Wednesday, 17 February 2010

And Quiet Flows the Avon

The River Avon tow path from Netham up to Hanham and Keynsham, subject of my previous post, is one of our local gems and deserves to be made more accessible to all. Comments on the last post drew attention to one of the worst discontinuities, the 300 metre length of Conham Road (shown red in map at end of post) that cannot currently be avoided when connecting the Netham - Crew's hole section with the Conham - Hanham section. There is a narrow footway but perversely it runs on the opposite side of the road to the tow path connections at either end.

Here we see a family attempting to cross from tow path to footway at the Conham end. They've moved as far as they can down the road to keep away from the blind corner to the right behind the photographer. Visibility in the other direction is better but still not very good, so the crossing manoeuvre remains risky despite all their precautions. Sadly their concern for their safety is not shared by the highway authority, Bristol City Council, who appear to have done nothing to resolve this problem.

Eventually a brief gap in the traffic gives our family a chance to cross, but they will be confronted by a similar problem just 300 metres further on to regain the tow path at Crew's Hole, hardly an incentive to enjoy the Avon Valley as a walker. So what's is to be done? Well, probably nothing unless Bristol City Council have a big change in attitude and 'priorities', putting safety before the right of motorists to treat our streets like motorways. But let's suppose that such a day arrives, what are the options?

The most obvious option is to switch the footway from the inland side of the road (below, looking towards Conham) to the riverside. At the same time the footway could be widened to say 3 metres to be suitable for shared use with cyclists on the same basis as the rest of the route from Netham to Hanham. However this would effectively reduce the carriageway (road) to a single track road so motor traffic would have to be managed differently.

Apart form a limited amount of local access Conham Road is mainly used as a rat run to avoid the A431 above the valley and as such there is little justification for maintaining the existing traffic volumes and speeds.  Since the section of Conham Road in question is just 300 metres one option would be to introduce traffic signals to allow shuttle operation one way at a time. Alternatively this section of could be made one-way to give sufficient space for a cycle/walkway on the riverside. Such measures need not be prohibitively expensive and could be implemented quite quickly on an experimental basis to establish their practicality.

So why have Bristol City Council, and Avon County Council before it, done nothing for more than 30 years? And more importantly, why will Bristol City Council continue to do nothing for at least the next 5 years, despite its pretensions to be a cycling city and to promote walking? May I suggest Institutional Motorism - a deep rooted prejudice in favour of motorised traffic at the expense even of the safety, let alone the convenience, of those that dare to travel on foot or bicycle?

View River Avon - Netham to Keynsham and Bitton in a larger map


woodsy said...

'Institutional motorism'. Thanks for the neologism Chris - and a thought-provoking post.

WestfieldWanderer said...

...Institutional Motorism - a deep rooted prejudice in favour of motorised traffic at the expense even of the safety ... of those that dare to travel on foot or bicycle...

Anonymous said...

How about something like this for cyclists, though the footway would still need to be moved:

Chris Hutt said...

Woodsy and WW, you're too kind. If you bang the keypad often enough you're bound to hit on something original from time to time.

Oddly a Google search suggests I may be the first person to have used the term "Institutional Motorism" on the (searchable) Internet which I find surprising. It's no more than an adaptation of the term Institutional Racism which has been around for almost 50 years!

Anon, your link shows cycle lanes either side of a road. In this case the requirement is above all to preserve the continuity and segregation of the Avon tow path so requires a large chunk of the highway, if not the whole highway, to be given over exclusively to walkers and cyclists.

That will leave too little width to retain two-way working for general traffic other than with passing places or shuttle signal controls. Passing places would be difficult to provide without expensive engineering works (either cutting further into hillside or building on river bank).

Paul said...

Move the footway to other side. Job done.

Chris Hutt said...

Not quite that simple Paul. A certain amount of 'footway' structure needs to be retained on the inland side to keep large vehicles clear of the retaining wall, probably around half the existing footway.

Also a new footway on the riverside would have to be of adequate width for shared use with cyclists since shared use would inevitably occur, given that the footway will be perceived as a continuation of of the shared tow path.

So there is no way that a two-lane carriageway can be retained unless some major engineering works were carried out such as moving back the retaining wall and/or building a retaining structure to allow a widening over the river bank.

If such costs were contemplated it might be more cost effective to switch the 'tow path' route to the south bank of the river via a couple of bridges to avoid the road section. However I think it far simpler and cheaper to reduce Conham Road to single-track width.

