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“It’s Balamory in road form”: Confused motorists brand proposed cycle lane layout a “dangerously chaotic mess”

The planned year-long revamp includes the installation of “more resilient” bollards to better protect a bike lane local cyclists say has been rendered “pointless” by motorists constantly parking in it

Plans to overhaul a key city centre road, which will include the installation of “more resilient” bollards designed to prevent motorists from parking in a cycle lane “all day, every day”, may have been described by local councillors as an attempt to make the whole area “more pleasant and safer for pedestrians and cyclists”.

But that still hasn’t stopped baffled motorists from criticising the scheme’s proposed road layout, which they claim resembles a “dangerously chaotic mess” and “Balamory in road form”.

Last week, we reported that Bristol City Council announced that it was launching a year-long project to upgrade the cycle lanes, pavements, and pedestrian crossings on Park Row, as well as three other nearby city centre streets.

And while drawings of the proposed new road layout notably feature non-protected cycle lanes, one of the local authority’s key commitments as part of the £3.1 million project involves the replacement of the current bike lane’s flimsy plastic wands – first installed during the Covid-19 pandemic – with “more robust” bollards.

The need for a sturdier, more resilient cycle lane barrier system on Park Row has been painfully apparent over the past few years, with local cyclists claiming the infrastructure has practically been rendered “pointless” by drivers knocking over and breaking the plastic wands in order to park their vehicles at the roadside – which at one spot is located just 20 metres away from a multi-storey car park.

Broken wands on Park Row cycle lane, Bristol (credit - brooksby)

> "More resilient" bollards planned for cycle lane made "completely pointless" by drivers parking in it

In December 2022, one local told that the route resembled the “aftermath of a Harry Potter battle” with “broken wands everywhere”, while in March Bristolian Pete claimed motorists – despite the existence of a dedicated parking facility a stone’s throw away – block the bike lane “all day, every day”, and described the infrastructure in general as “intermittent and confusing”.

The council hopes the new works will address these complaints from cyclists, as well as concerns from business owners who argue that the original project did not properly consider the need for loading and deliveries.

Other planned works as part of the scheme, which is due to start in March and expected to be under construction until early 2025, include new loading bays on Perry Road and Upper Maudlin Street, ‘no entry’ signs on Lower Church Lane, and the removal of bus stops on Park Row and Perry Road, as the bus services which used them are no longer in operation.

Park Row Bristol (@RobBryher/Twitter)

> "There's a car park 20 metres away": Cyclists slam cycle lane parking putting riders in danger

However, while the project seeks to rectify the myriad issues currently apparent on Park Row, the new plans’ details – in particular the drawing of the proposed layout released by the council (and featured as this story’s main image) – have left plenty of baffled motorists scratching their heads.

Under BBC West’s Facebook post about the proposed changes to the road, former Bristolian Debs Cole wrote: “I already find Bristol confusing to drive around, and I used to live in the city years ago. This looks horrendous for locals let alone outsiders!

“Visitors will soon need a full guide for the city showing them which bits cars can drive on, how, and when!”

“That street scene is just a dangerously chaotic mess, and I want to see more cycling,” said David Gordon, while Jay Wheelwright described the proposed layout as “Balamory in road form”.

“I thought Cardiff’s cycle lanes were awful,” added Gary Wood. “Are the planners on acid?”

Others noted the potential confusion that the newly painted lines could cause for unsuspecting drivers in the city.

“Well judging by the picture, it doesn’t look very safe to me. People can’t work out how to use VAR, let alone working out this puzzle,” wrote football fan Jason King.

“Oh dear Clevedon sea front again. I thought this lot were broke? Leave alone,” said Sue Thorne, referencing the controversial ‘wiggly’ cycle lane introduced last year by North Somerset Council in the seaside town – and swiftly (and apologetically) removed following vociferous criticism and protests from a campaign group who claimed the “Mickey Mouse” road layout had made them the “laughingstock of the nation”.

> Controversial wiggly cycle lane with "Mickey Mouse" layout recommended to be ripped out following independent review

“Bristol is horrendous now for finding your way about and negotiating the ‘no go’ areas like bus gates,” added Phil Young. “I avoid Bristol like the plague nowadays. You have to have a hundred eyes and brain power to take in and process all the different signs and road markings.”

