A local resident has started an online petition to have the temporary one-way traffic lights at Parkway railway bridge removed with immediate effect, but knowledgeable sources have told the Journal that council officers have recently recommended extending the controversial scheme for a further 12 months.
Changes were made to the road layout under the bridge in June 2020 (during the first Covid-19 lockdown), creating a single lane for traffic, controlled by temporary traffic signals. The extra space created either side of the traffic lane is designated for people walking or cycling under the bridge and is intended to allow them to keep a safe distance from each other.
Initially implemented for a two-week trial period, the scheme has now been in place for almost a year. With traffic levels increasing as schools and businesses reopen, it has come under increased criticism from motorists who claim the restrictions are causing unnecessary delays to traffic.
An ‘engagement survey‘ (public consultation) was carried out by South Gloucestershire Council in September and October 2020. Of the 929 respondents, 65 percent said they “strongly disagreed” with keeping the proposals in place for the duration of the pandemic, while 79 percent “strongly disagreed” with making the changes permanent.
In addition to lengthened journey times, other areas of concern that have been raised are increased pollution levels (arising from queueing vehicles) and the potential for emergency services’ vehicles to be delayed. There is also frustration that, for most of the day, few pedestrians or cyclists are seen passing under the bridge and making use of the extra space.
Although seemingly forming a minority, those voicing support for the scheme say they feel much safer when walking under the bridge due to the wider path space and traffic separation barriers. They also point out that with traffic restricted to the centre of the tunnel there is no chance of double decker buses or other high vehicles striking the bridge, which has been an issue in the past.
In their report on the 2020 public consultation, council officers were dismissive of the results, stating that the respondents were not representative of the younger age groups most likely to walk or cycle under the bridge. They also claimed that respondents’ descriptions of traffic delays were “exaggerated” and said these were “more of a minor inconvenience”.
The online petition recently started by Robert Forsey states:
“In recent weeks as the Covid-19 restrictions have eased, the traffic at these lights has increased and is now becoming a problem for local residents. Tailbacks are now regularly backed up past Aviva and Sainsbury’s in one direction, and to the Winterbourne road in the other.”
“This is directly impacting residents’ access to their homes and adding considerably to travel times. It is also causing a rise in pollution levels as vehicles are now sat idling in the queues.”
“With social distancing restrictions due to be relaxed in the near future, there is no longer a need for these extra controls.”
Other local residents have taken to social media to demand that South Gloucestershire Council removes the scheme. Replies given by the council reveal a policy shift away from the scheme’s originally stated aim of facilitating ‘social distancing’ towards encouraging ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling), through making the route safer.
Replying to a tweet by Darren Sage (see above), the council responded:
“As a council we are committed to providing a better, safer environment to encourage more people to choose active travel for leisure and commuting which will reduce traffic on our busiest routes. The Parkway Bridge has been a safety concern for some time and the scheme in place has helped make this route safer for people walking and cycling. Since its introduction, we have seen an increase in people walking and cycling here, including children travelling to and from school and been asked by local schools and colleges to install extra cycle parking to accommodate the increase.”
“We ran a survey last year to understand the impacts of the scheme and have continued to monitor traffic queues and usage of the scheme. We are also in regular contact with councillors and local representatives. While there is likely to be an increase in traffic once more businesses open up, the scheme offers positive encouragement and a safer environment for more people to commute using active transport.”
The three Stoke Gifford ward councillors are unanimous in calling for the current scheme to be removed, whilst at the same time pressing for the longer-term solution of building a second, parallel tunnel through the embankment, dedicated for use by pedestrians and cyclists.
Cllr Ernie Brown, writing in the Stoke Gifford Parish Council annual report, says “the restrictions put in place due to the pandemic have run their course and we are again requesting South Gloucestershire to have them removed”.
Cllr Keith Cranney told the Journal:
“The residents of this area have had enough of constant road closures, highway obstructions and believing their concerns are being ignored. Covid lockdown restrictions are now being lifted and their has been an expected increase of commuting traffic of people returning to their workplaces and using Parkway Station.”
“I cannot support these unnecessary ongoing road restrictions within our local community. The levels of traffic are already causing delays to commuters.”
