Cycling City? Not on our land

Bristol City Council stops all cycling activity on council land; other sports unaffected

by Dave Atkinson   November 13, 2012  

bristol city council logo

Remember when Bristol was championing itself as the first Cycling City? Seems that cycling's out in the cold nowadays: the City Council have take it upon themselves to suspend all cycle events on council sites, effectively cancelling the Western League cyclocross series in the process.

We spoke to Craig Denning of Dream Cycling, whose Western league event, scheduled to take place at Hengrove Park in Bristol, has had to be moved at short notice. "the first event at Hengrove went ahead as planned," he told us, "but when I didn't receive a license for the second, I had to chase and chase to get through to someone at the council. Eventually I was told that a decision had been made by the new manager of parks to suspend all cycling events on Bristol-City-owned sites."

So much for a cycling city, then. When pressed by Denning, the Council stated that a wet summer, coupled with budget cuts, meant that they weren't prepared to put cycling events on and risk damage to facilities. When asked whether the suspension would also apply to football and rugby, the Council unsurprisingly confirmed that they'd be going ahead as normal.

"It's ridiculous - Hengrove is a sports facility, not an area of outstanding natural beauty," Denning told us. "There used to be crit races held up there on the old Whitchurch Airport runways, and there's a car boot sale held there every week that does more damage than a cylocross race ever could." Initially reports were circulating that the Council would be asking for a £2,500 deposit ahead of each event, but even that route – which cyclo cross organisers wouldn't have been able to afford anyway – is now seemingly closed. The reason for the suspension, that appears to affect cycle events and nothing else, is unclear. Recently the Bristol Bikefest events have encountered problems with access to, and restoration of, fields used as campsites during the summer and Oktoberfest events, but there's no campsite at a CX race.

All this from a City council that was happy to take £11m of Government funding in 2008 to become the first designated Cycling City in England. "Cycling clearly plays a big part in that and is central to Bristol's vision of the future," states their website. That's presumably so long as that cycling doesn't take place on their land...

44 user comments

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BigDummy wrote:
Does being a Cycling City actually involve promising to permit CX races on damp public parks?

If not the article and comments seem a tad harsh...

I imagine that part of being a Cycling City is to encourage the culture of cycling wherever possible, not just commuting.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1358 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:16

3 Likes

//

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [561 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:22

5 Likes

zanf wrote:
Craig Denning of Dream Cycling wrote:
"Eventually I was told that a decision had been made by the new manager of parks to suspend all cycling events on Bristol-City-owned sites."

So who is this new manager of parks? Name and shame them.

We don't currently have it but we'll update if and when we get more info

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7437 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:28

0 Likes

hennahairgel wrote:
Does this therefore also apply to any future events (such as the OktoberFest and Bikefest as mentioned) in Ashton Court as AFAIK it's council owned.

so far as we're aware the answer is yes, but the details are far from clear. currently it's mainly affecting cyclocross as that's what is on

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7437 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:29

3 Likes

If it's anything like our local council, there may be a councillor that has control of leisure activities.
Either way, sounds like locals need to be talking to their local councillor to get something done - IME councillors can be pretty decent - they may even take a dim view of the change...

posted by JonD [190 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:32

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Dave Atkinson wrote:
zanf wrote:
Craig Denning of Dream Cycling wrote:
"Eventually I was told that a decision had been made by the new manager of parks to suspend all cycling events on Bristol-City-owned sites."

So who is this new manager of parks? Name and shame them.

We don't currently have it but we'll update if and when we get more info


He or she certainly be on the sharp end of an email from me!

David Fong
Engineered Bicycles

posted by Roastie [25 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:39

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Roastie wrote:
Dave Atkinson wrote:
zanf wrote:
Craig Denning of Dream Cycling wrote:
"Eventually I was told that a decision had been made by the new manager of parks to suspend all cycling events on Bristol-City-owned sites."

So who is this new manager of parks? Name and shame them.

We don't currently have it but we'll update if and when we get more info


He or she certainly be on the sharp end of an email from me!

After a bit of searching I found that the parks fall under Environment and Leisure.

Looking at page of 27 of this: http://www.bristol.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/council_and_demo...

