Most days, the Portway serves as a major arterial route into Bristol. Whilst people can, and do, cycle and run alongside the road, the experience isn’t exactly one which befits the stunning scenery with which we are blessed.
This changed on Sunday when people across Bristol were able to enjoy the unique beauty of the Avon Gorge in a car-free state.
Following in the footsteps of those hardy souls who had completed the half marathon, the volunteers responsible for previous Peaceful Portway events came together to stage a spectacular event.
Basking in a beautiful early autumn afternoon, more than 250 people turned out on a fantastic range of bikes to follow the Bristol Cycle Festival‘s Carnivelo down the Gorge.
We stopped along the way to enjoy the view, take a breather and talk to the various organisations along the route, including the Gurt Lush Choir singing in the tunnel underneath the Suspension Bridge.
The target for most was the Avon Wildlife Trust’s fantastic Bennett’s Patch half way down the Gorge.
My three-year-old has attended the Trust’s wildchild sessions there over the last 12 months and this site is a real gem, allowing you to learn about the Trust’s work almost without knowing the traffic thunders past within metres of the site.
What made this event for me was the range of people and bikes (plus scooters) that were out. Even rollerblading dogs.
The chance for kids to get out on their bikes, learning to ride in safety was a sight to give you faith in the future of transport and health in this great city.
But what next? Sure, let’s do this more often. Monthly would be ace.
But what really excites me is to look at how we might facilitate everyday use of the Gorge for walkers and cyclists in an environment separate from the highway.
In 2015, Stride Treglown launched 52 Big Ideas for Bristol and number 19 was this very concept, decking the Portway to ensure it still serves vehicles but introduces a new way to enjoy the space.
Events like Sunday’s, and crucially the support that it gained, have prompted us as a practice to build on this further with partners including Sustrans and Avon Wildlife Trust.
So, watch this space. Perhaps Bristol will one day have its own answer to New York’s High Line, providing a real opportunity to encourage greater cycling take up and enjoy the wider health benefits that it brings.
Mike Harris is a town planner working for Stride Treglown. He is a firm believer in two wheels being the best transport in cities.
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