Our project to improve the Bristol and Bath Railway Path is progressing well. After an extensive engagement process between October 2019 and March 2020, the design and engineering team has been very busy. Here, they give us an update on what they’ve been up to and what’s next for this much-loved traffic-free route.
Through the engagement process we encouraged the public to think about all the different people that use the path.
Can you give us an update on how the project has been progressing since the last engagement opportunities in February and March?
Yes, of course!
It’s been a really busy time for the team. We’ve been working to amend the designs in response to the feedback we received online and during our face-to-face sessions and activities earlier this year.
Some of the work we’ve been doing includes:
- Adapting the designs we developed through the engagement process to take into account the topography, ecology, and construction constraints on various sections of the path, and in keeping with accessibility guidance.
- Defining a new path alignment, to welcome the variety of users while respecting the path’s ecology. By doing this, in many places we’ve found ways to widen the path.
- Working on the designs to improve the clarity of the different functions of the path in specific places.
- Improving the accessibility and safety of the section at Russell Town Avenue.
- Improving and increasing resting places along the path, investigating material and urban furniture specifications.
- Working with the findings and recommendations from the arboricultural report and Bristol City Council’s tree officers.
- Finding ways to improve the drainage at St Phillips Causeway, where flooding has been an issue.
- Working on more detail in the designs, for example the required specifications for material finishes on different sections of the path.
- Further considering how the designs can support improved personal safety on the path.
- Working with the Project Stakeholder group to review the suggestions for signage and related messaging that came through the public engagement activities.
And has any other work been happening, beyond your work on the designs themselves?
We’ve been working hard to get a full picture of the ecology of the path.
This will help us make sure the designs retain important ecological features and that those features will be protected during construction too.
With the declaration of an ecological emergency in Bristol, it’s important that the project enhances this green corridor, not just for the people who use it, but also for the wildlife it supports.
We’ve carried out surveys for bats, reptiles, badgers and flora.
One of the species we’ve discovered using the path is a population of slow worms. We’ll use the information we have about their whereabouts to make sure they’re protected during construction works.
We’re also working on a planting scheme to incorporate new planting and other enhancements to benefit the range of wildlife that use the path.
And we’ve been developing a monitoring framework to help us understand the impact of the changes this project has on the path.
This will help us to understand how the changes made affect the experience of the path for the wide range of existing and new users.
Can you tell us about the Pattern and Place project with schools?
One of the things we’ve heard a lot through our engagement processes has been a desire from local people to see the identity of their communities better reflected on the path.
We’re working to help build that sense of identity through surface patterns in appropriate places, and through the signage we install.
So we’ve asked school children in East Bristol to creatively share with us what they love about where they live. This could be through a drawing, a poem, or maybe a collage.
We’ll use their work to inspire some of the patterns and signage that goes up on this section of the path.
It’s been really wonderful to see the artworks coming in and to see what children love about their local area.
What is the impact of the Government’s latest cycle infrastructure design guidance – LTN 1/20 – on this project, particularly in relation to separating people walking and cycling?
We’ve taken a close look at the new design guidelines. And we welcome it, as we believe it will lead to higher quality cycle infrastructure being developed in the future.
The new guidance recognises that in some circumstances and locations shared-use paths are appropriate.
The guidance also states that a fully shared surface is preferable to creating sub-standard widths for both people walking and cycling where the available width is 3m or less.
On this path, we’re working within topographical and ecological constraints that mean we can’t significantly widen it for any meaningful length.
While we plan to widen the path in many places to 4.5m, this is not enough space for full separation between those cycling and those walking. And there are sections that cannot be widened beyond 3m.
We know that confusion and conflict can happen at points where lengths of shared-use path connect with lengths that are separated for walking and cycling. And this is also recognised in the guidance.
As there would be so many points at which this would happen on this section of the path, it’s likely that we would create more conflict, not less, if we were to repeatedly physically separate people walking from people and cycling at the wider points, to then bring them together again as the path gets narrower.
With this in mind, we will not be amending the designs for this project as a result of the new guidance.
We have, however, already improved the designs based on the feedback we received during our engagement process and have sought to widen the path at as many points as possible.
We continue to strive to create a space that will work for all the potential users of the path while recognising its ecological features.
And we will continue to seek opportunities to develop other improved walking and cycling infrastructure in this part of the city.
Will there be any further chances for public engagement on the designs?
We are always keen to hear thoughts, responses and ideas about our work.
We’re delighted with how much thoughtful input we’ve received from so many different voices throughout the project. We’ve used all of this to shape the designs for the path.
We’re now at the stage of making those designs a reality, so we won’t be carrying out any further formal engagement in the design process.
We’d still love to hear from people who have ideas about future design and development on the path. We will capture ideas that can’t be acted on as part of this project, to take into account if there is any further funding available.
When can we expect to see the designs?
We’re looking forward to sharing the designs with everyone, especially as we’ve had so much thoughtful input from local people throughout our engagement process.
We’re aiming to share the designs toward the end of 2020, with a view to getting started on the ground next year.