Bristol Green Capital – A Pedestrian Experience

As the Green Capital year ends I wanted to share my experience as a pedestrian (and occasional cyclist). It seems to me that private car use in Bristol has not reduced and remains both high and destructive. Buses continue to be delayed by streams of cars, a very high proportion with only one occupant.

Walking the older narrower streets of town you feel persecuted as the pavements are blocked by parked vehicles, and you find yourself walking in the road, only to have to scuttle back onto the pavement again when a car comes, if you can find a gap.

At major crossing points the priority remains for cars, for instance at Cabot Circus Newfoundland Way junction, a pedestrian has to stop and wait for at at least 3 sets of traffic lights while no car has to wait at more than one.

Standing here on a weekday morning at around 7am I have done a running count of vehicles over a series of days (at least 5
times), in each case over 90% of private cars have only one person in them. This is before the “school run” so these must be mostly commuters.

All very familiar stuff but we know there are 3 main issues here:

  1. public transport efficiency
  2. working hours and locations
  3. people preferring the comfort and privacy of their own cars

If you are carrying a lot of kids then a car becomes competitive with public transport, but for a single passenger within Bristol it is more likely to be about getting to where you need to be on time, and the flexibility that cars appear to offer.

What I would like to see – or hear about from transport experts, Bristol City Council and people involved in the Green Capital initiatives, are ideas like:

  • Incentivising less car use by (for example) offering council tax rebates or bus vouchers to people who sign up to only using car on alternate days or for a limited number of days – the tech used for the congestion charge would be needed, with number plate recognition
  • Introducing a subsidised taxi service – by offering taxi vouchers rather than competing with the taxis – for deliveries and complex journeys
  • Improving pedestrian priority at traffic junctions – yes it will slow traffic but that could help discourage driving
  • This should be linked to a way of excepting commercial vehicles which do actually need to get around – how about a lane for these or full cars only, with one-person cars left to the slowest lane?
  • Schools looking at how people get to school and giving prizes or incentives to those who walk or use public transport (cycling is still too dangerous for young kids in most parts of town I think)
  • Enforcing bus lanes more severely
  • Obviously more buses are needed (at peak hours and more frequent off-peak services and a better network in some parts of outer Bristol);  it is clear that big money is going into Metrobus, though the evidence for its impact remains disputable


Nothing very radical or new, and I am sure there are a 1000 objections apart from just money and driver-voter resistance, but I would like to hear about it. Maybe it is already out there and i haven’t been paying attention, but then nor have the drivers by the looks of it.

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