Paul said...

Hi Chris,

Sorry, that’s what I meant. A rather rushed explanation on my behalf.

I too did see the other side of the river with the path and thought about the possibility of using this? The furthest bridge north seems to be in an industrial estate and I gave up looking south so it would almost seem a good place to connect both sides of the river for non-motorised traffic? This could also open up the possibility of opening up the other side of the bank for use?

Sometimes the cheapest and simplest ideas aren’t always the best ones! :)

Chris Hutt said...

I agree that bridges across the river are generally a good idea to increase accessibility for walkers and cyclists and so encourage those modes.

However the river Avon is navigable and as far as Hanham lock it is both tidal and part of the Port of Bristol. This complicates the issue of building bridges. For one thing headroom for boats may have to allow for high Spring tides (note for example how high above the river the footbridge at St Anne's is).

There is also the question of whether local residents would welcome the increased accessibility provided by new bridges which they might feel could spoil their seclusion. Bridges may be less problematical away from existing residential areas such as that proposed (on my map) to link to Keynsham.

Paul said...

The design of the bridge would give the architects something to get their teeth stuck into then. This doesn’t have to be run-of-the-mill bridge; it could be a beautiful, inspiring and amazing bridge. One that people travel on the path to see and use.

Your point about the locals not wanting something that spoils their seclusion and serenity, but I’m pretty sure a one way system with traffic lights, queuing vehicles and possible increased lighting would do just that?

You could say a one way system would reduce the number of cars wanting to use that route but a 300m stretch of one way on a road possibly running 10miles, I don’t think would deter many motorists.

Rob, Crews Hole said...

As Chris says bridges across the river would be a problem - they would have to be high enough to give clearance to boats. Also you could not have many piers in the river as this would obstruct the flow.

But what about a bridge that doesn't cross the river? What is needed is a link from the river path at Crews Hole to the path at Conham. I am thinking of something like the 'Millennium Walkway' at New Mills in Derbyshire - see

Rob, Crews Hole said...

BCC carried out a consultation on this issue in Aug 2003, the front page of the leaflet can be seen here:

Nothing happened.

Chris Hutt said...

Rob, the New Mills Millennium Walkway is an impressive structure but the cost was £500k for about 125 metres. In the case of Conham Road a similar structure, presumably built over the river bank, would need to be more than twice as long and probably twice as wide (to accommodate cyclists) so might cost in excess of £2 million.

By comparison a scheme to reduce motor traffic to one lane and allocate the riverside half of Conham Road to walkers and cyclists might cost in the order of £200k. I think that sort of clinches it, don't you? Even if the money was readily available it would be better spent elsewhere along the Avon Valley route.

Thanks for the link to the 2003 consultation. I can't find anything else relating to it. We know that nothing came of it, but why? I'm surprised they thought keeping Conham Road open on a two-way basis was viable. The Council proposed narrowing the carriageway to 4.1 metres with wider passing places (for wide vehicles) at intervals.

I estimate that the overall width of Conham Road is about 6.2 metres with a footway of 1.2 metres and carriageway of about 5 metres. If there is a need to retain say 0.4 metres of the existing footway to provide clearance from the retaining wall then the remaining width is only 5.8 metres which could be divided in half to provide a wide foot/cycleway and single traffic lane each of 2.9 metres, barely wide enough for a bus or lorry.

Even allowing for some inaccuracy in my figures it's obvious that a 4.1 metre carriageway as proposed in the 2003 consultation would allow only around 1.7 metres for a shared cycle/walkway which is way below an acceptable standard. I suppose it may be possible to extend the proposed cycle/walkway a little towards the river bank, perhaps by removing the existing crash barrier, but hard to see how even 2.5 metres for the cycle/walkway could be achieved on that basis. Clearly a proper survey is required to determine the options.

Anonymous said...

Yet again - a prohibitively expensive solution to an easily surmountable minor inconvenience. If you can't cross a road and care about getting muddy, stay home.

Why don't do the council do more to enable us all to fly around with jet packs?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have to say that the other crossing back to the crews hole path when heading towards Netham Lock is even more dangerous that the one in the picture.

You have to listen to hear if cars are coming then edge out into the road just so you can see past the retaining wall on the corner. Its the only way to see if a car is coming round the blind bend.

I'd be surprised if there isn't daily near misses or worse at this crossing point.

