Published: 3rd MAY 2023

Positive results following 'left is best' trial on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path

In 2022 we trialled an introduction of signs between Trinity Street and Clay Bottom on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path advising people to keep left, amongst other guidance. These 'left is best' measures were put in place to help everyone to share, respect and enjoy the iconic route. The results of the trial were positive and the signs proved to be a success.

trial left is best sign in on sunny day on the bristol and bath railway path

We trialled a series of signs on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path to explore whether this type of guidance would help to make the space safer and more inclusive for everyone. Credit: Sustrans

To address concerns on overtaking behaviour as part of our One Path BS5 project, we’ve been working with Bristol City Council to improve the Bristol and Bath Railway Path for everyone.

From our engagement with the communities along this traffic-free section of the National Cycle Network, we discovered there were concerns about behaviour on the route.


How people felt using the route before the trial

Some people said they found it difficult to use the path with people travelling in all directions without clarity. 

This made the space difficult to navigate and made it a particularly uninviting environment for people with visual or hearing impairments.

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

But, they didn’t know how best to use the path, needing greater clarity on what would work best.

The trial of ‘left is best’ sought to provide clear guidance, prompting considerate and safe behaviour, and welcoming everyone into the space.

person cycling past national cycle network sign for route 4

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is a popular traffic-free route that forms part of National Cycle Network Route 4. It is shared by many people, on a variety of journeys between the two cities. Credit: Sustrans

Why did we trial ‘left is best’?

In a survey of over 550 people in early 2021, we found that 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 would make it safer and more accessible.

Designing the signs

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

Each sign shows artwork that reflects the messages contributed by pupils of Bannerman Road Community Academy and Fishponds Church of England Academy.

The results of the trial


of survey respondents were observed as keeping to the left side of the path


of survey respondents agreed that the sign stating 'Left is Best' was a positive addition to the path


agreed that the signs made the path work for everyone


agreed that the signs reduce conflict between path users


agreed that the signs made them feel safe

The survey included input from 325 people, ranging in gender, ability, age, ethnicity, mode of travel and trip purpose.

How people were using the route during the trial

We conducted an interaction analysis of how people used the route during the trial.

We found an increase in the percentage of people keeping to the left while walking, jogging, and cycling.

Across all modes of travel, there were no conflicts recorded where route users needed to suddenly manoeuvre or where any form of contact was made.

The signs will be made permanent

The results of the survey concluded that the signs improve flow and reduce conflict.

Along with improving how people feel when using the path. 

With this in mind, the signs are being installed as permanent features along the path.

The key messages on the signs are:

  • left is best                        
  • leave space
  • go slow, enjoy the view
  • use your bell.

New directional, zone and information signage will also be installed in the area. 

Find more information about the survey results.

Read about the ways we're making the Bristol and Bath Railway Path better for all.

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