“Network rail own the Parkway railway bridge and along with Weca and the newly elected Weca mayor they should be prepared to fully commit to fund an alternative safer tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists to use that will make it safer for all road users.”
Cllr Brian Allinson added:
“The three local councillors are very concerned that not enough notice has been taken concerning the views of local residents. The area has been suffering dreadful restrictions on traffic flow for far too long and there has been no attempt to relieve the problem.”
Speaking at the May parish council meeting, Cllr Brown said that after months of asking, the South Gloucestershire Cabinet member with responsibility for transport, Cllr Steve Reade, has finally agreed to meet the Stoke Gifford councillors, on Wednesday 26th May 2021, to discuss the future of the Parkway scheme. We hope to be able to include feedback from the meeting in the June issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine.
More information and related links:
- ePetition: Removal of temporary traffic lights at Parkway Station bridge (SGC)
- Bristol Parkway railway bridge frequently asked questions (SGC)
- Parkway bridge engagement survey summary (SGC)
- Contact details for Cllr Steve Reade (SGC)
- Reallocating road space in response to COVID-19: statutory guidance for local authorities (GOV.UK)
Opinions on social media
PT: Yes time the lights were removed. The whole country is working its way back to normal, surely South Glos can do the same. Temporary measures need to be that, temporary.
PS: Made no difference at all to safety but does cause very dangerous traffic queues at various stages of the day.
If the council really want to create a safe pedestrian route then boring a new route thorough or widening the bridge properly is the solution.
Single / one way route would significant affect the living conditions of those either side of the bridge as well as significant affect on local business
SY: I walk or cycle or drive through this bridge multiple a day. I have never seen anyone use the widened path that was put in for social distancing. The people all come down church road now to turn right under bridge causing long queues going back towards Abbey Wood. The pollution from all the static cars is choking on the lungs. Its an utter shambles once again by the local council
RS: I use this road as a cycle route. The road width reclaimed for pedestrians/cyclists is actually too narrow to safely cycle along and so have to use footpath anyway. The extra width provided simply doesn’t allow for any significant social distancing. I think the disruption to road users is not justified and the restrictions should be removed to allow traffic to flow. If it actually achieved its intention then it would be worth saving, but from my experience the pedestrian footfall and number of pedestrians I encounter doesn’t make it viable or sensible to retain.
CF: There is no need for the extra space any more, on a bus you can sit next to complete strangers. I think you can pass someone for the matter of a second outdoors. There is no real justification in this remaining causing pollution to our local community.
JP: There is no justification for this anymore so get the traffic flowing again and get them to pull their finger out on Gipsy Patch Lane bridge. Utter joke.
SB: Seems unnecessary to me. Why not have the paths one way only on each side? i.e. one side for one direction, the other side for the other direction. Stick to the left like the road? There are plenty of crossings nearby for people to cross over to the correct side.
AC: I was on TV 20 years ago regarding the width of the pavement for children walking to school. Nothing has ever been done.
Thing is now there are more cars on the road and it is causing a nightmare for people who have to drive and can’t walk. Cyclists should dismount on both sides as they fly through there at times with no regard for anyone.
At the end of the day there will be no pleasing everyone, but if the lights are there to stay, then there has to be a better way of doing it than what there is now.
At times only 3 cars manage to get through and a journey from Abbeywood school under the bridge which is five mins can take 45 mins. I remember the only time we used to have a build up like that was around 5pm now it can be all day.
MW: It’s a very narrow path for pedestrians especially school children, if the road is to reopen as normal I think there should be a barrier put up to reduce the risk to pedestrians of slipping into the path of traffic that is right against the kerb due to narrow lanes. Until this happens I think the traffic lights should stay despite me having to drive through them twice a day!
SW: I feel much happier with the current system even if it does put a few minutes on your car journey! Such a busy route for pedestrians especially school children and commuters to and from Parkway Station. If the single lane is taken away there should definitely be barriers/railings erected. Otherwise feel there is an accident waiting to happen there!
