Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Transport, Energy, and the Green New Deal and Labour Councillor for Central ward.
In 2020, most of us have stayed closer to home – while our incredible keyworkers have continued to go into their places of work. This has highlighted the importance of our local high streets and green spaces, as well as streets which most of us are now likelier to be walking or cycling along, rather than using our cars as working and shopping habits continue to evolve into the future.
Inspired by what I saw with my cabinet colleague Councillor Nicola Beech on a working visit to Waltham Forest in recent years, and what has already been delivered in parts of Bristol, we are working to make our neighbourhoods more people-friendly with less traffic on local streets. Other councils have experimented in making residential roads access only, tackling cut-throughs and rat-runs. Elements of this approach can already been seen in the Dings, Bedminster, and Easton. All plans will of course follow talking to local communities about what might work best for them, building on the approach we have taken to invest even more in public transport and active travel in response to the pandemic – including the pedestrianisation of the Old City. By everyone working together, and driving only where necessary, the cleaner air and reduced congestion which we have enjoyed over recent months can become a permanent feature, as we work hard to build back better.
Officers have been tasked with working up a project plan for Liveable Neighbourhoods, as we begin to pilot the concept by working together with different communities. The potential displacement of traffic onto arterial routes, which will increasingly benefit from bio-gas buses and public transport infrastructure, also of course needs to be considered too. That said, this philosophy has already been successful in the form of School Streets, which closed roads near some schools during pick-up and drop-off time to improve air quality and encourage families to walk and cycle more – with all the health benefits this can bring. We will also be expanding that project as soon as possible, working in partnership with Councillor Helen Godwin.
More widely, we are aware of long-standing parking pressures in parts of the city. Residents Parking Zones (RPZs) were controversial from the start and have a mixed record. They arguably do little to tackle pollution, do nothing to improve public realm, do nothing to enhance active or public travel, and risk entrenching car ownership within Bristol. They also appear to displace, rather than solve, parking issues – turning transport policy into a game of whack-a-mole which risks ever-spreading from the city centre. RPZs were a twentieth century solution that didn’t ever work very well and they are not the solution to twenty first century travel challenges.
We surveyed residents in Bishopston/St Andrews and in Bedminster/Southville/Ashton as part of considering additional interventions and the outcome leads us to believe that Liveable Neighbourhoods should be considered as part of the solution. Some streets in the former, bordering with the existing Redland RPZ, have demonstrated support to move towards being included into that scheme and adding them to the existing RPZ may be the solution, while a much wider area supports expanded junction protection through double-yellow lines on corners. For the latter, junction protection is again the preferred option as well as support for tackling the additional pressure of match-day parking for events at Ashton Gate, which we are working on with Bristol Sport. I have instructed officers to work up a timeline to deliver interventions in these areas and will be writing to residents’ groups to set out next steps for these and pilots of Liveable Neighbourhoods.
Car ownership in Bristol has historically been high but pre-pandemic bus passenger numbers were growing steadily. Unlike London, with its impressive and historic underground, our public transport has lagged behind. We inherited a transport system which nobody would have designed from scratch and which has seen decades of missed opportunities for investment. We are continuing to deliver a reliable, affordable alternative to cars through our landmark Bus Deal, a ring of Park & Rides, new train stations and a radically improved Temple Meads, improved active travel, and continuing to develop our low-carbon mass transit plans with our neighbours. Without a proper mass transit system, and despite continued progress towards increased cycling, Bristolians have for too long had too little alternative to private cars. While private cars will be with us for some time and are one mode of people movement, Liveable Neighbourhoods present a chance to rethink and reset where we live. As we work to double the city’s tree canopy, reduce pollution and cut commuting times, Liveable Neighbourhoods presents a real opportunity to build a better Bristol with more trees, more car clubs, and a better quality of life for everyone.
Together, we can make Bristol an even better place to live and – without a doubt – to travel within.