'Golden opportunity' to go traffic-free

September 01 2020

Artist's impression of how Cotham Hill could look if the road was pedestrianised (courtesy of Smith Maloney Architects)

Artist's impression of how Cotham Hill could look if the road was pedestrianised (courtesy of Smith Maloney Architects)

A second wave of major transport improvements is being proposed to make it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport as part of work to cut air pollution and support social distancing in Bristol.
The council has moved quickly to pedestrianise the Old City area and close Bristol Bridge to general traffic, as well as installing new temporary bike lanes in the city centre and widening pavements across the city.
Bristol City Council, in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority, has now applied for further government funding to extend and strengthen the temporary work already done. Additional proposals to work with the community and close several neighbourhood roads to through traffic have also been put forward.
Local roads under consideration for alterations in phase 2 include Overton Road in St Andrews and Cotham Hill. The proposals would retain access to the roads but prevent through traffic using them by closing one end. The council believes this would give local businesses and residents more space to use the roads, and provide safer walking and cycling routes.
While further engagement with the various communities is promised before plans are finalised, some residents are already concerned about these proposals.In a letter to Bristol City Council, Belmont Road resident Martin Laker points out that Overton Road was resurfaced as recently as August this year and is far too steep for safe cycling in icy weather.
Martin states: “It has very little traffic but it does perform an essential function in the management of traffic along Belmont Road. It is therefore difficult to see what possible justification there could be for closing it.
“Belmont Road is very narrow and vehicles cannot turn around, and can only reverse with great difficulty. When the road is blocked between 35 and 77, properties in the section 13 to 33 can still exit Belmont Road via Overton Road. Furthermore, vehicles intending to go further can, by this point, see any blockage in the next section and divert down Overton Road, preventing a build up of traffic.”
A more favourable view is taken by local residents and businesses in the Cotham Hill area. Resident Harriet Brennan states: “For years on Cotham Hill we have seen the encroachment of increasing two-way traffic, illegal parking and frequent speeding, all forcing pedestrians and cyclists to tolerate a smaller and smaller space to travel, walk and shop. Safe distancing is not possible on this street.”
Dan Williams, owner of Coffee + Beer, added his support, stating: “It is a golden opportunity for this vibrant and iconic street to become a flagship of pedestrianisation in Bristol. The suggested plans would definitely be safer for families, attract more shoppers, allow some al-fresco dining options and encourage people to cycle or walk to work safely. The increased footfall would be a major bonus for the local independent businesses.”
Sandy Murray of Smith Maloney Architects has produced a set of images to help bring the idea to life: “At Smith Maloney, our hope is that the catastrophic impact of the global pandemic can be used as a catalyst to transform the urban streetscape, allowing local communities and businesses to thrive whilst maintaining social distancing guidelines, whilst also promoting cleaner air and greener spaces. I believe that Cotham Hill could be a benchmark for the sustainable city streets of the future.”
Councillor Carla Denyer has been supporting the project. She explains: “I’ve received an incredible number of emails over the last few months asking for more space for walking and cycling in Clifton Down ward, possibly more than I have received on any other topic. Most of these requests focused on Cotham Hill, because it is such a busy shopping street with narrow pavements and no way for people to do social distancing safely. It has been brilliant to see such widespread support, and to see businesses and residents working together on this.”
The interactive mapping tool for people to make comments is available at: www.bristol.gov.uk/covidtransport or email transport.engagement@bristol.gov.uk