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Bristol city centre 'car free' by 2015

Plan would give priority to bikes, buses and pedestrians

A radical plan to make the centre of Bristol almost entirely car-free by 2015 has been put forward by the city's transport leader.

The new layout - which might go some way to placating critics of the council's relaxed approach to Bristol's 'Cycling City' status - will see priority for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport.

Councillor Jon Rogers said: "Bristol has been unambitious for far too long. Let's have a look at radical ideas, decide what is best for the city and then go for it."

In October, Cycling England ordered Bristol to 'get on with the job' of implementing its £22.8m Cycling City project rather than talking about it. Then, Cllr Rogers promised the scheme would be delivered on time.

If the latest proposals are adopted, measures will include

* A ban on traffic crossing the Centre from Park Street to Baldwin Street

* Cars and other non-public transport would be limited to a single lane in each direction from Park Street, past the Hippodrome and the cenotaph, to Rupert Street.

* Colston Street would be blocked off so only buses would be allowed past the Colston Hall onto the centre.

* The end of Baldwin Street nearest the Hippodrome would be blocked off and two-way traffic diverted down Marsh Street.

* Only public transport would be allowed on Broad Quay.

Cllr Rogers told the Bristol Evening Post that nothing was set in stone and that he did not want to present any plans as a 'fait accompli'.

"I want to explore what people think and tease out the pros and cons before we make any decisions," he said.

The Centre was remodelled in time for the millennium celebrations. The refurbishment  included controversial fountains memorably described by the then Lord Mayor as looking like '20 old men pissing in a pond'.

There was a suggestion at the time to ban traffic from being able to travel across the centre from Park Street to Baldwin Street, but the idea created such an outcry, it was dropped by the council.

Many people wanted to see the Centre returned to its Victorian heyday, with the docks stretching right through the middle. They were capped with concrete in the 1930s to make way for the motor car, which was becoming increasingly popular.

But this plan was also dropped on the grounds of cost and the fear that the ageing harbour walls would not cope with the pressure of so much water.

The latest proposed overhaul of the Centre is part of a £186m package to create a bendy bus route from the northern fringe to Hengrove, including a park and ride site off the M32. The council has a deadline of March to put a bid before the Department for Transport in order to win funding.

Cllr Rogers added: "We will have to revisit the issue of motor traffic and its impact in this space. But by 2015, Bristol will be a very different place. Public transport including bus rapid transit and the Greater Bristol Bus Network will provide a far greater percentage of journeys to the Centre. And cyclists will have doubled in number."

Bob Bull, Bristol co-ordinator for the Association of British Drivers, said the city did not have a 20th Century transport system yet.

"We have buses that don't run when people want them and buses going around empty. They should be looking at why people don't use buses now before they start spending millions on this scheme," he added.

The bloggers on the Post's website have been out in force for this one, many predictably outraged by another Centre remodelling. But other points of view are stirring, too. This is what 'Chris' from Bristol has to say:

"These proposals are not really anti-car. If they were they'd be far more radical. Any rational car user realises that the private car, however useful it might be for some purposes, isn't a sensible basis for bringing thousands of people converging into a central point like the city centre.

"The centre of our city should be above all a social place where citizens can walk, meet and talk without being constantly harassed and drowned out by traffic.

"That's what this plan is all about. It's a moderate step forward toward the goal of a civilised city which we can share in some sort of harmony instead of the endless competition for space with motor traffic."

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Kevin Steinhardt | 14 years ago

Cycling City? Pssht: should have gone to Cambridge all along.

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