The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us see the world. When lockdown started, people told me they were noticing were the benefits of quieter roads. They appreciated easier walking and cycling, less noise and cleaner air.
As roads fill up once more with cars, we should think about keeping some of these benefits, by opening our roads to pedestrians and cyclists and making our neighbourhoods more liveable.
Many major European cities are years ahead of us on these issues. Markets fill roads that were once jammed with traffic. Cafes, bars and restaurants have large outdoor sections due to wider pavements. Cities feel like they are designed around people, not cars.
When we look at planning our city, we should not view eliminating through traffic as closing roads but as opening roads up to people, businesses, and communities.
I am glad that the council are pedestrianising the Old City, closing Bristol Bridge to traffic, installing new bike lanes and widening pavements.
Personally, I hope the council makes these changes permanent as part of a wider transformation of Bristol’s transport system, including mass transit.
I am particularly excited by Bristol City Council’s recently unveiled plans to speed up transport works to make it easier for us to walk, cycle and take public transportation throughout our city. These proposals will prevent through traffic using these roads by closing one end.
This will give local businesses and residents more space to use as well as making it safer to walk and cycle.
I know some businesses are also concerned about how people will access their premises when roads are closed to cars. This needs to be resolved – and I encourage anyone who has a strong opinion on this to feed into the council consultation. This will take place before any work begins.
The roads in my constituency of Bristol West under consideration are:
- St Mark’s Road, Easton
- Clifton Village
- Beaufort Road/Victoria Avenue, Redfield
- Mina Road, St Werburgh’s
- Cotham Hill
- Redcliffe Mead/Prewett Street, Redcliffe
- Overton Road, Bishopston
- Picton Street, Montpelier
- Woodland Road, Clifton
If you live on these roads, please engage with the consultation. I want you to imagine living in a Bristol where people can easily walk and cycle, children have more room outdoors to play, and our businesses and communities can use outdoor space in the summer months.
Opening our roads to pedestrians may also break down some inequalities in our city. For many disabled people or people using pushchairs it can be a real challenge to navigate our often-narrow pavements, made worse by pavement parking.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a garden or outdoor space. For people living in cramped flats the lockdown has been particularly hard.
We can make life in Bristol fairer by opening our streets to everyone who calls them home.
The council’s plans are a good start and I look forward to the discussion across Bristol. If you would like to engage with the council’s plans, please add your comments to the interactive mapping tool.
If, like me, you want to make our neighbourhoods more liveable then please support the new Liveable Neighbourhoods for Bristol campaign. I am excited to support this campaign and see where it goes from here.
Thangam Debbonaire is the MP for Bristol West. This article was originally published as a blog on her website, www.debbonaire.co.uk
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