However, not everyone believes Park Row’s new look will lead to scores of baffled motorists driving in the wrong lane.

“If you think the layout is confusing and you cannot understand the simple look of the road, then there is a simple solution to the problem, surrender your driving licence and state the reason: ‘too thick to drive’,” wrote an exasperated Leif Väisänen. “Then get a bus, making the roads safer for other road users.”

Meanwhile, an upbeat Sander van den Broek said: “As a local I’m quite happy and hope it means I can finally cycle to work without fearing for my life.”

Announcing the local authority’s plans last week, Labour councillor Don Alexander, the council’s cabinet member for transport, said in a statement: “Having carried out detailed engagement with key stakeholders, residents, and people who travel along Park Row and the surrounding area, I am really pleased that work on this major project will be starting in March.

“It will make this whole area more pleasant and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I hope it will encourage many more people to travel actively, improving their health and wellbeing, and cutting congestion on Bristol’s roads and air pollution.

“Ahead of the Park Row area construction work starting, I’d like to thank everyone for bearing with us. We will keep disruption to a minimum and aim to keep both sides of traffic open as much as possible.”

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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Secret_squirrel | 3 months ago

The problem is with the mock up.   The graphic designer has tried to cram every little bell and whistle in because its part of his companies sales pitch to the council and it *IS* an unholy mess in the graphic because the eye can't select what it would wish to focus on when you're doing a single task like riding and driving.

Its literally like showing someone an architects blueprint.


qwerty360 | 3 months ago

I bet the same people calling this a chaotic mess complain about magic roundabouts.


While ignoring that the stats on magic roundabouts suggest they should be one of the first options considered (high throughput, low accident rates, higher average speeds, lower peak speeds (so accidents that do occur are slower so less severe), self healing (accidents can be routed around easily - just go opposite direction).


And looking at photos etc, it looks like the main issue (99%) is the infra being confusing because no one can use it properly because people are continually, illegally, parked in it...

brooksby replied to qwerty360 | 3 months ago
qwerty360 wrote:

And looking at photos etc, it looks like the main issue (99%) is the infra being confusing because no one can use it properly because people are continually, illegally, parked in it...

Amen to that  4

HarrogateSpa | 3 months ago

It sounds like a decent scheme.

Some of those criticising the designs are in reality fundamentally opposed to any cycle infrastructure, and there comes a point where you have to ignore them.

And perhaps not give their comments unmerited prominence on a cycling website.

brooksby | 3 months ago

Presumably these people can all cope with the chaos of 'lines on the road' at roundabouts, or on motorways, or any other road?  Is this just a case of 'cos cyclists'?

chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 3 months ago

"I can't understand it" = "I don't want to understand it"

W12 Hatter replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago

Not entirely. I'm looking at the 2023 Street View picture looking west along Park Row from the BP garage. There's a red (cycle?) lane veering off away from the kerb, heading outside the wands. If I'm cycling do I follow it? If I'm driving do I avoid it? And then, further west, outside The White Harte, there are two dining chairs in the lane between the wands and the kerb, and a sign and road markings indicating parking between the wands and the kerb ("Pay at machine. Display ticket". Maybe the chairs have tickets displayed; they don't show up on the Street View picture).

I haven't been to Bristol for many years and have no plans to do so, but if/when I do, be it on a bike or in a car, I will be prepared to be baffled.

Dnnnnnn replied to brooksby | 3 months ago

Just best not pay too much attention to the rubbish people write on social media.

EM69 replied to Dnnnnnn | 3 months ago
Dnnnnnn wrote:

Just best not pay too much attention to the rubbish people write on social media.


Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago

It's funny how often people complain about these things claiming to be a local resident and then say something like "I won't be going there anymore."

Dnnnnnn replied to Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago
1 like

Overlooking that people just write rubbish on social media, local residents not going "there" (their city centres), particularly for shopping and work, is a big issue for lots of places. For a sizeable, growing, relatively prosperous city, Bristol's centre seems pretty shabby. Far bigger issue that cycle lanes, or even just transport, of course, although they're an important part of it. 

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