Chris Hutt said...

Yes, the crossing at the Crew's Hole end is particularly dangerous. You can see that quite well from a driver's perspective with Google Street View - - You can see that the end of the left hand pavement, and anyone on it about to cross the road, is completely hidden by the bend. Likewise anyone on the pavement will be unable to see any approaching vehicles.

It's quite outrageous that such a situation should be tolerated. Why should people be expected to risk their lives just to enjoy a walk along the river? It really shows that Bristol is still in the dark ages when it comes to elementary considerations of road safety.

Anonymous said...

Ban cyclists from the road. Ban pedestrians from the road. Then there's no problem.

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, if you can't manage anything more constructive or informative than that I'll delete your posts (as I did earlier), just to spare others of having to bother with them.

Rob, Crews Hole said...


I agree the cost of a walkway probably makes it a non starter, but would be a great thing to have. Bridges would probably come in at a similar price.

I also agree with your comments about the width of the road suggested in 2003. I suspect that is why the proposals never got anywhere then.

So the best option may well be to make the road one way for this stretch. At the cost of only £200k this is now a saving of £1.8m on the alternative.

I would make the road permanently one way by allowing traffic to use it only heading away from Bristol rather than introducing traffic lights. The biggest inconvenience would be to the people living in Conham Vale who would have to drive up to Hanham to get into Bristol, unless they went by bike! The other problem would be the likely increase in traffic on other roads in the morning.

We walked along this stretch at lunchtime today - it was great the road up Conham Hill was closed for tree works so no traffic and no problem crossing.

On normal days we find it safest at the Crews Hole end to cross before the end of the pavement where SLOW is painted on the road.

Chris Hutt said...

Rob, I think you're right about the best option being one-way outbound.

Although a few local people at the bottom of Conham Hill might be inconvenienced, they, and many others, would have far less traffic coming through so would benefit in terms of their local environment and, I'm sure, increased property values.

A one-way arrangement avoids all the stopping, queuing and starting associated with shuttle signals, and would be simpler and cheaper to install. Traffic coming down Conham Hill would be able to turn near the entrance to the car park of Conham River Park. The more commercial end of Crew's Hole Road could still be accessed via Troopers Hill Road.

I think the whole area has great recreational potential. Conham Vale is delightful and a bridge to connect to Eastwood Farm on the south bank would open up a wide range of links. Maybe even
a couple of bridges to allow the riverside path to switch over to the Eastwood Farm side for a kilometre or so.

Anyway one step at a time. Clearly Conham Road needs sorting out first so let's try to get Bristol to have another look at that problem.

Anonymous said...

There has been talk of a bridge across to Eastwood at the opposite end from Beese's ferry.
Why a bridge across the river, why not two across the road. Surely a path could be made through the woods, higher than the road. That way just one up and one down, similar style to the one across the New Cut/Cumberland Road near Greenway Bush Lane. Pre-fabricated and comparatively quick/ inexpensive to install, certainly nearer £200k than £2m. it could also reduce commercial traffic height-wise. Don't think the residents of Troopers Hill Road would appreciate a diversion... they've been trying for height/weight/traffic calming measures for years.

Chris Hutt said...

The problem with bridges over roads is the headroom required, normally about 5 metres, in turn requires approach ramps to get from ground level to bridge height. At a gradient of 1 in 20 the ramps would need to be 100 metres long, even if the bridge itself is less than 10 metres span.

Apart from the cost of such long structures they are likely to be visually intrusive and unacceptable adjacent to housing. Besides the effort involved in climbing such ramps could be a significant deterrent to cycling.

Anonymous said...

Build a lift then. You can get half price on the other one you want to install next to Park Street!

LCRR said...

So the Bristol cycling community are putting forward with an idea they believe the local community want, purely based on the belief they find 300m of road not fit for cycling purposes?

But wait, what’s this? Promises of high house prices! An improved local environment! Why that’s okay then… where do I sign up!

Do you not think if the local community wanted this road one way or wanted the pavement moved, or wanted anything they would ask for it? Are you not able to comprehend that maybe this area is fine as it is? People moved here knowing the positives and negatives. Please, please, please do not try and force your actions through based on a stretch of cycling path you use maybe once or twice a month. We have to live here 7 days a week and are perfectly happy with the way it is.

Local Cotham Road Resident.

Chris Hutt said...

Local Cotham Road Resident, we're talking about Conham, not Cotham.

