Traffic lights to be installed at Parkway bridge to facilitate ‘social distancing’

Photo of a traffic lights sign with the text 'social distancing' beneath, superimposed on an image of the railway bridge.
Temporary traffic lights are to be used at the railway bridge between Hatchet Road and Brierly Furlong to facilitate social distancing for pedestrians.

Temporary traffic signals are to be installed at Parkway railway bridge in order to facilitate easier social distancing for pedestrians and cyclists passing under the structure.

South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) says the move is necessary because the extremely narrow pavements under the bridge constitute a ‘tight spot’ for people walking or cycling to nearby education establishments and places of work.

With more year groups returning to school from Monday 15th June and increasing numbers of people returning to work as the Covid-19 (coronavirus) lockdown is eased, the council says there is an urgency to ensure footpaths and cycle routes are safe and can support social distancing.

The changes are to be implemented for a two-week trial period starting on Sunday 14th June.

Barriers will be used to create a single lane for traffic, controlled by temporary traffic signals. The extra space created either side of the lane will be designated for people walking or cycling under the bridge and allow them to keep a safe distance from each other.

Signs and road markings will be in place to notify road users of the new road layout and direct cyclists and pedestrians to use it safely and appropriately.

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Due to the immediacy of the issue, the council says it has not been possible to follow its usual consultation procedures for a scheme of this size.

Emphasising that the road changes are a temporary measure in response to the Covid-19 emergency situation, a council spokesperson said:

“We are committed to developing a longer-term solution with stakeholders that provides safe access and/or additional facilities to divert pedestrians and cyclists away from the highway.”

“We will be monitoring, recording and reviewing the changes as more people return to work, businesses re-open and pupils return to school.”

The spokesperson added:

“We anticipate these changes may cause delays for traffic in the area. We apologise for any disruption; these measures are essential to help people stay safe and control the spread of the virus.”

Cllr Steve Reade, SGC’s Cabinet member for planning, transport and strategic environment, said:

“These changes are part of our emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic in order to help stop the spread of the virus and save lives in our local communities as lockdown eases.”

“The Council has a statutory duty to make it as easy as possible to follow rules for social distancing in public places and we are currently working on several projects to make public space safer for everyone. These projects will also help to maintain some of the positive changes seen during this time, such as an increase in cycling and fewer cars on our roads.”

“We will be announcing additional projects across South Gloucestershire over the coming weeks, and due to the speed of their introduction they will be subject to regular constructive review.”

Stoke Gifford ward councillor Brian Allinson has repeatedly called for a separate, parallel tunnel for pedestrians to be created through the railway embankment alongside the Parkway bridge, but funding for a scheme of this nature is yet to be found and its implementation likely to be years away.

News of the planned road restrictions at Parkway bridge comes less than a fortnight after a similar social distancing initiative involving lane closures on the nearby A4174 Ring Road either side of Filton railway bridge was abandoned after just four days due to widely expressed concerns about increased traffic congestion.

Photo of traffic lanes coned off on the A4174 Ring Road, with a matrix sign displaying the message: 'Lane closed for social distance'.
Traffic lanes coned off on the A4174 Ring Road in an effort to facilitate social distancing by pedestrians and cyclists passing under the Filton railway bridge.

The Filton scheme was condemned by opposition councillors as being “poorly thought through” and having “inadequate signage” for the pedestrians and cyclists it was supposed to benefit.

Read more: Journal readers’ views on the abandoned A4174 scheme (SGJ Facebook)

Update (11th June 2020)

The article was amended to include a comment from Cllr Steve Reade, SGC’s Cabinet member for planning, transport and strategic environment.

Update (14th June 2020)

South Gloucestershire Council has published a Frequently Asked Questions (with answers) document [PDF] on the Parkway railway bridge scheme.

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  1. This is ridiculous and will cause an almighty road block. The closed gypsy patch road is already a problem, let alone adding this into the equation. The people passing each other under the bridge will only be close to each other for seconds. It’s outdoors and there is air flow, this is not a high risk area. If people would wear face masks that would massively help and it will keep the traffic moving.

