Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

More Pearls from the Link (and a conspiracy theory)

(or...  Why have the figures been drastically changed ?)

There've been some changes made.   Back in 2009, when all the intensive work was being done, consultants Mott MacDonald came up with figures for the likely traffic impacts of the South Bristol Link.

Among all the stats, it was revealed that the road would draw enough traffic onto the new alignment to push up the numbers at both ends.  At Brunel Way, as it passes Bower Ashton, another 6,000 vehicles a day would funnel in with the 35,000 that pack it now;  along Hengrove Way/Airport Road, there'd be an extra 5,000 on top of the 16,500 that we see today.   Frightening, but not really surprising.

Meanwhile, advised Mott MacDonald's experts, the Bus Rapid Transit (sorry, I must learn to call it 'Metrobus') would carry 3,000 people a day along the leg of its journey between Hartcliffe and the A38.

But that was in the olden days.   Planning Committees reading the latest reports will find the goal posts have been adjusted and traffic projections rounded right down – and not directly comparable because daily figures aren't given, only the hourly peak and the 'interpeak average'.   So on Brunel Way, the new road is now claimed to have no significant effect on traffic levels approaching the Cumberland Basin in the morning rush.   Back at Hengrove, the planning committee will be told, morning peak traffic will actually drop (!) once the same road becomes a new ring route through South Bristol.

Just as the traffic numbers are now being played down, it turns out that the SBL Metrobus (you know, the one that's going to be good enough to get people out of their cars) will also carry far less passengers – certainly a tiny number compared with the forecasts on which the scheme was developed.  This link (figs 7-12) shows that for most of the running hours, and much of the route, throughout the 15 year study, hourly passenger numbers won't even reach double figures, let alone the 3,000 a day plus on which the whole SBL project was sold.

Conspiracy or cock-up?   It needed high passenger figures to justify the scheme in the first place.  With that out of the way, and funding secured, low passenger figures can justify dropping the expensive, uneconomic bus element of BRT altogether, leaving just the highway, a new ring road, and a stimulus for developing the Green Belt.  Job done.

Of course, I made that last bit up.   It couldn't possibly be true.  After all, we're going to be European Green Capital.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Badgers and Bikes

For years, badgers have been digging and enlarging their sett on the 'Whitchurch Way' cycle path with a multitude of entrances either side of the tarmac. Now the path has collapsed into one of the interlinking tunnels.

The city council, quite properly, won't fix the path till they get advice about protecting the badgers.  Down the road in Somerset, though, they're preparing to shoot the creatures, healthy or not, in a (probably ineffective) attempt to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. There's a good dispassionate summary of the issue in this Science Media Centre briefing

Apart from cattle and badgers, the disease can also be carried and transmitted by deer, horses, cats and dogs.  Bikes too, for all I know.  All of them frequent this stretch of the path, which has direct links into dairy and beef farms. 

So doesn't the logic of the cull suggest that dogs, cats, horses and cyclists should be shot too?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Pearls from the Link

The mass of documents published as part of the planning application to build the South Bristol Link must baffle most of us who want to submit an informed comment. And every day it's being added to with more letters of support or objection. I've just put my own objection in; they're still being accepted.

To ease the burden, the links below are for the key 'Transport Assessment', which is part of the Environment Assessment and unhelpfully scattered in bits randomly around the official documents list.

Part 1 (there's an index in this one – after that you're on your own)

Especially illuminating are the predicted peak hour traffic flows – demonstrating, for instance, that once the road-builders have gone, residents of quiet, leafy King Georges Road will get over a thousand vehicles passing through in the morning rush. Not to mention those three (yes, THREE) passengers shared between half a dozen spanking new Metrobuses.

Still, every cloud..... Over at Barrow Gurney, they already get a thousand vehicles through in the morning peak, so they're naturally very keen to see the new road built. As one resident says,

"Villages like Barrow Gurney have been severely damaged with both the buildings and the community smashed by increasing traffic levels. In places the carriageway is only 14 feet wide with stone walls and no pavement but cars expect to be able to pass each other irrespective of any villagers trying to access village amenities such as the pub, village hall, playground and shop as well as visit friends. It is an attractive village with most of the houses in the centre listed but this narrow winding road carries around 15,000 cars a day, every day with no respite at weekends and bank holidays. The children and old people in the village need to be able to walk in safety but cars make no concession for pedestrians. The last village appraisal revealed that 15% of residents had been struck by cars in the village centre so it is not surprising that 85% of villagers felt unsafe walking in the village. Such a situation is unacceptable.”

