Thursday, 3 April 2008

Cycle path latest

Yesterday some councillors and officers from the West of England Partnership came to Westminster to talk about rail issues with the Minister, Tom Harris. The night before, the Council voted on two different amendments the cycle path issue. I also had an impromptu meeting in Parliament yesterday with Paul Smith, the Labour candidate for Bristol West, and Roger Berry, MP for Kingswood, and spoke to other Bristol Labour MPs in the division lobby. And I collared Rosie Winterton, the Minister of State who has primary responsibility for cycling issues and local transport within the DfT, and told her what was going on; I'm now going to follow this up in writing.
Let me be quite clear about my position on this: I told people from the West of England Partnership quite unequivocally that I would not be prepared to support any option which affected the current use and enjoyment of the cycle path in any way. That means not just if it physically impinges on the path, but also if it removes surrounding greenery, or destroys the tranquil atmosphere. I am pleased that they are now considering other options, but concerned that using the cycle path has not, it appears, been totally ruled out. I have also questioned whether this route - i.e. linking the science park with the city - should be the Partnership's first priority, when we have appalling congestion on, for example, the M32, the A4 and Fishponds Road. I'm told it's because 6000 new jobs are being created at the science park, and people will need to get to work - but will those people be coming from the city centre/ east Bristol? I'm told the current route between Kingswood and the Science Park is very heavily-used, and congestion will obviously get worse, but why does that mean a BRT link through Easton and Eastville is needed? I have to finish now, as I'm due for a spot of PPS-ing in the Chamber, but I want to make it clear that Paul and I will do our utmost to ensure that the cycle path option is not just shelved, but binned.


Martyn Whitelock said...

That's fantastic! So, everyone who wants the Railway Path preserved can unequivocally rely on both you and Paul Smith's voting to get the plans binned.

I have lived in East Bristol for over a decade and especially love this part of the city, particularly for its easy access to off-road cycling, let alone the other benefits of the Railway Path.

I know St George, Redfield and Church Road especially well but am not sure why Mark Bradshaw is hailing the Showcase 2 Route as a success since it is under used by cyclists who actually prefer the safety and greenery of the off-road route provided by the Railway Path.

As a cyclist I must emphasise I find sharing a transport route with buses particularly frightening and have had more problems with them than cars.

Could you speak with the other Labour councillors to try to get some general consensus between what most people agree - bikes and buses don't mix. Terry Cook, your City Champion for Cycling, actually stated this at the Council meeting on 1st April.

I'd be very interested to see your feedback here.

Kerry said...

Unfortunately Paul and I don't have votes on this; it's only councillors who do. I'm the MP for Bristol East, which currently includes Lawrence Hill and Easton wards, and Paul's the parliamentary candidate for Bristol West, which will include those wards after the boundary changes at the next election (although he was a councillor for a long time, and supported the cycle path when it first came into being). But we will do what we can to support the campaign, including lobbying those who do have the power to make this decision. I've certainly spoken to the councillors in Bristol East about the issue, and I'll be meeting with Cllr Bradshaw soon to discuss the various options.

I agree with your comments about the Showcase Bus Route through St George. (My office is on Church Road). It's a bit early to judge whether it's been a success as a bus route, but I can see why cyclists would prefer to use the cycle path. A Bus Rapid Transit Link would be a bit different, however, as the buses are guided along rails - they're more like trams really - so they wouldn't actually be a danger to cyclists, but that doesn't mean it would be desirable to have a BRT link running along the path, especially not if greenery had to be removed to accommodate it.

Martyn Whitelock said...

I'm disappointed! It feels like you are NOT "unequivocally" decided on the BRT issue.

I have twelve years of local knowledge of the wards that embrace Church Road and the Railway Path and I can unequivocally state that cyclists will always choose the off-road safety, beauty and clean air of the Railway Path.

Are you aware of the incident involving a bus and a pedestrian that occurred on Church Road in January 2008? That demonstrates shared transport routes are NOT the best idea.

Whilst it's a guided bus, the development would ruin the attraction and natural beauty for both cyclists and walkers. Besides, if I were going to crash I know I'd rather it were with a bush than a concrete wall!

Aside from cyclists, what about the safety of all the school children and Bristol Academy pupils? I recommend you leave your office one day and observe this for yourself.

Do you not agree this is a green corridor and should remain a green corridor?

Kerry said...

I'm not quite sure why you're disappointed - I think I've made my views very clear. I don't want the BRT to run alongside the cycle path, as it would, I'm sure, destroy the special nature of the path (e.g. by removing greenery and involving CPO of gardens, possibly houses, and by increasing noise and pollution in a very peaceful part of the inner city). However, one of the arguments used by those who support the BRT on this route is that opponents don't understand what a BRT is - that they think it would be similar to bus and cycle lanes running alongside each other on one road - it wouldn't, so arguments about danger to cyclists aren't the best way to oppose the plans ('though there is an issue about access to the cycle path across the guided bus lane, which could potentially be dangerous). So, in answer to your questions - I agree with you, I want to see it preserved as a green route - and I have seen the cycle path in use on many occasions. Sadly, on some of those occasions it's been used for prostitution and drug dealing - but that's another issue. It would be good to have a cycle path that could safely be used after dark too.

