Saturday, 28 April 2012

Snag-hunting on Whiteladies

The vast majority of the road and pavement works on Whiteladies Road under the Greater Bristol Bus Network (GBBN) plan have now been completed.  There are still some bits that need to be finished off, but it approaching completion now.

I met with the traffic engineering manager yesterday and we are going to meet again in a couple of weeks time to go through things that haven't been done correctly and things that haven't worked out in 'real life' in the way that the modelling in advance predicted.  We're basically going to start at the top of Blackboy Hill and work our way down to the Triangle - even though the latter section isn't in Cotham, I've been getting feedback about it.

In general, feedback from local residents has been positive.  Broadly speaking, pedestrians are delighted by the safer and more numerous crossings, including the increased 'permeability' across the road.  Feedback from cyclists has been mixed, with some people worried about the new 'pinch points' that have been created, while others feel that the more constant road speeds is safer overall.  Drivers are telling me that the traffic is tending to flow more smoothly most of the time (due to fewer pedestrians operating lights), but that there are snarl-ups from time to time, especially around bus stops.  Bus users are delighted by the new shelters and real-time information boards, but they aren't really seeing any improvements in reliability yet.

So, what I would be interested to hear is any specific feedback about problems that local people have encountered so that I can collate them all together and walk the engineers through them in mid May.  Here's some that I've got on the list already:
  • The junction with Redland Park has been narrowed too much, making it difficult to turn in and out of, especially for lorries.  The pavement either needs cutting back or yellow lines extended on Redland Park to provide a 'reservoir'.
  • The 'no entry' signs on Burlington Road are invisible until you've already started your turn, so that people either have to change their mind or carry on through them.  'No left/right turn' signs are needed.
  • The big new pavement area at the end of Westfield Park is getting people parking on it, especially in big 4x4s!  This is illegal, but we need bollards and/or cycle racks to prevent it from happening.
  • The big new pavement area at Cotham Hill isn't finished yet and there is a display boards and a group of cycle racks to go in there, as well as decision about having tables and chairs outside.
  • We're getting taxis lining up across the Cotham Hill junction at night in a very unsafe way.  This was originally as the new taxi ranks hadn't gone in, but they no longer have this excuse.  I'm asking for a clampdown.
  • Cyclists are saying that pedestrian crossing at Clifton Down pinches in the road too much, forcing them into the main line of traffic - this is dangerous where cars are not watching and giving proper respect.  I'm not sure there's a solution to this, but it needs exploring.
  • The new tan coloured area in the middle of Whiteladies is intended to be for pedestrians to use as an informal crossing.  However, it's also in the swing of a couple of the wide junctions, so there is confusion about who is able to be there - cars or people?  This needs a bit of a rethink as I've seen a couple of confrontations.
  • The junction at Tyndall's Park Road and St Paul's Road is a great improvement for pedestrians, but there are some issues there for cyclists about the contour of the road and the signage - I'm very grateful to a Cotham resident for walking me through this on Good Friday!
  • Also, the signage on Whiteladies Road approaching this junction is insufficient at the moment, with just a small white arrow on a blue roundel ('ahead only') to show that the left and right turns have been banned now.
  • The bus stop outside the TA Centre is built out sigificantly more than in the past.  This is causing delays as cars can't get around the buses, but it's also creating another pinch point for cyclists - see the photo above.  This was a very late addition to the plans and I think it needs a rethink of some sort while maintaining the basic principle of improving the bus stop.
I'm sure that there are other observations that local residents have made, so feel free to drop me a line about them - either on this blog or by e-mail (


Anonymous said...

It was obvious from the plans that serious traffic problems would result from the ridiculous built out pavements and bus stops yet even after consultation they went ahead anyway! Now apparently we are to spend even more tax payers' money correcting what should never have been done in the first place! We taxpayers should be asking: Why does this happen?

Neil Harrison said...

Anon - I don't know what 'serious traffic problems' you think are happening, but the general view is that things are improved and this is supported by the road use data so far. There are some minor issues which always happen with big projects like these. You're in a tiny minority of people who think the built-out pavements are 'ridiculous' - everywhere I go, I get people saying how great they are.