The SBL predictions suggest that the traffic along Barrow Lane will be halved when the new link opens. Only a partial solution, then - maybe only 7.5% of residents will be struck by cars.   Still, there's at least one of the offending drivers who's conscience stricken - and looks forward to a clearer run. He writes:

I write as a North Somerset resident, as a chartered civil engineer and transport planner, and as Chairman of Bristol Chamber of Commerce's Transport Group, which I represent on the Mayor of Bristol's Transport Advisers Panel.

I moved to Bristol in 1984. At the time, the construction of the road that is now known as the South Bristol Link was part of the strategic plan for the area. I believed then, and continue to believe, that the construction of the road will be of major benefit, both by improving access to the communities in South Bristol and by providing a bypass to remove through traffic from Barrow Gurney.

I moved to Wrington in 1987. Since then, for 23 of the intervening years, I have commuted to Bristol via the A38, through Barrow Gurney and along the Long Ashton Bypass. Despite peak period hold ups in Barrow Gurney, this is the quickest route between home and work and takes my journey past fewer homes than any other option, meaning that my commute causes the least nuisance to others. That same route is preferred for many journeys between Bristol Airport and Bristol. Consequently, with increased air travel, it has become steadily busier and the traffic on it must cause significant harm to the quality of life of residents in Barrow Gurney.

I wish to express my wholehearted support for the scheme both because of my self interest, in that it will improve my journey to work, and because it will provide so many wider benefits for North Somerset and south Bristol.

Now there's a saint! Wherever would we be without transport planners like this?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Fortnum & Mason comes to Stockwood

An advance party spotted this morning.

They've settled on a site on Hencliffe Road.

Question is, are we on the way up, or are they on the way down?
They're bringing in stocks already.

Click here for the video

Monday, 5 August 2013

Angst at Ingst

I've never been to Olveston. Streetview tells me it's nice but unremarkable.  Without a car, it's a tricky place to get to and from. Occasionally a bus passes through the village during the working day, headed for Cribbs Causeway or Yate, but it's not the sort of service you'd rely on for anything beyond a carefully planned trip to the shops; anything more needs a help from a journey-planner or a travel agent. Naturally, most of Olveston's residents will have to depend on a car or three to lead anything like a normal, 21st century life. It's quite nicely placed for that... not far from Almondsbury, Severn Bridge, and the M48/M4 junction.

The village expanded hugely in the sixties, so now something over 2,000 people live there. And they face a common foe in the shape of REG windpower.
A couple of Cornish wind turbines ruining the view

REG windpower plan to bring the village to its knees by erecting two wind turbines over the other side of the motorways, at the hamlet of Ingst.

I'm not exaggerating. I've read a few of the objections to the planning application.

The curate takes the view that village children won't be able to concentrate at school, and would be better off with a nuclear reactor for a neighbour.

The owners of a local 'country park' business fear their car-borne customers will be frightened off from their £7 a pop 'uncommercialised' park if a couple of turbines are visible, causing redundancies all round.

Helpfully, a UKIP councillor explains the background.... it's all thanks to European regulation plus the Tory ruling classes, who are “using turbines to generate themselves and their friends huge amounts of money at the expense of the tax payer and the poor people and animals that have to suffer these monstrosities “.

Of course there are also some in that neighbourhood brave (or foolhardy) enough to declare themselves in favour of the turbines, by adding their comments to the planning application. Their addresses are in the application papers. We know where they live.

Meanwhile, the applicants are shamelessly promising that they'll put substantial cash into the local community if the scheme goes ahead. Not only that, but the turbines, once up and running, will be offered to the Bristol Energy Co-operative, if they can raise the finance through a community share offer. Community ownership, in fact. Or creeping socialism.

There's no date yet for the South Glos. planning meeting, and they do still seem to be accepting comments from the public. Mindful that the tip of the turbine blades may be visible from this side of the city, Stockwood Pete has just chipped in with his own two-penn'orth.