Bristol should lose Cycling City status says Sustrans founder John Grimshaw

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

by Tony Farrelly   May 31, 2012  

Bristol Rapid Transposrt Scheme.png

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.

5 user comments

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Doesn't sound like proper BRT at all and doesn't look like proper BRT either. No off vehicle ticketing minimal doors (pay the driver? certainly not BRT then).

Go look at Curitiba for what real BRT and pseudo metro systems are. Sometimes I wonder if the prefix de- or un- is missing when the term value-engineering is used to describe what is really cost paring and not efficiency measures.

That said Sustrans started out by having a budget which would have benefitted from at least 2 extra zeros to deliver the original paths network, but with that constraint they attracted the people who who saw what could be done with the money rather than what could not be done

Yes lets look at a BRT system but one that might steadily convert in to a trolleybus, then tram then rail route, and design it to evolve that way from the start.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [487 posts]
31st May 2012 - 15:28


Re the 'impression' picture - on a serious BRT system you would not have pedestrians wandering about on the 'track' and platforms with a gap between the BRT vehicles and platform.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [487 posts]
31st May 2012 - 15:30


Most of the proposed new road construction will NOT be bus only. One of the few sections which would be bus only is proposed to be built over a riverside cycle path and heritage railway track.

posted by Joe Dunckley [9 posts]
31st May 2012 - 15:55


It's just a bus, with a driver,and some new fancy bus stops, there isn't enough room in Bristol for a truely dedicated 'BRT' system, and destroying or disrupting popular cycling routes in the process. In Emersons Green a bridge across the A4174 will be removed, it will cause me to use a busy A road to make a regular trip to Bradley Stoke instead of cycling on quiet lanes, the 'BRT' will not accomodate either my bicycle or take me to Bradley Stoke.

Bristol is a city segregated by it's rivers and motorway, and this BRT system does nothing to break down the segregation and make it easier for people to get around by any other means that using some sort of motorised vehicle.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
2nd June 2012 - 7:51


On my visits to Bristol in the past i have found it to be one of the worst cycling venues in the world ! To be beeped by a station wagon carrying bikes on its rear says it ALL !

Narrow roads make for difficulties for inexpert , slow cyclists , even with my experience of ducking and diving , that i found Bristol drivers much ruder and impatient than London Taxis says so much!

Once again when i pickd up the " Il Giro " from that local who " paints bikes " there was no touch up paint supplied ,and after the Giro i have already scored some places on the top bar needing attention .

Doubt i can name the culprit but i know i won't be back even if the work i " Supposedly free to me , time and effort wasted getting there , costs also!

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [383 posts]
4th June 2012 - 8:14