Kerry said...

PS I don't actually agree that the Labour amendment was designed to be a wrecking amendment, but I think you should take that up with councillors.

Martyn Whitelock said...

Just out of interest, how long have you known the history and culture of the Railway Path and do you actually use it other than turning up for a march? Also, do you mean the same Farouk Choudhury who joined the march only to vote against protecting the path two days later? As regards the safety of the Railway Path after dark…we don’t need BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) to solve that problem! As you know 9or should do) the local community and councillors have made some real positive change with this issue. Sometimes congratulations are in order rather than resurrecting and old debate.

Martyn Whitelock said...

p.s. Whether the Labour amendment was designed to be a wrecking amendment or not... that's precisely what it was.

Also, were the Labour councillors reading their statements word for word to push the Railway Path voting back to the end of the night when people were tired or wanting to go home?

Wrecking Amendment:
In legislative debate, a wrecking amendment (also called a poison pill) is an amendment made by a legislator who disagrees with the principles of a bill and who seeks to make it useless (by moving amendments to either make the bill malformed and nonsensical, or to severely change its intent) rather than directly opposing the bill by simply voting against it. (read more on Wikipedia)

By the way Kerry, please don't think I'm particularly anti-Labour as I'm not signed-up to any political party. I'm just against hypocrisy. I’m sure both you and Paul Smith are dedicated to protecting the Railway Path (on an emotive level) but the majority of us need to see this in legislation for it to now (and only) be believed.

Kerry said...

Again, I think you've misunderstood what I'm saying - I was certainly not suggesting BRT was the solution to the problems on the cycle path. Let me make it absolutely clear - although I think I have already done so, many times - I don't support BRT on or alongside the cycle path route. I was simply saying that the cycle path can be improved, by addressing issues like the drug dealing. And yes, I know the situation has got better recently, but I still get complaints, as do the police.
I don't want to speak for the councillors, but I'm pretty sure Faruk didn't vote against anything at the council meeting; I think he voted for one amendment, and abstained on another. But best take it up with him - and your other points about what happened at the council meeting.
And yes, I use the cycle path very occasionally - don't get much time for cycling!

Martyn Whitelock said...

Please, let's not fudge the issue as the things you mention affect the whole of Bristol - not just the Railway Path. Besides, it's the failings of the criminal justice system that are to blame as we all know these issues get moved from one location to another following higher Police activity. Maybe in a few month's time the problem will be back over in Eastville Park.

I'm very disappointed a leading figure as yourself has resurrected such a negative discourse... or doesn't it really matter because you live in Redcliffe?

I'm also sure most people would agree that if a councillor (such as Farouk Choudhury) votes in a wrecking amendment and abstains on another he is clearly not acting in line with his public display to protect the path.

Finally, I suggest you watch the Council Meeting webcast (1st April 2008) for a better understanding of the events that took place that evening, even if it is a little embarrassing for a Labour MP:

Simon Wolf said...


I'm not sure that Kerry is fudging the issue, it seems pretty clear to me that she doesn't support BRT on the path or near it.

Martyn Whitelock said...

Hi Simon - It’s this simple, Labour are NOT to be trusted on this issue until they are ALL united by the same UNEQUIVOCAL consensus that they bin any plans or ‘options’ to run Bus Rapid Transit down the already successful Railway Path and, more importantly, they are not going to waste money on a senseless public consultation. If you are not aware of the hypocrisy that occurred at the Council Meeting (1st April 2008) I recommend you watch the webcast.

Simon Wolf said...

Hi Martyn

But the MP in question certainly seems supportive of your position. I can't help but think you could be wasting your time arguing with someone who agrees with you, when you could be trying to win over someone who doesn't agree with you.

Martyn Whitelock said...

Dear Kerry. I understand you are clearly against any BRT plans on the Railway Path but think it might be good to clear up the confusion in the public domain by publishing the voting that took place, as David Blunkett does:,_brightside

In the interest of clarity, do you agree the public have the right to know how their councillors voted on the BRT amendments? I realise this is your own personal website but would you consider publishing this information as you are a key Labour figure in this debate?

Kerry said...

The Work for You site has that info for all MPs, not just Blunkett - although it's not always accurate, I've had to correct a couple of my entries in the past. The definitive record is Hansard, which is published daily.

I don't see why the Council can't do the same on its website - you should ask them. But I think it's for councillors, rather than me, to account for how they voted, and what their reasons were for doing so; they're all easily contactable.

I have to say, in all the conversations I've had with councillors over the past month or so, only two have shown enthusiasm for the BRT/ cycle path plans - the Conservative Cllr from Bris East, Barbara Lewis, and the Lib Dem Cllr from South Glos council, Pat Hockey. I suggest you ask them why they're so keen, and so dismissive of alternatives.

We need to be looking at ways to take the campaign forward, and it seems to me that winning the argument within the West of England Partnership, in which they both have leading roles (or at least were part of the WoE delegation to the Rail Minister a week or two ago) is key.

Martyn Whitelock said...

Hi Kerry. We're now in June and I'm just wondering what is the latest on the Railway Path? Please can you post an update on what you know.