Anonymous said...

I was expecting a constructive response to my serious comment and did not expect such a pompous brush off. You're not listening.

Anonymous said...

Are the Cotham Hill tables and chairs for Costa Coffee? Has Costa Coffee been given planning permission?

Neil Harrison said...

Anon 1 - I'm always listening. As I said in the post, I spent an hour of Good Friday listening to a local resident and plenty more besides. Few, if any, agree with you. Give me something specific and I'll work on it.

Neil Harrison said...

Anon 2 - Costa is still the subject of a planning appeal to an independent inspector - no decision yet. The potential use of tables and chairs on that area predates Costa's arrival - Chandos Deli are very keen on it. Generally traders have a right to reasonable use of the pavement outside their premises.

Anonymous said...

Specifically then, and you did mention these yourself.

At the new narrow Clifton Down pedestrian crossing, buses and other large vehicles are either unable or reluctant to pass through in opposite directions at the same time; this results in stopped traffic in both directions until the blocking vehicle has been able to proceed; this is often not possible because of a traffic queue; so traffic in both directions is at a standstill.

Less circumspect pedestrians, and children in particular, are now standing at the narrow crossing with their noses inches from injury or death from the vehicles passing through.

Traffic turning into Cotham Hill from the north and stopping at the Cotham Hill pedestrian crossing now holds up the southbound traffic because there is no room to filter off early as before.

At the TA bus stop northbound traffic is completely halted while the bus driver collects fares because traffic in the single lane south is prohibited from using the new usually empty bus lane.

You own words were "things that haven't been done correctly" "things that haven't worked out" "worried about the new pinch points" "snarl-ups from time to time especially around bus stops" "aren't really seeing any improvements in reliability".

You see these as minor issues to be remedied by a further spend of taxpayers money and I respect your view and I appreciate that you don't see a serious problem so you can't answer the question "Why does this happen?".

Neil Harrison said...

Anon - all traffic works have a degree of uncertainty to them. They are extensively modelled and consulted on in advance, but you add humans to a system and they react in a different way. You are, in any case, conflating two different things. Some of the snags are likely to be where contractors have got it wrong, in which case there is no cost. In other instances, things may need refining, but not in the sense of returning to how they were. Anyone who's had building work done to their house will be familiar with this. Some of the changes were added into the plan very late in the day and I've made clear that I'm not happy about this, especially as they are some that are not working well. On your specifics:

- I've not seen what you describe at Clifton Down and I walk or drive it everyday. In fact, I spent two hours with the engineer there on Friday morning. The crossing seems safer as it's much shorter and you don't get people dashing across like you used to.

- There is an outstanding issue about a filter lane at Clifton Down. I am pursuing this. That said, I manage to get across without difficulty.

- I agree that the TA bus stop is not working well. The problem is that buses continue to bunch in ways that they shouldn't do - one bus is fine, but three there is a problem. This was a late addition.

As I say, there is no evidence this far that journey times are worse than previously. In fact, the evidence suggests a more steady flow.

Anonymous said...

It would help to ask the the no.1 northbound bus driver why he stopped at the crossing, on green light, at 11:55am today to allow the no.54 southbound bus almost through before he attemped to proceed. Stopping like this, apart from holding up traffic, confuses pedestrians and increases risk. That's increased anyway now that neither pedestrians nor drivers have the benefit of being able to see the others light signal. I'm sure you will disagree!!

Neil Harrison said...

Anon - I won't disagree, actually, although drivers of all sorts have always done daft things on Whiteladies. There is room for two buses to pass safely, so it sounds like driver error. However, I am open to the idea that the crossing might be widened back a little. I'm not sure what you mean about seeing signals, but the new style with lights at eye level has been proved to cut accidents significantly.

Anonymous said...

I would be grateful if you would direct me to this proof.

Neil Harrison said...