TB: I personally witnessed an accident under the bridge caused by a pedestrian walking into the road in front of a cyclist. The poor cyclist came off much the worse. It also means the buses no longer have to wait for a considerate driver prepared to wait while the bus enters the tunnel and has to drive down the middle of the road. I am more than happy for the scheme to stay.
ZC: As a driver I feel much less anxious driving through, especially when the footpaths are packed with schoolchildren and bikes squeezing past. Before the scheme they were literally inches from the traffic and there was nothing to stop pedestrians or bikes stumbling into the road right in front of me.
Also, the chance of another bus roof landing on the pavement is currently zero. It was only shear luck that nobody was seriously hurt last time.
Like others have said, the lights only add a minute or two to my journey and I often had to queue just as long before at busy times of the day. Buses and large vehicles used to have to pull into the middle of the road to avoid the low bridge, which frequently slowed traffic down too.
What could help is lights to control the traffic turning right out of Church Road to prevent traffic along Brierley Furlong having to wait a long time to move after the the lights have turned green.
Anon: I used to walk under there every day to go to the station (from New Road). Now I walk under there every day to walk the dog!
It is certainly a lot less dangerous on the narrow side – every time two people meet there, one has to almost step into the road. Some folk don’t even look.
The traffic now is still lighter than pre-Covid (and obviously less than pre-bypass), even with Gipsy Patch closed. If I have to drive through the tunnel, I don’t mind the short wait.
There may be a case for monitoring levels of pollution either side of the bridge, but the areas are wide open, and yet again, we now have electric trains on top of the bridge.
However, removal of the system will encourage more traffic to use it again, and levels will rise.
Was there a pollution sample taken prior to Covid, in conjunction with MetroBus and/or Gipsy Patch closure?
Furthermore, it’s safer for high vehicles too – you can bet there have been no bridge strikes in the past year!
Then again, there will have been no fatal accidents involving pedestrians either.
Additionally, the orange scooter menace is a lot less of an issue under the bridge.
I’m sure that in years to come the traffic will increase, but may never hit the original levels
For now I would very much like very much for it to stay in situ, until a new foot tunnel is constructed (as has been suggested)
Furthermore, the pedestrians will probably be local villagers, but a large proportion of the traffic will not be locals.
- It’s a lot safer
- Traffic queues are shorter than they were, pre Covid & GPL
- There’s a lot less pollution than there was, pre Covid & GPL
- It’s a local unclassified road in a suburban village, not a trunk or arterial route.
I see there’s a petition for its removal. Maybe there should be one to keep it?
Council’s justification for continuing with scheme
Added 30th May 2021.
We put the following question to South Gloucestershire Council: “Given that when it was introduced, the sole justification for the scheme was to enable ‘social distancing’ of pedestrians and cyclists passing under the bridge, and noting that Covid infections rates are now extremely low, with social distancing due to be totally relaxed by 21st June, what is the justification for continuing with the scheme?”
A council spokesperson replied:
“Temporary measures were introduced at Bristol Parkway Railway Bridge in June 2020 to enable social distancing and promote more active travel. We adapted the road layout to provide more space for social distancing as schools and shops began to reopen following the initial lockdown period.”
“Responses to our public survey on the measures showed the majority of people support our plans for a new pedestrian underpass, while monitoring of the route revealed an increase in pedestrians and cyclists using the walkway under the bridge. The majority of these active and sustainable journeys were before schools opened in the morning (over 350 people) and then after they close (over 300 people), demonstrating a benefit for school-aged children.”
From the June 2021 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine.
Following a crunch meeting on Wednesday 26th May 2021, Stoke Gifford councillor Ernie Brown told the Journal:
“Both South Glos lead and local ward councillors met today to receive a report from council officers on the recommendation of keeping the restrictions at the underpass in place for a further 12 months, and the effect the temporary lights are having on both queueing traffic and improved safety for users.”
“After a lengthy discussion and strong objection from local ward councillors to keeping the restrictions, it was agreed that officers should now undertake a complete appraisal of the traffic throughout the coming weeks to make an informed comparison to what was experienced pre-Covid. This will provide members with a knowledgeable appraisal of the impact of the scheme.”
• The cost to date of implementing the Parkway Bridge scheme is put at £17k.