On the Bristol City Council - chief officers organisational chart (as at 18.09.2012) leads me to:
Tracey Morgan
Service Director
Environment and Leisure
tracey.morgan@bristol.gov.uk
0117 92 23183

Not sure if she made the decision, is still in charge or what, but at least it's a first contact, and perhaps she can help with the background of the decision.

posted by hennahairgel [17 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:53

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From the Bristol Council Downs Report for Nov 19th 2012 ;

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/committee/2012/wa/wa017/1119_11.pdf

The Parks Manager is Richard Bevan
The Parks Operations Manager is Richard Stransom

Also there is a Bristol Parks Forum which is an independent group representing the community for park related matters.

http://www.bristolparksforum.org.uk

posted by seanbolton [140 posts]
13th November 2012 - 17:53

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Ha, he was previously in pest control...for 25 years...

'Bristol City Council. Richard Bevan has relinquished his pest control activities and becomes manager for, parks estates, play, cemeteries and crematoria, although he is retaining chairmanship of the Western Pest Liaison Group and continuing as a member of NPAP. '

http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=778941368&targetid=profile

posted by lady_luck [2 posts]
13th November 2012 - 18:17

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seanbolton wrote:
From the Bristol Council Downs Report for Nov 19th 2012 ;

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/committee/2012/wa/wa017/1119_11.pdf

The Parks Manager is Richard Bevan
The Parks Operations Manager is Richard Stransom

Also there is a Bristol Parks Forum which is an independent group representing the community for park related matters.

http://www.bristolparksforum.org.uk


Bristol CC has a Cabinet structure and one of the members will have Parks in their portfolio.

There should be a committee report behind a decision like this, which will have been agreed (or not) by the councillors on the committee. I would be extremely surprised if the decision is just the whim of one person.

I'd strongly suggest that anyone unhappy about it at least tries to find out:
A)Which committee ratified the decision.
B)Who the Portfolio holder is for Parks and Open Spaces

There may well be more to the decision than meets the eye. It's worth trying to establish the facts before going off to shout at people.

Chuffy's picture

posted by Chuffy [186 posts]
13th November 2012 - 18:38

3 Likes

The route most likely to get a response would be via councillors, preferably by residents covered by the council area. I had this issue some years ago, and was able to demonstrate by a previous example that even when an event was held in appalling conditions which left rutting and mud instead of grass, within 3-4 weeks it was just as if nothing had ever taken place.
Compared to the mudpies of the adjacant football pitches (goal areas a sea of mud), and rugby pitches (every scrum leaves the ground churned up), which were in weekly use, a cross was a zero damage option.
It's probably a case of education for the officer concerned, and having been to Hengrove Park (calling it a park is stretching a point!) it's not a place of beauty, but a good enough facility for basic level CX.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
13th November 2012 - 18:45

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Hi Chuffy

You are correct. The best approach is via the responsible councillor, which for Parks and Open Spaces is Gary Hopkins.

http://www.bristol.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/council_and_demo...

Tim Kent has the cycling city brief so hopefully he would be a supportive voice on the council.

And yes it is important to establish the facts and reasons first and then try to get the relevant people on board. As Doc says, if you can convince/demonstrate that a cyclo-cross race is going to have minimal impact (and no long term damage) then they might be more supportive.

Hopefully it is not just a council employee acting on their own volition. There should be some council scrutiny of this decision somewhere?

posted by seanbolton [140 posts]
13th November 2012 - 19:01

5 Likes

seanbolton wrote:
Hi Chuffy

You are correct. The best approach is via the responsible councillor, which for Parks and Open Spaces is Gary Hopkins.

http://www.bristol.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/council_and_demo...

Tim Kent has the cycling city brief so hopefully he would be a supportive voice on the council.

And yes it is important to establish the facts and reasons first and then try to get the relevant people on board. As Doc says, if you can convince/demonstrate that a cyclo-cross race is going to have minimal impact (and no long term damage) then they might be more supportive.

Hopefully it is not just a council employee acting on their own volition. There should be some council scrutiny of this decision somewhere?


I work for a local authority and I would be surprised if the relevant portfolio holder wasn't at least aware of this. There is always a balance between senior officers taking everyday operational decisions on their own and making significant changes. If this is a change of policy to stop BCC land being used for bike events then I would certainly expect that to go through the democratic process, eg a committee. You would also expect them to consult on it.