Anon - the latest report is here and refers to previous research too:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Harrison.
Good to see your positive approach.
A couple of issues,
Cars parking on double yellow lines and single yellow lines.
Why do we have a bus lane which can't be used by buses as cars are parked on it.
The tanned area in the middle of the road is used by delivery vehicles to park on and cars now do U Turns.
Cars turn left into Tyndalls Park from WLR and left out of TP into WLR and causing near miss with crossing pedestrians.
Still have 4x4's on the pavement at Westfield Pk.
Cyclists going through red lights at Apsley Rd crossing, everyday.
When it rains water accumulates at each road crossing especially Tyndalls Park which cars then splash pedestrians. Because the pavement is flat at the crossings its forms big puddles now.
Where are the signs up for parking on WLR for 1hr restrictions and on the side streets for 2hrs.
Not in your area but the bus lane on the downs now is ridiculous holding up the traffic.
Thats my say.

Anonymous said...

Can we get the pavements cleaned on the side streets of WLR please and get the taxis moved away from Cotham Hill outside the Penny Farthing.

Anonymous said...

i like the idea of tables outside coffee shops, let's have more, it makes it continental, all we need is the weather.

Neil Harrison said...

To the latest set of Anons - not sure if you're one person or three!

- the bus lane will be operational soon, but it's waiting for the Traffic Regulation Order to make it legal. Parking will then be enforced. Ditto the parking signs on the side streets - coming soon.

- I've not seen any vehicles parked on the tan service myself, but it's an issue if they are. Mind you delivery driver often do daft things.

- The Tyndalls Park crossroads is a problem and I witnessed it today again. I've asked for some larger signs to highlight the banned turns.

- Westfield Park is getting cycle racks to stop cars coming onto the pavement. Should be in soon, if not already.

- Cyclists running red lights is a long-standing problem (I got hit at Apsley Road once). The Police are doing clampdowns from time to time.

- The puddling problem is known about and should be being resolved.

- Pavements should all be cleaned regularly by Whiteladies... at least once a week, I would guess. If you can give me specific streets, I'll follow up why they're not getting done. Had a problem with the south end of Hampton Road too - a bad sweeping crew, I think.

- The taxis I have been giving a little latitude to while the works were being finished off. I'm going to start reporting people soon though as the new ranks are in.

Hope this helps!

P.S. Call me Neil - "Mr Harrison" makes me nervous... 8-D

Anonymous said...

Just one point really, Neil. I'm wondering why with so many traffic problems in the city that 'islands' for flowers have been erected all up Whiteladies and Blackboy HIll when a dedicated cycle lane either up or down would have been a much better use of that width of space.
I'm acutely aware of the architectural restrictions in our city, which mean that the widening of roads just isn't practical or possible, especially on Whiteladies, but using what little space there is to put flowers in is just a no-brainer, why would we do this? This has not made our roads safer for motorists, pedestrians or cyclists. I am aware that cyclists can use the bus lanes (where they are) but if you have ever taken a bus across the Downs, or down Park St, you will notice that the buses are unable to overtake cyclists in their narrow lanes. This in turn makes the buses late, thus unreliable, and the whole thing carries on. If there is proof that removing a cycle lane and replacing it with flowers is safer, please point me to it. If reducing the amount of traffic on our Bristol roads is the key to the future, more care needs to given when it comes to cyclists on the busier routes and not just making it look pretty.
I did lie, I have one other point. Removing the left and right turns from St Pauls and Tyndalls Park to Whiteladies has just confused motorists no end. What was the thinking behind this as giving pedestrians more place to stand just can not be the answer. If it was to give pedestrians a safe place to cross Whiteladies Rd, then why not just put a pelican crossing in and be done with it. Either that or build a bridge crossing? Surely the money to make flower beds on Whiteladies could've been used to build something more beneficial here? Turning left from Tyndalls Park didn't even go against oncoming traffic, it didn't hold any one up. Now you have motorists going further up St Pauls Rd, to use a mini roundabout to go left and down on to the Vic Rooms anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh and one other point, one of the other anon's mentions the new bus lane on the Downs. BONKERS! Why make a 24hr bus lane on a route that doesn't have 24hr buses? In McEnroe's words, you have got to be kidding me.

Neil Harrison said...

I'm getting a little confused with Anons here, so I'm going to start dating you (as it were). So...

