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

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...

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

44 comments

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LondonCalling [149 posts] 4 years ago
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So they took the 11 million quid and they do this? That's bordering on fraud!!

And the cyclists affected, well, is there a Critical Mass in Bristol? I could suggest a route...
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sean1 [177 posts] 4 years ago
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They need to update the Bristol Bike City website then......

http://www.betterbybike.info/leisure-sport/cyclo-cross

I think the fear of damage to the park is over blown by the council authorities. Any damage quickly recovers and courses can be designed to have minimal impact.

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antonio [1134 posts] 4 years ago
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LondonCalling wrote:

So they took the 11 million quid and they do this? That's bordering on fraud!!

And the cyclists affected, well, is there a Critical Mass in Bristol? I could suggest a route...
 14

That's not bordering on fraud, it is fraud.

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meves [8 posts] 4 years ago
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The £11m funding was for a 3 year period and ran out this year or middle of last dependent on the start date http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/7462791.stm. It looks more like a case of we're not able to bleed any more money out of central government for cycling so lets just forget about it or maybe we cant be bothered. Nice attitude for the City of Cycling

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BigDummy [314 posts] 4 years ago
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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...

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Mr Agreeable [178 posts] 4 years ago
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Jon, you've seen Hengrove - it's not a chocolate box visitor attraction, it's an old airfield bordered by scrub full of sex litter. I've got no doubt that it gets a worse mullering from the weekly rugby that from a biannual CX race. Bad call by the council, plain and simple.

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pepita1 [176 posts] 4 years ago
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Council should cancel ALL events in parks if they're so worried about damage.

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therevokid [972 posts] 4 years ago
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and this turns out to be a surprise ..... not .... quite
where the 11m went is beyond me and I cycle through most
of Bristol at one time or another ....

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dave atkinson [6262 posts] 4 years ago
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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...

that's not really the point - the council has suspended all cycling because it apparently costs them a bit of money. are all other sports facilities self funding? if not, why just cycling to be canned?

i know for a fact that my local playing field in Bath (football, rugby, cricket) costs the council tens of thousands of pounds a year. i doubt it's a different story 10 miles down the road.

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Campag_10 [153 posts] 4 years ago
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This decision by Bristol is jobsworthism at its worst. They still have to maintain the land - cut the grass, etc., whether cyclocross takes place or not.

They won't actually save any money from this decision.

All they are doing is denying people the opportunity to enjoy some physical activity. And getting the council some bad publicity.

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sanderville [349 posts] 4 years ago
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The answer is in the article: "a decision had been made by the new manager of parks to suspend all cycling events on Bristol-City-owned sites."

So an unelected council employee who doesn't like bikes gets to ban cycling from "his" parks. Anyone who thinks we have any democratic control over the local government that we pay for is welcome to buy my freshly-printed Enron shares.

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hennahairgel [55 posts] 4 years ago
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Does this therefore also apply to any futur events (such as the OktoberFest and Bikefest as mentioned) in Ashton Court as AFAIK it's council owned.

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danb [20 posts] 4 years ago
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Does anyone know who this new "Manager of Parks" is - I couldn't see it on the councils website...

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zanf [869 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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zanf [869 posts] 4 years ago
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//

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dave atkinson [6262 posts] 4 years ago
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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

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dave atkinson [6262 posts] 4 years ago
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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

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JonD [420 posts] 4 years ago
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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...

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Roastie [27 posts] 4 years ago
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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!

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hennahairgel [55 posts] 4 years ago
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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 [at] 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.

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sean1 [177 posts] 4 years ago
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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

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lady_luck [2 posts] 4 years ago
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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&targe...

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Chuffy [201 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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doc [167 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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sean1 [177 posts] 4 years ago
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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?

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Chuffy [201 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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sean1 [177 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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Furry Mommy [32 posts] 4 years ago
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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!  39

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pj [147 posts] 4 years ago
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shocking decision. brainless.

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