Work begins on paths and new routes

Bristol's Cycling City programme seems to be finally stepping up a gear following the announcement that work has started bike-route improvements across the city.

The upgrades include better lighting on and better access to the Bristol-to-Bath cycle path, and new routes in the centre and to the south of the city.

News of the work comes after Cycling City organisers were told to 'get on with the job' by Cycling England, the public body which chose Bristol as its flagship location. There was a perception that things weren't moving as quickly as might have been hoped, and a warning that the £22.8 million budget might be lost if the Cycling England portion of it wasn't allocated by March 2011, the deadline set when the original award was made.

Half of the money allocated to Cycling City – £11.4 million – comes from the Government. And the rest comes from both Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils, and Cycling City has until March 2011 to spend the money or it loses it.

According to the Bristol Evening Post, by the end of February cyclists will be able to travel under street lights for an extra two kilometres, from the end of the currently lit section at Alcove Road in Fishponds all the way to the Staple Hill tunnel.

The work will involve some trench digging for electricity cables, which means up to six temporary diversions will be set up, with details posted on the Better by Bike website.

Another project will give easier access to the path at two locations, the first creating a new one-kilometre route across Ridgeway Playing Fields between Bristol Brunel Academy and the cyclepath in Speedwell.

Street lamps will be installed and the path widened between Atlas Close and Holly Close for the £300,000 scheme.

A further £90,000 will be spent making it quicker to get from the path to St George Park. A new crossing will link the path with Stretford Road and a contraflow system will allow cyclists to use the one-way street in both directions.

The route will go from the existing ramp to Johnsons Road and continue into Johnsons Lane, where a widened section alongside the King's Head pub will connect through to Whitehall Road.

Work has also started on a new pedestrian and cyclepath, running from the junction between Merchants Road and Cumberland Road in the city centre.

It is part of a larger development that will eventually go beneath the Plimsoll Bridge to the end of the Portway.

It will improve journeys to and from the Portway, connecting the existing cycling facility along the road with the Harbourside at the Pump House.

It will also improve pedestrian access to the footbridge that runs across Cumberland Basin Road, Bennett Way, Cabot Way and Hotwells Road.

The last part of the scheme, between the Plimsoll Bridge and the Portway, will be done in June once works to Cumberland Basin entrance locks are completed. The full route is 430 metres long and will cost about £84,000.

The final project will improve access from the west of the city centre to Ashton Vale, avoiding busy Brunel Way.

A 260-metre pedestrian and cycle path will formalise a shortcut from Winterstoke Road to Ashton Avenue swing bridge, near the Create Centre.

It will run along a disused track from Ashton Avenue Bridge, under Brunel Way and on to the site of the former Megabowl complex.

Funding for the £50,000 scheme comes through an agreement linked to the Taylor Wimpey housing development on the Megabowl site.

Although, councillor Jon Rogers, who heads the Cycle City programme has floated the idea of making  the city centre car free by 2015, one of the criticisms leveled at the way the Cycling England funding has been allocated so far is that spending has been piecemeal and has not included projects likely to grasp the public imagination. Indeed some sceptics have gone as far as to suggest that much of the CE money has simply gone in to the maintenance budgets for existing cycle infrastructure and is either money that would have been spent anyway, or replaces money  that might otherwise have been cut from the council's budget.