  2. Another wonderful and well thought out idea from SGC. The timing is impeccable, just as the UK Government are reported to be reviewing the 2m spacing and on the very same day that the Evening Post reports that there were no new COVID-19 cases in Bristol. This could have been done in March when people were in lock down, not now when we are on the road back to normality. I’ll give it a couple of days of gridlock in SG before the lights are taken down.

  3. So SGC haven’t been overly concerned over the last, I don’t know how many years, about cyclists and pedestrians on a narrow pathway yet now they want to make it safer?! Install traffic lights for pedestrians 😂 and everyone walking/cycling wear a mask, you’re in the open air so contracting the virus is minimal. With Gypsy Patch shut still, this is going to cause unbelievable chaos and people will struggle to breathe because of air pollution from car fumes not the freaking virus. One day maybe we might get councillors with common sense.

  4. This archway has always been an accident waiting to happen:
    With lively children running though it during school journeys, Mum’s with buggies and elderly people who may be unsteady on their feet passing through at a much slower pace.
    I witnessed a person trip over while walking through it during rush hour one day, thank goodness she didn’t fall into the road that would’ve been another story.
    All I can say is if you’re going to put traffic lights up (for whatever reason) get a railing erected to prevent whatever could happen but please try to do it at night.
    As regards Covid, maybe this should have been thought of earlier?

  5. I will never give up the fight to get a dedicated parallel pedestrian and cycle tunnel bored through the embankment next to the road tunnel. That is the only way to ensure safety for cyclists and pedestrians and maintain a proper traffic flow. It was designed and agreed by local councillors years ago, but then dumped due to cost! Hundreds of Children and workers pass and re pass through that tunnel every week day. It must be done – It is the only safe solution.

  6. For 26 years my family have struggled with the very narrow footpaths under the bridge and in recent times one side was combined with cyclists – this just compounded the matter. Anything to improve people safety is welcomed. Thank you South Glos.

    1. Yes – the increased pollution from stationary traffic waiting at the lights will improve people safety immeasurably

  7. We have lived in New Rd, Stoke Gifford for 32 years, during which time the narrow highway Parkway railway bridge has been the cause of – One head decapitation by a passing truck too close to the pavement.
    Two bridge strikes by passing buses. It’s one of the most dangerous areas for pedestrians and cyclists in South Glos. I have been nudged into the highway by a large group of pupils passing opposite to my passage along the pavement (all heads down engrossed on mobile phones) – luckily no passing vehicles at that moment!
    All the local Councillors have been fighting to remedy the situation for years, particularly Brian Allison with the construction of a parallel tunnel. Little chance of SGC removing the ‘Temp traffic lights’ It’s the cheapest solution to solve the dangerous pavements problem. SGC will not fight Network Rail to help improve the situation!

    1. If someone dies because the emergency services cannot get through as Gypsy Patch is closed and the Rabbit roundabout works is causing serious delays, who will be held responsible?
      Can the air ambulance land on school fields? Yes, but they need the keys to the playgrounds, has this been included in the emergency planning or haven’t the council done any risk assessments or planning? Both myself and a neighbour have had heart attacks and wouldn’t have survived except for the prompt response of the ambulance service. If you have an elderly relative, son or daughter that might need the quick response of the ambulance please write to the chief exec of the council and express your concerns. Blue lights and horns are all very well but they can’t make progress when the roads are locked up with traffic jams and vehicles can’t move out of the way.

  8. Re Parkway rail bridge lights, and ‘dead parrot’* subway proposal, how about some joined-up thinking here? Make the lights permanent and dump the subway nonsense. It wouldn’t work anyway. Hatchet Rd to school walk, no road crossings now, but with the subway 4! (Hatchet Rd, Station Approach, Church Rd, Briefly Furlong.) Lights required. Plus extra distance. Anyone do that rather than go, as now, under the bridge? I doubt it! *No funding pre-virus. Post-virus? Ditto writ large? Can Cllr Allinson please respond to these points? Thankyou!