First neither I nor this blog represent the 'Bristol Cycling community', whatever that is. Views expressed here are mine alone (or those of the commenters).

Secondly there is no question of me forcing my views through. I have no power and little influence to do so. This is simply a forum for discussing ideas.

Thirdly Conham Road is not a private road but a public road that we all have rights to use safely. As things stand the right to use it safely on foot or by bike is compromised and the highway authority have a duty in law to address that.

Lastly what claim do you have to speak for local residents? There are no residents whatsoever on the section of Conham Road in question and as far as I can see from the map just one house that has an access directly onto Conham Road further south near Conham Vale.

LCCR said...

1. Sorry. Typo
2. Well it seems your views are well held by Councils. Looking over previous posts you might as well have a hot-line to Jon Rogers.
3. Well I hope I have put my view forward that myself (and certainly others) want nothing changed
4. Do you have any stats about accidents that have apparently taken place on this stretch of road? If it so unsafe then surely this would be highlighted somewhere in official figures?
5. I have never claimed to speak for any other resident. But I also know there are no groups, action groups, campaigns etc… asking for this change that you are. Surely says something?

Chris Hutt said...

LCRR, my views are certainly not "well held" by councils. Very few if any of the measures proposed elsewhere on this blog have been given serious consideration to my knowledge. There has been no response or interest shown on this particular issue either.

As for 'accident' stats, it's hardly necessary to refer to those to establish that crossing to the footway at each end of Conham Road is hazardous. I cannot believe that there is anyone who seriously believes otherwise. There can be little doubt that the present arrangements deter people form using the Avon Valley path in this area, which is perhaps the status you wish to preserve.

Whether there are as yet any groups or campaigns supporting changes is not the point. What matters is whether people can enjoy their right to use the public highway in safety. In Conham Road they cannot and that is not acceptable.

Jon Rogers said...

Don't worry Local Conham Road Resident, looking at my overflowing in-box, Chris is not the only one to "have a hot-line" :-)

I was a guest at the Bristol Cycling Campaign meeting on Thursday (thank you), and as those who heard me talk will know that even quite minor change in Bristol can be a slow and frustrating process.

Anonymous said...

1)A one way system running out of the city? That makes for one heck of a diversion on the inward/return journey for fun cyclists and cycling commuters! (or would they just ignore it like all other one-way-systems, thus putting themselves in danger and defeating the object)
2) Traffic lights? (ditto)
3) Why should getting off to climb a ramp deter? (especially as PDESTRIANS and families are most at danger, as illustrated, or is it only cyclists that are of concern?)
4)Why 2 lanes wide to accomodate both cyclists & pedestrians? If cyclists slowed down and used care couldn't they share? (they often manage on the rest of Bristol's pavements.)

Adam said...

I live relatively near this area and have travelled from the Netham along the path and got as far as the busy stretch of Conham Road once and turned back. I've never attempted it again. It would be quite a useful route for me for both leisure and commuting purposes if it wasn't crazily dangerous but I won't use it either on my bike or with a pushchair. As it is now, if I need to go that way I'll get in a car, which is a pity as the rest of the journey I'd use it for could easily be done without a car.

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, the idea is that cyclists would share a wide pavement on the river side and only motor traffic would be restricted to one-way (or shuttle) operation along Conham Road. The shared pavement would need to be about 3 metres wide (equivalent to one traffic lane, not two).

In effect Conham Road would be shared, half the width for motor traffic and half for non-motorised traffic. Surely a fair arrangement?

Magda said...

"It would be quite a useful route ... for both leisure and commuting purposes if it wasn't crazily dangerous but I won't use it either on my bike or with a pushchair."

Adam and Chris raise very good points and solutions.

Isn't this route even called "The Avon Walkway" by the Council? So they should make a bit of effort to make it so that people can actually use it for walking without risking life and limb.

And so far no-one has even mentioned the disabled or elderly who are also excluded from this so-called "walkway".

I'm sure many people have in fact raised this issue over many years, but have given up frustrated that nothing ever gets done to make this route accessible to everyone in the community and not just a minority of motorists as at present.

Anonymous said...

