Questions have been raised over the lack of public consultation before a cycle lane on a busy Bristol road was removed this summer. Bristol City Council controversially removed a cycle lane on Cheltenham Road, leading to more cars parked on the pavement.
While old traffic lights were replaced, the junction of Cheltenham Road and Ashley Road was refurbished. This work included removing a “sub-standard” cycle lane coming south down Cheltenham Road.
Shortly after the works were finished, several drivers were pictured parking on the pavement on Cheltenham Road, with the removal of the cycle lane reportedly making it easier to do so. Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has now faced questions on why the public was not consulted beforehand.
During a full council meeting on October 18, Green Councillor Emma Edwards said: “There was a meeting on September 30, 2021, where transport officers discussed the removal of the cycling lane with Cllr Don Alexander [cabinet member for transport].
“In the minutes it said they expected pushback from the cycling lobby, the changes might receive criticism and could be contentious when it goes out to consultation. But then it doesn’t appear that there was a consultation after that. So I’m wondering why there wasn’t a consultation?”
Mr Rees said the council sent out 2,000 letters about the changes to the junction, but only two people responded to the letter. However, this letter was not a public consultation, did not include any questions or invite people to respond, and was only sent to people living in the immediate area — despite Cheltenham Road being a main route into the city centre for many.
He said: “Did you respond to that letter? It’s important that if we’re on an issue, to be on top of the issue and know what’s going on. 2,000 letters have gone out, only two responses to that letter. And that’s where we need people to be really engaging in council processes.
“It’s important for councillors not only to claim to want to be more involved in decision-making processes in the council, but to actually turn up at the forums when decisions are being made and be involved in the processes that lead to those decisions.”
Cllr Edwards replied: “I didn’t get it because it’s not in my ward [Bishopston and Ashley Down]. My residents are upset because it’s their cycle corridor, but I didn’t get the letter. Have you actually read the letter? Because it was just saying there’s going to be some traffic work, there weren’t actually any questions.”
The mayor admitted he had not read the letter. Among other details, it stated that the refurbishment would include “improving inbound cycling facilities on Cheltenham Road by removing the cycle lane”.