When Jubilee street parties took place over the extended bank holiday weekend last month, one street in Bristol used the occasion to highlight the gaps in the road which locals say are dangerous for cyclists and make access difficult for wheelchair users and those with visual impairments.
Although the highlight of the day itself was the Jubilee Biryani, a recipe put together by Tehseen Majothi, head chef and co-owner of the Sweetmart, there was a message on St Marks Road, marked by blue, red and white shapes. The markings were there to highlight all the potholes in the road.
St Mark’ Road Community Group has now submitted a petition to Bristol City Council, demanding action on improving the road’s infrastructure. The petition states that “there has been no money spent on fixing the potholes or the street furniture for over 30 years and the cycle lane is not marked clearly and has become unsafe.”.
The city council says it is “vital” that any project enhances the diversity and vibrancy of St Marks Road and hopes to have further conversations with residents’ groups over the summer.
St Marks Road Community Group was born out of a strong opposition to the council’s proposals to shut off the road to vehicles several years ago. Their campaign against the road closure, which they claimed would force businesses like the popular Sweetmart to relocate, was successful in stopping the closure.
After several consultations, the group worked with UWE architecture students to show how the funding could be used to create a shared space infrastructure which would make the road more accessible for wheelchair users and cyclists. The group and the local councillors who had been working together on alternatives to a road closure were disappointed to discover earlier this year that the funding had been completely withdrawn.
In the same year St Marks Road was voted the best street in Britain, they were awarded funding for infrastructure improvements. That was in 2019 and three years later, they are still waiting for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding.
Abdul Malik, co-chair of the St Marks Road Community Group said: “St Marks Road is a beacon of hope and equalities representing all that the city is proud of. The continued side-lining of requests to fix the potholes and invest in the street signage and furniture just shows how the council wants to treat us.
“The jubilee was celebrated in a fabulous way; we decorated the street and the potholes too, our campaign to fix the street will now build momentum, we want the council to act now to at least resurface the road.
“Before the pedestrianisation debate there seemed to be money for things to happen, however since that was challenged by us and we were successful in demonstrating it may not be the best fix for our street, the council has now subjected us to continued ignorance. No officers have come to meet with us about the future, no politicians except for our councillors want to help.
“No one has invested anything in the last 30 years in the street yet they all want to be part of the success and refer to it in their speeches.
“We will now make people know nationally what we are going through and ask for help from elsewhere, we will be starting a petition online for the people who use the road to support our campaign. We have self sustained the success of this road, as a group of traders, residents and activists we demand action to resolve the issues on the “best street in the country”.
A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said “In 2019 £60,000 of investment was committed to deliver a project on St Marks Road to improve air quality, safety and encourage walking and cycling through highway and pavement upgrading. During the pandemic we prioritised temporary active travel projects supported by central government funding instead of CIL schemes.
“This scheme needs detailed design and then build out. Proposals for the project are currently being considered but they are at an early stage and will require detailed conversations with the community to ensure the designs fit the local needs.
“It is vital that any project further enhances the diversity and vibrancy of St Marks Road which was celebrated when it was awarded best high street in the UK in 2019/20. We hope to start having these discussions again in the summer.”
To view the petition please click here.