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Rapid Transport System plans break commitment to improve walking and cycling in any new transport scheme

Bristol should lose its status as the UK's first, and so far only, Cycling City if plans for a new Rapid Transport Scheme go ahead says John Grimshaw one of the founders of Sustrans.

Mr Grimshaw contends that Bristol made a permanent undertaking to ensure that walking and cycling would be improved by any new transport scheme his comments suggest he believes the Rapid Transport Scheme (RTS) plans break that commitment.

The current plans for a bus-based rapid transport system with an estimated cost of £200m are open for public consultation until July. The plans centre on proposals to link north and south Bristol with the city centre using a mixture of dedicated bus lanes, a new (presumably bus only road), modifications to the M32 including bus lanes, a bus only junction, and a 30mph speed limit on a long section of the motorway and will involve substantial new pieces of instructure - including new bridges and modifications to existing roads.

Bristol's Rapid Transport Scheme will be part-funded by the Department for Transport, but in order to get that funding the three local authorities: Bristol City Council; South Gloucestershire; and Bath & North East Somerset that make up the consortia behind the RTS had to reduce the costs of the bid. This was done by a process known as Value Engineering which involves identifying the key elements required to make the scheme work and concentrating funding there. One casualty of that process according to opponents of the scheme was much of the cycle provision contained in the original plan.

Speaking to the BBC Mr Grimshaw said that much of the civil engineering work in the current version of the plan will fragment the city's network of cycle routes and that much of the new cycling provision in the plan simply won't work.

"The original proposals, in 2009, for this bus-way did that quite well.

"But they did 'value engineering' and in my language 'value engineering' is removing everything of value for the community.

"The cycling route has been split into bits, the connections don't work and it's too narrow."

Responding to Mr Grimshaw's criticism of the RTS plan, councillor Tim Kent who holds the transport portfolio on Bristol City Council said that he has already agreed that some of the cycling provision cut from the the original 2009 plan would be restored.

"The scheme will bring back in substantial additional cycling provision, including extra bridges and extra cycle ways. It's a real boost for cycling in this city," he said.
"But in looking at the plans we do accept that additional provision would be of benefit to cyclists and what we are trying to do at the moment is identify exactly what we can afford to put back in and where we can find that funding."
Opponents of the Rapid Transport System describe it as a colossal waste of money and even at this stage it is not clear how or if the scheme will be affected by Bristol's decision to switch to having an elected mayor - should the mayor be opposed to the scheme.

You can view the plans in more detail and comment on them at the Travel West website.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.