Just over a year ago, we were encouraged to hear about plans for a “transport hub” at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, the BRI. But the detail revealed that this transport hub was effectively a green-washed multi storey car park. Following much dismay at this new magnet for motor traffic, the council rejected the planning application.

However University Hospitals Bristol have now appealed to Whitehall to overrule Bristol’s decision – the BRI have decided to push ahead with their plans for a new 8 storey, 820 space car park. This, despite Upper Maudlin Street being identified as one of the most dangerous streets in the city for air pollution.

Now for some good news. Bristol Cycling met with the sustainable travel coordinator at Southmead hospital. We thought it might be timely to compare the BRI’s efforts to encourage staff to drive to work and patients to come by car, with the plans of Southmead hospital to develop sustainable travel.

We learnt that:

  • Southmead hospital has a dedicated sustainable travel coordinator
  • They have a personalised travel plan phone app to help staff and visitors travel by bus, walk, cycle and car share.
  • Currently 20% of staff cycle to work and they have a target of increasing this by 2% p.a..
  • They’ve doubled bike parking spaces to 1240, providing undercover, secure facilities with lockers and showers.
  • Southmead help staff choose to travel by bike with bike loans to try out cycling, a bike purchase scheme, discounts at local bike shops, and free cycle and maintenance lessons.
  • Provided new bus stops, internal (weather-sheltered)bus waiting areas with real-time info and give staff discounted bus tickets (which has increased uptake).
  • Southmead hospital accepts the link between dirty vehicle use and congestion, pollution and poor health on the one hand, and sustainable travel, clean air and good health on the other.

Southmead have a travel plan which sets out their targets for increasing the sustainability of their travel profile. While Southmead clearly still have major problems with patients driving to the hospital, it’s good to see them making a genuine effort to encourage other forms of transport. In stark contrast, looking at the BRI’s website and talking to their staff, one gets the impression of an organisation with little understanding of what sustainable travel involves and an organisation traffic-jammed in a car-centric mind-set.

Pictured: Andrea Young, Chief Executive of North Bristol NHS Trust (Southmead hospital)