But I still don't see why on this short stretch both cyclists & pedestrians couldn't share one lane of walkway, (I didn't mean ROAD LANE as you well know!)thus reducing costs.
An 'island' at both ends to funnel vehicles and a white line seems to work elsewhere in the city. With adequate signage should be ok. (Motorists seem to cope with 'single lanes' at the Bristol end (even on dodgy bends) quite well without signs).
Sadly I can see this continuing to tarmacing and lighting the track along the river as per sugestions for B&B cycletrack through Easton. That will mean creation of vehicular access points required for maintenance &c. and bang goes your 'quiet walking/cycling route'.

Anonymous said...

4)Why 2 lanes wide to accommodate both cyclists & pedestrians? If cyclists slowed down and used care couldn't they share?

Because then motorists aren't penalised in some way which is the underlying aim of anything suggested on this blog. You'll never get anyone to admit it though.

Anonymous said...

But it wouldn't just be motorists. It gets busy during commuter times and they're not detered by the narrowness, sometimes single-lane nature of the road, or the jams at the Netham end. This road travels mostly, though not exclusively, through an industrialised area.
A oneway system would push all that traffic onto Bryants Hill, Dundridge Lane, Nibletts or Troopers Hill, possibly Beaufort Road. All of which are (already) narrow rat-runs and predominently residential, and well used by other cyclists. Seems a lot of disruption and expense for a couple of users.
Why not tether two boats with oars chained to them (or cyclists who run redlights! sort of community service), one at either end, to 'shuttle round' the dodgy bit?

Tree fellas said...

Interestingly, in cities/towns like Cambridge, the cycling campaigners have realised that their adversarial relationship with the council changes when there is an agenda to promote cycling & to put some new & improved routes in place (just as most of us, barring certain erstwhile cycling campaigners who now need to earn a living, can see today).

In Cambridge, campaigners have started working together with the council. The problem with all of this in Bristol is that local residents don't necessarily want what CH and others promote, but this blog's whole raison d'etre is to 'fight' the council, rather than admitting that something can succeed after 30 years of claiming that everything is someone else's fault. Admit it, your game is over.

Chris Hutt said...

Tree fellas, you seem to be under the illusion that there is now "an agenda to promote cycling" in Bristol. I don't see it. Cycling City is hardly credible as such.

The promotion of cycling would require in the first place an understanding of what is wrong with the status quo, which we manifestly don't have, as evidenced for example by the Council's failure to recognise the need to address the intolerable situation on Conham Road.

The promotion of cycling would also require a major shift of resources towards that mode, which we also do not have. The Cycling city allocation is just £11 million or so of new money which pails into insignificance when compared to the scale of the investment required or the scale of the investment being made for motorised modes of transport, including £100s of millions for new roads and road widening.

You also presume that the Council would be willing to work with campaigners. They never have in the past and the evidence remains to the contrary, as can be seen for example by their unwillingness (with the occasional exception of Jon Rogers) to engage in discussions on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Tad disingenuous in your last paragraph as evidenced by the B&B cycletrack and the plethora of unused cycle-lanes. Council Officers can only engage the public officially through their Press office. It's part of their terms of employment. This probably doesn't include Blogs.

Maybe, with the local elections on the horizon, you should stand for councillor on the "I will make cyclists contribute directly to the city infrastucture by means of a local cycletax." You could also promote some kind of insurance, other than just covering theft. This should give you a more formal/influential voice.

They may then get more sympathy with their whingeing.

Chris Hutt said...

The creation of the Bristol section of the Railway Path was not an example of the council working with campaigners. Rather it was an example of campaigners having to goad the council into action. I personally put many months of unpaid work into that project and there was never a sense of working 'with' the council and the council have never acknowledged the value of the work put in by campaigners.

There's nothing to stop the council engaging with public debate, whether on blogs like this or elsewhere, if they wanted to. Perhaps individual officers cannot be trusted to do so on their own initiative but it is surely possible to make arrangements for appropriate channels of communication.

Cyclists already contribute towards infrastructure on much the same basis as anyone else. In fact it could be argued that they typically pay more tax per mile of road use than motorists, who are massively subsidised by the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

"Council Officers can only engage the public officially through their Press office."

Not true as evidenced by Jon Rogers' twitter activities and participation in many comments boards and numerous regular comments on blogs.

~ Valerie

Anonymous said...

"I will make cyclists contribute directly to the city infrastucture by means of a local cycletax."

Business as usual then as cyclists already contribute through regular taxes the same as everyone else. IN fact they should currently have some sort of rebate for distance travelled by bike rather than oter tax draining options that they pay for such as maintainance of roads worn and torn by heavy vehicles. This is especially true for the large proportion of us who aslo own cars and choose to not sue them the majority of the time and cycle or walk instead.