Anon (4th June) - the purpose of the islands is primarily not for prettiness, but what urban designers call 'permeability' - the ability to cross easily. The community feedback in the original consultation was that people wanted the works to make Whiteladies more human and less traffic driven.

A cycle lane was in the original plans, but removed as it was felt (I think by some of the cycle campaigners too) to be too 'bitty'. There is also a new school of thought that cyclists should expect full use of the road and not just to be consigned to a lane. I'm not a cyclist myself (for reasons I won't bore you with), so I largely stayed out of this discussion. What I do know is that a CRISP analysis (the national cycle standard) was done as part of the project.

I am getting lots of feedback from cyclists - some positive and some negative. However, the feedback I'm getting from pedestrians is pretty uniformly positive - I am confident that more people are leaving their cars behind locally and enjoying the walk more.

The Tyndalls Park junction was the subject of long discussions. It's not in Cotham, so my engagement was limited. The main drive was twofold as I understand it: (a) to put in a light controlled pedestrian crossing across Tyndalls Park - this was previous very dangerous, and (b) to improve flow by limiting the turnings - ie. fewer cars stuck in the traffic flow waiting for a gap. I know it's achieved the former (lots of feedback), but I'm not convinced about the latter. I agree that it seems to have confused some motorists and that the signage is too small (although it is correct).

I think you've got a scale error with your funding! The islands cost thousands or maybe low tens - a bridge would be in the high hundreds of thousands or low millions (aside from the issue of how high it would have to be for buses and lorries).

On the 24hr bus lane, I think I remember the rationale for this (out of my patch again). I think it's that protected bus lanes with the red tarmac can only be 24hr in law. So, if you want the legal protection, you have to go for overkill on the hours. So much of traffic engineering is governed by national guidelines and instructions - it makes local solutions very difficult.

Anonymous said...

I thank you for your prompt response, Neil. You make some good points. I can understand the need to cross easily, the permeability if you like, but these flower beds do not have a place to stand - otherwise you are standing on the flowers. I really can not see how this improves the permeability at all, maybe I stand alone on this issue (though I stand on the side of the road, not in the middle!). I share the opinion that Whiteladies would be great to 'look' more human and less traffic driven but you can not escape the point that it is essential to the running of the city that traffic DOES travel along Whiteladies Rd. It's how it is managed sustaining pedestrian's and cyclists safety whilst keeping the city moving.
Taking the viewpoint that cyclists should be using the roads instead negates the point of any cycle lanes built across any city. I have no stats to hand but I would bet that cycle lanes improve safety for cyclists and encourage people to use environmentally friendly ways to get around. You need only look at any city in Europe to see the effectiveness of them.
Your confidence that more and more people are walking and not driving I think is unfounded. Traffic is this city is amongst the worst in any city in the world. Sure, the layout of this city doesn't help but I am truly surprised as to the decisions that get made here. It seems to get worse and worse. I think trying to frustrate the motorists of Bristol in to walking isn't solving any problem, it's just brushing it under the carpet.
Can I ask, what was the conclusion of the CRISP analysis? Appreciate you're not a cyclist but being a councillor means that you represent us all, no? I assume you are not blind but you would still argue on their behalf?

Tyndall's Park (not your patch, granted). If improving traffic flow was part of the issue, why not still let traffic turn left? There is no 'waiting for a gap'. It's how almost every junction works in the States (though turning right there obviously). The lack of adequate signage is not why people insist on turning anyway, surely that is quite obvious - it's because they disagree with what has gone on. Please don't waste more public funds on larger signs.
I concede if my estimations on building a pedestrian bridge are way out. If it would cost millions to build a pedestrian bridge across 2 lanes of traffic, then perhaps it is not justifiable. Maybe though, there has to be a point whereby the council just swallow the cost of something larger to put an end to a particular problem once and for all. Halting the flow of traffic with yet another set of cheaper zebra/pelican crossings isn't what Bristol needs. I think if Brunel were still around, he'd side with me :)

Lastly, the 24hr bus lane. Again not your patch but I think you are not saying so but agree with me on this issue. "If you want the legal protection . . ?" By that, I assume if the authorities want the legal protection/right to prosecute people for using it? If local residents were asked on this bus lane, it would been scrapped quicker than Betamax video tapes. It has clogged up a major route in to town from North Bristol in trying to make people use an unreliable, and in my opinion, overpriced bus service. Have you ever taken the bus in places like Manchester or Liverpool, it's a third of the price for a better service.