Chuffy's picture

posted by Chuffy [186 posts]
13th November 2012 - 20:36

0 Likes

I have emailed Gary Hopkins and Tim Kent about this issue. Maybe some lobbying from the Bristol area cycling clubs can reverse the decision.

It could just an over cautious reaction to perceived damage to the parkland. If those involved can be persuaded otherwise then maybe they can reverse the decision or at least reach some compromise.

posted by seanbolton [140 posts]
13th November 2012 - 20:58

4 Likes

So would it not be a good idea for someone to come up with a suitably worded proforma email that "we" can all send to Bristol City Council querying this position and even suggesting that if they carry on with this position that they should pay back the £11.4 million to Central Government for re-distribution to better placed councils to promote cycling??

That should get their collective attention....especially if it is publicised in the cycling press! Thinking

posted by Furry Mommy [32 posts]
13th November 2012 - 21:39

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shocking decision. brainless.

posted by pj [141 posts]
13th November 2012 - 22:52

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seanbolton wrote:
I have emailed Gary Hopkins and Tim Kent about this issue. Maybe some lobbying from the Bristol area cycling clubs can reverse the decision.

It could just an over cautious reaction to perceived damage to the parkland. If those involved can be persuaded otherwise then maybe they can reverse the decision or at least reach some compromise.


Yup. Sensible reaction and I suspect you're right about the perceived damage thing too.

Councils are often open to discussion, although they'd do better to avoid getting themselves into this kind of mess in the first place. Sadly, once it gets to the media it usually ends up with uninformed people shouting, the council in defensive mode and the media stirring things in pursuit of a headline. None of which is helpful or constructive.

Chuffy's picture

posted by Chuffy [186 posts]
14th November 2012 - 0:47

2 Likes

Contact details for those who want it Smile

councillor for Parks and Open Spaces is Gary Hopkins, the Lib Dem councillor for Knowle:
Gary Hopkins
0117 922 2879
Gary.Hopkins@bristol.gov.uk

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [727 posts]
14th November 2012 - 8:59

3 Likes

Could try their Twitter feed - https://twitter.com/BristolCouncil

A few comments on there might wake them up

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [62 posts]
14th November 2012 - 11:25

1 Like

My council park officer lets me use the town park every year for a New Year 'cross race. It's always wet and muddy (when it's not frozen) and we do make a bit of a mess of the park. However, after a good rain and a month or so, it's already started to heal and you'd not know it had happened. (I've some before/after pics if anyone needs - and it's never as bad as the mess after the summer agricultural fair...)

I got in touch with the Council to ask to use it after seeing the park criticised in the paper due to the football pitches always being waterlogged, or having poor quality turf. In contrast, we get 300 or so riders (from 6 to 70) from all over the north coming to race in the middle of winter, loving the park and being really positive about it. Can you imagine the organisation and mess that getting 300 footballers to turn up for one day of matches?

posted by Chipps [1 posts]
14th November 2012 - 13:45

1 Like

Just recieved this from Gary Hopkins... It does seem that there's been some misunderstanding and/or a badly handled decision relating to a small number of events...

Dear all

I have received a number of e-mails of varying tones,varying from the ultra reasonable enquiry to the aggressively accusatory, regarding a report that has been passed out claiming that a ban has been put on cycling events in parks.
LET ME FIRSTLY BE CLEAR THAT NO SUCH BAN EXISTS and that in fact parks dept. are looking to develop further BMX facilities building on the success of fairly recently installed courses and that in general encouraging physical activities in parks is encouraged and is increasing.

I understand that there was some interaction between council officers in the events team and a club. Clearly any activity in a park,be it pop concert,fun day or sporting activity will have an effect upon the park and any group needs to take responsibility for any damage which could have a negative effect upon other users and contribute to the reinstatement costs.

This matter came up some months ago and I am surprised and disappointed that it has reemerged at this time. I trust that this is down to misunderstanding/miscommunication.I sincerely hope that nobody has been deliberately misled.