  9. Further to my 0821/17:06:20. Subway last estimate £20 M (SGJ) = £1000/head for the population of Bradley Stoke. We are supposed to be a democracy? Is there public support for this scale of expenditure here? I don’t know. Does anybody? The West sidewalk under the bridge is narrow, but it is actually narrower in places between the Ratcliffe Drive and Winterbourne Rd roundabouts (I have checked this). An alternative to a white elephant subway: a curb to bridge soffit safety screen. West side only. East side too narrow. Cost 1% of subway bill, or even less?

  10. Further to my 0821 & 0857/17:06:20. Single file traffic at Parkway bridge with lights is REGULATED flow, thus orderly. Ditto without lights is UNREGULATED, and thus disorderly. But it is normally all 2-way? No. Buses and other large vehicles have of necessity to occupy the centre of the highway, thus (randomly, frequently, and anarchically) imposing one-way working. Catch 22!?. So the new may not much worse than the ‘normal’? It might even be better, in time?

  11. Editor’s note: Further comments discussing longer-term solutions to improve safety at Parkway bridge will not be approved. Please restrict comments to the current short-term measures relating to social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Opportunities to discuss longer-term solutions will be provided in a future article.

  12. I have only just come out of isolation because of the lockdown. Cllr Brian Allinson has tried for years to do something but South Glos Council answer is NO too expensive. Why are they doing this scheme when the traffic is very, very light because of Coronavirus.

    Why don’t they try the scheme when the traffic is normal. I just do not understand why the Council are doing this at this time. People are saying that the people who are doing this does not have a brain cell between them

    1. Well the last couple of Days those traffic lights have been a pain, only letting 6 cars through each way at a time, so traffic queues more than normal, back to the roundabout Fox Den Road. It needs to be sorted as soon as possible. Better not there at all.

  13. This scheme was started as a trial for 2 weeks from 14th June and has been extended without any consultation and is now causing traffic jams that will impede fire and ambulance trying to get to Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and some parts of Bradley Stoke as Gypsy Patch Lane is closed. Someone could die because of the delays.
    Council monitoring of the site showed there were very few pedestrians per minute using the social distancing lanes typically about 1 pedestrian every 7 minutes, so the case for providing the social distancing lanes seems very weak.
    No pedestrians used the social distancing lane travelling from Stoke Gifford.
    No cyclists used any of the social distancing lanes.
    Please sign my petition to the council about the traffic scheme.
    Please ask all your friends and colleagues to sign and spread the word by email and social media.

  14. From a report on South Gloucestershire Council leader Toby Savage’s participation in a BBC Radio Bristol phone in this morning:

    “Discussing the social distancing measures around the Parkway Bridge in #StokeGifford, @SavageToby1 said that since the measures went in, contrary to popular belief, wait times to pass under the bridge were minimal and actually better than back when he was a local resident.”

    “@SavageToby1 added that through his discussions with local councillors, there was a need for a more permanent solution, and he was in discussion with @MayorTimBowles and Network Rail over the idea of a separate tunnel for pedestrians.”


    Discussion on the SGJ Facebook page:

  15. Repeated bus strikes have forced the narrowing of the road after brick work removed by said strikes. This is preventative measure, as further damage could close an important rail junction of for South West England and South Wales, passengers and freight, as well as to road traffic, for many months if the bridge had to be replaced.

    There is little scientific evidence emissions have gone up, much less traffic is still transiting Hatchet Road and modern vehicles have stop start engines when waiting at lights.

    Certainly safer for pedestrians, many of which are young adults from the college and school nearby. Others workers at Aviva and Abbey Wood amenities and businesses.

    The lights typically do not delay journeys much more then one or two sets of pedestrian crossings or a major road junction such as Abbey Wood roundabout. Be patient, a few minutes at the traffic lights compress to a 10 minutes wasted on Facebook or queuing for a takeaway. Did covid not teach us to slow down and relax. Drive carefully not in a rush.

    I would be happy to see permanent traffic light junction with proper footpath widening to make it easier for pedestrian and cyclist sharing the side area.

    I can’t see a pedestrian tunnel changing anything due to the bus striking issue. Hopefully gypsy patch lane can be completed sooner then later as this will much assist traffic situation.

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