Change is within our power

By Ian Barrett,
People stand around a table and stand with information on them

We held community consultation events for the Good Transport Plan for Bristol

Post-it notes stuck to a map

Local communities fed in about the changes they’d like to see to our streets

People standing on the street with a temporary street kit

Our community-led street design projects in action in Bristol

Today I’m speaking at an event on liveable cities, as part of the Festival of the Future City in Bristol. I’ll be talking about some of the projects Sustrans has been delivering as part of our year as Green Capital.

But I’ll also be looking to the future, and what we all can do to influence how people travel around our city, and the impact this has for all of us.

Part of my work this year has been to act as a Vice Chair of the Bristol Green Partnership and lead on the development of the Good Transport Plan for Bristol.

It is within our power as a city to make the switch to more sustainable modes of transport through the choices we make every day.

- Good Transport Plan

It’s a visionary document - an ambitious tool with simple, agreed aims to inspire people at every level, to make small changes or take big actions that can help to make Bristol’s transport system become more sustainable and better for everyone.

Most importantly it brings together voices from different communities, organisations and businesses, that all have different priorities when it comes to Bristol’s transport future.

One focus that emerged with the plan was what we (all of us) can do something simple to make change happen – we can just choose to walk, cycle or catch the bus.

This may seem like “low-hanging fruit”, but so much can be achieved by focusing on just that.

Copenhagen, who were European Green Capital before us, say they got to 45% of journeys to work, school and university being made by bike, by targeting “low-hanging fruit” – we think we’re doing well in Bristol with 11%!

Finding this voice for the people of Bristol has been a major theme in all our work this year.

In October we launched our Bike Life report for Bristol (inspired by Copenhagen’s “Bike Account”) which, by surveying people in Bristol, clearly established public appetite for cycling and for better cycling facilities. Attitudes are overwhelmingly positive, and the report showed that people in Bristol, whether they cycle or not, see cycling as a way to improve health, reduce traffic and reduce pollution.

During the last couple of years, we have picked the low-hanging fruits. This means that the tough work with reaching those commuters who are not easily affected is now ahead.

- Morten Kabell, Mayor of the Technical and Environmental Administration, Copenhagen

So it’s unsurprising that when we worked with local communities to deliver some of our community-led street design projects, they were taken up enthusiastically. Communities were able to take ownership of their own streets and give the power to make real changes. We trained community leaders, conducted street trials, and we’re still working with communities in Southmeads and St Paul’s.

A clear indication that when we move away from a “Decide > Announce > Defend” model for change to an “Engage > Decide > Deliver” model, successful changes, ones that really impact on how local people use our streets, can take place.

There are more opportunities for change.

As we draw to the close of Bristol’s year as Green Capital, another opportunity for community-led change is opening up.

The West of England Joint Spatial Plan opens lots of the opportunities the Good Transport Plan identified as necessary - perhaps most importantly the chance to overcome congestion caused by people driving into the city from surrounding areas that have limited good transport options.

It will set out a prospectus for sustainable growth that will help us meet transport needs for the next 20 years. And there is a full public consultation on these areas, during which we want to hear the thoughts of people throughout the area. Here’s an opportunity to give people a say, and to deliver a real choice of ways to travel into the city for the people who need to.

You have the power to make change happen.

I’d encourage everyone to feed in directly now, and my team will be helping to provide opportunities for more consultation by organising consultation events in the New Year.

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