That's not even starting to take into account the other ways in which large amounts of vehicular activity in inner cities costs councils and the NHS huge amounts above the income that car use generates for them.

This debate has been done to death many times before.

~ Valerie

Chris Hutt said...

Valerie, thanks for your comments but in fairness to anon I must point out that Jon Rogers is not an "officer" of the council but an elected Member (and also an Executive Member of the Cabinet).

Officers are those who are employed by the council to advise on and implement the decisions of the elected members (councillors). It is inevitable that they are restricted from speaking publicly in that capacity unless it is with the approval of the council. Otherwise personal opinions expressed by officers would be mistaken for council policy.

There's probably nothing in practice to stop officers commenting anonymously and I expect some do from time to time, but of course they cannot reveal their council connections without their comments being seen, rightly or wrongly, as representative of the council's views.

Anonymous said...

There could be a new Government department - "Blog response department". I think there might be some complaints about that one! They would merely be accused of spinning! Blog response would take up 90% of their time!

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, the council already have a press and PR dept, including a new officer who's brief is 'new media' or suchlike, so including stuff like Twitter and blogs.

There aren't that many blogs dealing with Bristol City Council related issues so it need hardly be an onerous task to monitor and respond where appropriate. Jon Rogers seems to do all that single-handed along with all his other duties, so it can be done by just one person.

As to why the council should do it, isn't it simply a matter of taking whatever opportunities exist to communicate with the people on whose behalf the council operate? Blogs may well offer a very cost effective way compared to printing hundreds of thousands of copies of a 'free' newsletter (Our City) that hardly anyone reads.

Anonymous said...

I understand from one of the Bristol Council Transport Officers that was at the St George Neighbourhood Partnership meeting in November 2009 that they are looking at this section (from Crews Hole to Conham River Park) as part of the one of the Bristol Cycling City projects although I don't know any further details.

Anonymous said...

Mr Hutt..take your proposal to a national level..who and which blogs should the local and national government comment on? Bloggers are agenda driven and mostly people seeking status and often just opinions with little evidenced based thinking. Thankfully I don't think a blog response unit will be set up soon.

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, the motivation of bloggers is immaterial. All that matters is whether a particular blog represents a worthwhile and cost effective way of engaging with the public.

It's pretty clear from the comments so far that a lot of people are interested in this issue. We know that the council have looked at this before (2003) but we do not know what conclusion they then came to. Such information would be helpful. Wouldn't it make sense for someone from the council to supply that information?

Anonymous said...

Not via unaccountable blogs. Engage yes but not via blogs.

Chris Hutt said...

Unaccountable? That's a strange accusation coming from someone who hides behind anonymity.

Anonymous said...

My name is Dave, does that make any difference. However, I do not expect local government to respond to my comments. If I write a blog about health provision in Bristol, I have the right to expect the council to comment on it.

Chris Hutt said...

It's not a question of entitlement. The council has a duty to engage with the citizens it purports to represent. That means going out into the public realm and engaging with people where they are, particularly where they discussing relevant issues.

The council already spend a great deal of our money attempting to do just that, but some of it is of doubtful cost effectiveness (e.g. Our City newspaper). However they still haven't engaged with 'new media' like Twitter and blogs.

So if there is evidence of a blog having a significant number of followers, commenters or visitors then why not use it? Jon Rogers obviously thinks it's the way to go and I think most of us would credit him with having taken public engagement to a new level.

Bristol Dave said...

Anonymous said...
Because then motorists aren't penalised in some way which is the underlying aim of anything suggested on this blog. You'll never get anyone to admit it though.

Chris Hutt said...
Cyclists already contribute towards infrastructure on much the same basis as anyone else. In fact it could be argued that they typically pay more tax per mile of road use than motorists, who are massively subsidised by the taxpayer.

QED, frankly.

Chris, I have already posted the figures and sources to show that far more is taken from motorists in motoring-related tax than is spent on the infrastructure they (and also cyclists) benefit from. The government takes £45 billion pounds in revenue in direct motoring taxes - £23.7bn from Fuel Duty, £5.0bn in VED, £6.9bn from VAT on vehicles, £6.8bn from VAT on fuel, and £2.6bn in Company car tax. Yet it spends just £7.5bn on the roads, and this spending is entirely taken from motoring taxes (and indeed, why shouldn't they, given that there's still a £38bn surplus).