Neil Harrison said...

Anon (4th June) - happy to try to answer your questions... it's a welcome distraction from washing up and DIY! Do bear in mind, though, that this wasn't my project and I have issues with it too. My job is/was to try to make it work the best for local people.

There is very good data to show that car use is declining in the city and that cycling, walking and public transport use are rising sharply - for example, see

The islands assist traffic flow by making people confident to cross the road without using the lights. This means that the traffic is stopped much less often. They all have havens to break the crossing - I use them every day.

The CRISP report led to a reworking of various parts of the scheme to improve them for cyclists. It's part of the consultation process, rather than an after-the-event analysis.

I actually spent significant time on cycling issues. I spent an afternoon walking the entire length of Whiteladies Road with a walking and a cycling campaigner and a number of changes were made as a result of their comments. Most importantly, I spent a long time on the Cotham Hill junction, which had previously been extremely dangerous for cyclists.

I don't know the answer about cycle lanes. I know that there are two schools of thought among cyclists and I don't know which is right/better/safer/fairer. I travel widely in Europe and cycle lanes aren't as common as you think - I don't think I saw a single one in my seven city tour of Poland in 2010 and only two cities in my eight city tour of Spain and Portugal last year. Some cities (often those flattened in WWII) do have extensive networks, but most do not. I'm in Paris and Nantes next week - I'll let you know! Bristol has consistently been voted one of the best cities for cycling in the UK (e.g. this from last week :

I can't say why the left turn out of Tyndalls Park has been stopped with confidence. I seem to remember that it is because cars turning left in rush hour (when their way is blocked) cause a log-jam back on Tyndalls Park.

You do need to remember that works like these are not done on a whim. The people designing them are trained professionals and that there is a very lengthy design and consultation process - I was involved in several dozen meetings. The scheme took five years to bring into being and over 800 people had a say. It is inevitable that not everyone will be pleased with everything.

Stuart said...

Hi Neil.

Great to see some improvements being made and at last our street seems to have been cleaned as well, that being Westfield Park, also we had a great street party so many thanks to the organisers for this event as well, it was truely appreciated not only by the residence but also other locals as well.
One issue could we get the tree outside the old Morgan Beddoes to have the side shoots cut back as they obscure the road from the south making it dangerous to pull out onto WLR.
One other minor issue, when we used to cross the WLR to say go to the co-op there were double yellow lines which meant that you could cross in a straight line. With the new system we now either have go around cars or use the traffic lights at Apsley. This is difficult with children as it means almost jay walking up the road. As frequently cars do not observe the speed limit on WLR it is quite perilous with young children in tow. Just a couple of comments.
Regards Stuart.

Neil Harrison said...

Stuart - sorry for slow reply, but I've been away a lot recently. The trees will be getting a haircut in the near future - thanks for drawing my attention to it. I'm not following you about the crossing though. Right at the end of Westfield Park, there is a new crossing island that should make things easier as you can cross Whiteladies in two stages when there's a gap in the traffic. I use these (there about about a dozen new ones) all the time now as it saves using the light crossings. Apart from rush hour, there is usually time to nip the couple of metres to the island. If I've got the wrong end of the stick, let me know. Incidentally, the speed limit on Whiteladies is likely to fall soon when the 20mph zone is installed across the area. That will help!

Stuart. said...

Hi Neil

Many thanks for your reply. Yes the trees have been trimmed and they are a huge improvement we can now see cars coming up the road.

Regarding the crossing of the road, between Westfield Pk and HSBC, before the improvements, there was an island in the centre of the road, which was used as a crossing, on either side of WLR there were double yellow lines which meant that no cars obstructed the crossing and you could cross in a straight line, now we have cars parked opposite the crossings or yellow parts and you have to dodge around these cars, very difficult with kids and dangerous. The only other option is to walk all the way to the light crossing outside Good Food and back down again.