Bristol Council has published the Corporate Strategy consultation 2017-2022. There are immensely hard choices to be made. Traditionally this means that those at the bottom of the pile are hit hardest. In transport terms, this means those who choose the cheapest and healthiest options of walking and cycling.

What does the strategy have say about cycling?

[bs_notification type=”danger” dismissible=”false”]Headline Action: Use the consultation to ask that walking and cycling be considered as strategic priorities rather than afterthoughts.[/bs_notification]

Mayor Marvin Rees places equality and health at the centre of his plans, and aims to “improve our transport to connect people to opportunity and tackle congestion”. In his ‘open letter to Bristol‘ he says:

We need to develop an understanding of where we want the city to be in four years and beyond and ensure we have the council operating in a way that will get us there. […] We have to reinvent the role of Bristol City Council in light of the available finances. It must maintain its leadership role and must continue to fight for good outcomes for people from the city. But we will have to work in new ways. This includes taking a strategic approach to identify what can be done better and more cost effectively.

There is a strong statement on buses and public transport. Much of this could apply to cycling and walking – try swapping those terms in the following paragraph:

In seeking to tackle congestion, the council needs to work with others to promote public transport use by creating better priority for buses on the road network, by improving the attractiveness of bus travel, especially through integrated ticketing, and by delivering major public transport improvement programmes such as MetroBus and MetroWest rail. The particular geography of the city, with its hills, river crossings and rail lines, as well as its historic road layout, present unique challenges in seeking to improve cross-city connectivity. Money to invest in transport infrastructure is hard to come by and serious thought needs to be given to new ways of generating funding for the future, we have set up a Congestion Task Group and all options will be explored.

Instead, we get this limp and frankly outrageous statement based on the false premise that it is hills rather than road danger that deters people from cycling:

Encouraging more walking and cycling in a hilly city continues to be a challenge, as indeed does increasing participation in order to promote healthy lifestyles, but we need to build on previous years’ success in securing Government money to invest more in cycle tracks, safe routes and crossings.

It is clear that there is no intention to challenge the status quo or find new ways of working. Any change will continue to be expensively and ineffectually bolted on the side based on whatever small pots of funding can be secured.

Other points relating to cycling are:

  • To have delivered on our promise to review residents’ parking schemes and 20mph speed limits with local councillors and be able to respond to community priorities for highway improvements.
    Delivering a review? Is this progress?
  • To produce a comprehensive Bristol Transport Plan with a particular focus on the steps required to deliver against the key objective of tackling congestion.
    This could be very useful in setting strategic objectives, if the political will is there. See for example what London has achieved.
  • Develop an air quality action plan. Through the Mayoral Combined Authority, pursue powers to introduce low emission or clean air zones.
    Another promising objective that could be used to great effect.
  • Remove the funding for local traffic schemes currently devolved to Neighbourhood Partnerships (RS3) –
    Currently Neighbourhood Partnerships are given £350k to provide smaller local traffic schemes, which could be removed generating (including staff costs) a £410k saving. Note that delivery of current planned schemes may be impacted.
    A mixed blessing. Much of the focus of this pot was used for ‘tinkering’ schemes that fiddled at the margins of the main issues. Lots of crossings for example, without considering options for reducing traffic and rat-running. Nevertheless, local schemes can have significant effects.
  • Agree a West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Plan that prioritises investment in the urban area.
    Another promising objective that could be used to great effect. There will also be an Economic Plan for the city centre, and revisions to the Bristol Local Plan that could in theory offer and forward thinking and evidence lead approach to planning for a city ‘where cycling and walking are so easy that everyone does it’ (that’s from the BCyC vision statement in case you don’t recognise it).