Gary Hopkins

www.mombee.com - Muddy bikes, Road bikes and Family rides in Malmesbury and the South West

posted by Mombee [47 posts]
14th November 2012 - 16:58

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Mombee wrote:
a number of e-mails of varying tones

Gary Hopkins


Who has not been playing nicely?

posted by SideBurn [837 posts]
14th November 2012 - 18:19

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Even if there's no outright ban (and if so, why was an event organiser told there was?) then there's something seriously remiss when an event attended by 50 or so people has to stump up a four-figure damage deposit.

posted by Mr Agreeable [143 posts]
14th November 2012 - 18:23

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I have also received the reply from Gary Hopkins.

My email to him was positive and constructive and I was pleased he took the time to respond.

However I have emailed Gary back to seek clarification about the bond requirement of £2500 which I think is the stumbling block.

Gary states that there is no ban on cycling, but by imposing the requirement for a £2500 bond the council is effectively preventing this type of low key, grass roots event from taking place.

I can understand a large scale event in a park (e.g. a circus, a balloon festival, etc) requiring such a bond. But it seems disproportionate for a low key cyclo-cross race.

Whilst a cyclo-cross race can cause some superficial damage, and it can look a bit bad the day after, this type of damage quickly recovers naturally. I would imagine the worst case scenario is the park keeper has to sprinkle a bit of grass seed in some places. But this is probably a common task in a well used park.

It would be good if a representative from British Cycling could get involved and talk directly to Gary Hopkins and the parks managers. I still think with a bit of consultation and cooperation a solution can be found.

It would set a bad precedent if a local council starts banning cyclo-cross races. It then gives an excuse to the neighbouring council to do the same. And then it is downhill...... Sad

posted by seanbolton [140 posts]
14th November 2012 - 19:21

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The Parkie – An extremely angry park keeper who abuses people that seem like they are breaking park rules, when in fact they are not - he even creates his own rules just so that he can abuse them.

Find him in old Viz comics

posted by neslon [51 posts]
14th November 2012 - 21:48

3 Likes

A similar thing happened with Glasgow City Council two years ago that effectively stopped two very popular races in King's and Bellahouston Parks. I think they were asking for £10k.

posted by euanlindsay [80 posts]
15th November 2012 - 9:42

3 Likes

The local radio station interviewed me and series organiser Craig this morning, and also gave a response from the Council which mentions this here website! Which apparently is a "blog". From about 37 minutes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01063tx

posted by Mr Agreeable [143 posts]
15th November 2012 - 11:23

2 Likes

Thanks all who've (politely) emailed Bristol CC (Councillors and Officers).

There is more to this than might first appear, starting with Craig Denning / Dream CCs use of Hengrove but yes, extending to use of all the other parks in Bristol for CX (and there are lots - St Georges, Oldbury Ct, Conham Riverside Park, Purdown and Ashton Ct). All are currently in jeopardy. Negotiations continue between the Western League Organisers, the main promoting Club (Severn), BC and the Council.

I understand that part of the problem was that said Parks Manager googled 'cyclo cross' and ended up watching a Belgian vid which showed a crowd of 10,000+ watching a field of 100+ riding a completely chewed up course! (Oh we could wish for the same in Bristol but the reality is a maximum field of the normal 50-ish!).

I'm not riding at the moment as I'm injured but I've ridden Western League CX events for the last 20 years. At one point they nearly died out due to numbers (5 of us!) but like the rest of the UK they've been picking up in recent years and field sizes have been good.

As those who race CX will know, it's one of the most accessible 'fun' but 'serious' (Serious Fun?) forms of cycle-sport.

Let's hope we can resolve the current 'difficulties' in Bristol and get these venues back in the calendar Smile

posted by AnalogueAndy [26 posts]
15th November 2012 - 11:33

4 Likes

Mr Agreeable wrote:
The local radio station interviewed me and series organiser Craig this morning, and also gave a response from the Council which mentions this here website! Which apparently is a "blog".

Thanks Mr Agreeable for getting involved. I'm sure we can get it sorted with your help Wink

posted by AnalogueAndy [26 posts]
15th November 2012 - 11:42

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Having several friends in Bristol City Council I'm aware that the council is a large organisation and like any other big organisation not all it's departments sing from the same hymn sheet.

posted by sam_smith [49 posts]
19th November 2012 - 2:45

2 Likes