road in the first place. Obviously not an option for everyone - but if it is i'd recommend giving it a go.

Shades wrote:
When you spot someone cycling on a dual carriageway with a good cycle path that runs parallel, you just wonder what point they're trying to make; and, guess what, motorists know exactly where the cycle paths are so have 'zero sympathy' for cyclists who stick doggedly to the road when cash has been spent on new cycling infrastructure.

Have to mostly agree with this too.

For the Bristolian element here, I can't even readily understand folk using the road itself for most of Northbound Portway (A4) in Bristol.... the tarmac on the good bits of the road is horrible, abrasive, lumpy and slow, the near-side is prone to flooding and is generally full of crap and you have idiots flying past you at 60-odd mph. The pavement is a designated shared path, is very wide and has a mostly excellent surface (and no real bad bits). Once you're near Shirehampton, fine, the rest of time it's generally more hassle for you and other motorists (IMO) - perhaps it's a Strava thing...

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [538 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 11:12

6 Likes

The Portway shared pavement has a fair few obstructions and pinch points on it, and people use it in both directions so you do have to keep your wits about you. It also does the thing so many cycle paths do, disappearing at the bit when it would be really helpful. I can see perfectly well why people would prefer the road.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 11:52

4 Likes

farrell wrote:

Those involved in designing cycle routes should be made to send their own children or young relatives out on them unattended.

If they have any hesitations then it can't be fit for purpose and they will have to go back to the drawing board.

It's a very simple solution really.

Totally. Although for that to happen we would need to have Lord Vetinari as prime minister. If only ... *sigh*

Work harder. Buy a tank.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [323 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 12:55

3 Likes

Mr Agreeable wrote:
The Portway shared pavement has a fair few obstructions and pinch points on it, and people use it in both directions so you do have to keep your wits about you. It also does the thing so many cycle paths do, disappearing at the bit when it would be really helpful. I can see perfectly well why people would prefer the road.

There's a couple of pinch points but it's mostly so wide two-way traffic is a non-issue and it is continuous from the Cumberland Basin to nearly Avonmouth - apart from a tiny break at the Sea Mills junction (about 5 yards). I found the road simpler but bloody horrible (and the tarmac is, like I said, shit and slow), and it's not always great even passing cyclists in the car on the first couple of stretches when it's busy.

That said it's entirely personal preference obviously, each to their own.

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [538 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 13:11

8 Likes

Yes, I'd probably use it too! It all depends on what you're used to and how comfortable you feel mingling with traffic. The Concorde Way is a bit of an odd example though - the traffic on Gloucester Road is generally slow-moving, and there aren't many alternative routes if you need to go to the shops.

posted by Mr Agreeable [151 posts]
3rd January 2014 - 14:46

3 Likes

Sadly Bristol Council is bound by dogma, so money that could have been used to put in segregated cycle lanes and other measures has been squandered on 20MPH road signs for cul-de-sacs and deserted residential streets. So next time you're almost run down on Gloc Road, feel grateful that if you were cycling along a quiet residential street or cul-de-sac, any cars you might have met would possibly be travelling at 20mph. Not that the limit will be enforced, but it's the thought that counts isn't it?

Maybe a better petition would be "Speed isn't the be-all of road safety, stop the dogma and police the roads"?

posted by pointer2null [1 posts]
10th January 2014 - 11:54

1 Like