Published: 27th OCTOBER 2021

Trialling 'Left is best' on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path: Frequently Asked Questions

Temporary signs have been put up between Trinity Street and Clay Bottom on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path as part of a trial of ‘left is best’ guidance. Our One Path BS5 project team answer questions about the trial and what it means for using this iconic route.

people cycling on the left of a shared path

The 'left is best' trial is in place until January 2022. Photo: PhotoJB

Why are the signs being put up on the path?

As part of our One Path BS5 project, we’re working with Bristol City Council to improve this much-loved route on the National Cycle Network for all who wish to use it.

From our engagement with the communities along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, we know there are concerns about overtaking behaviour and conflict on the route.

Many people reported wanting a safe and more relaxed experience on the path. 

Some said they didn’t know how best to use it, needing greater clarity on what’s best. 

Others expressed that guidance for keeping to one side would rely on people coming together around a single idea.

This trial of ‘left is best’ is to provide a clear line of guidance, prompting considerate and safe behaviour.

The best practice prompts will be part of a wider family of signage that has been developed together with the public and local stakeholders in a series of engagement events between 2018 and 2020.

The trial, with temporary signs, will inform permanent signage next year. They will be integrated on the path with the updates scheduled for 2022.

What does ‘left is best’ mean and why is this being trialled?

Through engagement events, we learned that conflict on the path was a concern for many people.

With ambiguity around best practice for using the path, the wide variety of users in a shared space came into conflict because of differing speeds and practices. Some choose to keep left, some right, and some use the full width. 

In a survey of over 550 people in early 2021, we found 72% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that ‘in addition to the other core principles for the path, a ‘Left is best’ principle for the Bristol and Bath Railway Path in Bristol will make it safer and more accessible’.

Similarly, research by the University of the West of England on shared-use paths concluded that guidance should generally be to ‘keep left’.

This is because of the simplicity and clarity that comes from everyone following the same guidance, regardless of mode of travel or direction.

It added that the flow will tend to be more efficient and less frustrating for those using a shared path as interactions are more likely to be due to differing speed, rather than direction of movement.

Considering this, and because the Highway Code doesn’t apply here, we are trialling ‘left is best’ as guidance in the hope it reduces ambiguity and conflict.


Who does ‘left is best’ apply to?

The ‘left is best’ guidance is recommended for everyone using the path.

This includes, but is not limited to, people cycling, wheeling, walking, and using wheelchairs.


Why have you chosen ‘left is best’ instead of ‘keep left’?

We are recommending using the left, not enforcing it.

Previously there has been ambiguity on the path and this pilot is part of the series of measures to help add clarity, making it better for everyone who wants to use it.


What happens if I don’t follow ‘left is best’?  

This is a recommendation. It is not compulsory.

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is there to be enjoyed by all, and we hope that people will follow the recommendation to make the experience on the path as pleasant and safe as possible for everyone.

Left is best trial sign on Bristol and Bath Railway Path

Temporary signs have been put up between Trinity Street and Clay Bottom on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path

Why are there other signs in the trial?

During collaboration with communities for our One Path BS5 project, we heard from many people about the need to reinforce positive behaviour on the path.

Introducing clear supporting signs around ‘left is best’ means we can further reinforce the kinds of positive behaviour that we can each play our part in, helping everyone to share, respect and enjoy this iconic path. 

The prompts that feature in the ‘left is best’ trial are: 

  • Left is best
  • Leave space when passing
  • Go slow, enjoy the view
  • Use your bell


What section of the railway path does this temporary signage and trial apply to?

At present, the signage is between Trinity Street and Clay Bottom, the area covered by the One Path BS5 project.

It is the section with the highest usage and the greatest levels of reported conflict between people on foot and cycle.

We have aspirations to improve the rest of the railway path (and other routes on the Network), and any future projects will consider what signage is appropriate for those areas.


How long is the trial and what will happen after the trial?

The trial will run until January, at which point we will run a survey with path users to gather feedback on the signs and the trial.

We will also carry out an assessment of the effect the signs have had on how people move on the path using video footage.

The trial will be evaluated before deciding what permanent signs will be installed as part of the One Path BS5 project in 2022.


How do I share my feedback during the ‘left is best’ trial?

Look out for Sustrans surveyors on the path in January to give official feedback on the trial.


What is happening with the rest of the project and when will the main project works happen?

We’ve been working hard to finalise all the technical details before we move into the construction phase.

We’ve produced detailed plans and are working to obtain the consents and approval we need to get to work on the ground.

The pandemic has impacted project timelines, and we now expect construction to start in early 2022.

We’ll keep working on our detailed preparations, and look forward to being able to start work on the path soon.

We've also secured additional funding for improvements to be made along the path in South Gloucestershire.

With the funding, South Gloucestershire Council will tackle the ongoing drainage issues at Staple Hill tunnel.

The council is looking to make improvements to access and crossing points, and has recently resurfaced a stretch of the path.


Who should I report a maintenance issue to during the ‘left is best’ trial?

If you spot any maintenance issues during the trial, the issues should be reported to the relevant councils as usual.
Report an issue between Newtown Park and Staple Hill.


I have a question about the trial, how can I get in touch?

If you would like to get in touch or ask further questions, please email:

You can also join the conversation on Bristol and Bath Railway Path – OnePath Facebook page.


Designing the signs

The design of the signs used in this trial came from our collaboration with communities along the path during the One Path BS5 project.

Each sign shows artwork that reflects the messages, and are thanks to fantastic contributions from pupils of Bannerman Road Community Academy and Fishponds Church of England Academy.

This project is being delivered thanks to funding from the Department for Transport.

Find out what we're doing to make the Bristol and Bath Railway Path better for all.


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