You however claim that motorists are "subsidised" by the government, but can provide no figures, proof, or any evidence other than your own heavily-biased opinon and conjecture.

When it comes to this particular claim about motorist "subsidy", I must ask you to step up with facts and figures to support this ridiculous assertion, or shut up, frankly. I'm sick and tired of reading such unfounded and unsupported nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Just an example: if an officer were to engage on this issue say. The response might be "this project is being discussed but currently not a priority due to budget constraints". You or others would ask what projects are priority. The officer would then have to go and find all that information out. This would take 2 hrs plus then get sign off from the political representatives. This response would then generate more questions from yourself. I would imagine an officer could spend a day working on this post alone. This could be estimated as £80 of labour time. Now extend that to say 10blogs in the future. This method would be very expensive in a cost per contact. One final point... How many people does a blog have to have to gain engagement. How would the council know.

Anonymous said...

@ Bristol Dave "The government takes £45 billion pounds in revenue in direct motoring taxes...£5.0bn in VED...£6.9bn from VAT on vehicles..."

Yes and many of us pay these and then choose to get on bikes, so why not have some of the infrastructure investments made for us? We are actually saving on wear and tear on road surfaces and numerous other things.

"Yet it spends just £7.5bn on the roads" There are lots of other costs to maintaining and altering highway networks, not to mention the added cost of inner city problems, added health costs etc that car use can generate in cities. You're being very very selective n your view of what driving costs us taxpayers.


Chris Hutt said...

Bristol Dave,

As you know very well motoring taxes do not pay for roads any more than any other tax, which makes your argument invalid at a stroke.

Motoring taxes constitute about 5% of all tax revenues and therefore provide about 5% of all expenditure funded by general taxation. So even if expenditure on roads was entirely from general taxation 95% of it would be funded by non-motoring related taxes.

However a substantial part of the expenditure on roads comes more directly from Council Tax so the link to motoring taxation is even weaker than 5%.

We do not pay for road use at the point of use and do not pay in relation to the value of road space/time that we consume. At peak times in congested areas road use is very valuable yet remains freely available, so those using road space at such times are highly subsidised.

Likewise on-street parking is mostly made available free of charge when in many areas it is a valuable resource. This represents another major subsidy of motor vehicle ownership and discriminates against those who don't own vehicles.

You can reject all of that but you cannot disprove any of it because it is simply the truth.

Anonymous said...

"At peak times in congested areas road use is very valuable yet remains freely available, so those using road space at such times are highly subsidised."

"Likewise on-street parking is mostly made available free of charge when in many areas it is a valuable resource. This represents another major subsidy of motor vehicle ownership and discriminates against those who don't own vehicles."

1) Does this apply to bus & cycle lanes?

2) Sounds like an excellent premise for 'privatisation'. (As in residential street parking in parts of the city)
Wonder how much you would suggest be charge for cycle lane usage?

Bristol Dave said...

Yes and many of us pay these and then choose to get on bikes, so why not have some of the infrastructure investments made for us? We are actually saving on wear and tear on road surfaces and numerous other things.

Of course, I've never said that infrastructure investments should not be made for cyclists and I don't have a problem with this happening, and as a part-time cyclist I support it. I just find Chris's assertion that motorists are "subsidised" by the government personally offensive given how much money I have to pay just in various taxes and duties to be able to drive my car.

As you know very well motoring taxes do not pay for roads any more than any other tax, which makes your argument invalid at a stroke.

And as you know very well, whether the taxes are technically hypothecated or not is purely symantics and completely irrelevant as taxation in general in the UK is not hypothecated - the basic fact is that motorists put far more into "the Treasury pot" (in the form of motoring taxes) than they "take out" (in the form of road spending). So this percieved "subsidy" CANNOT by definition exist, except in your head.

At peak times in congested areas road use is very valuable yet remains freely available, so those using road space at such times are highly subsidised.

This demonstrates such a basic lack of understanding of, well, everything, I barely know where to start. It's incredible how much you can distort reality to fit your anti-car arguments. By this logic, cyclists recieve even more subsidy from the government than motorists, as they are using the road space at the same time, but are not having to pay any form of tax or duty to be there.

You might want to educate yourself a bit Chris:

The concept of not charging someone for something, even though theoretically you could, is NOT a subsidy. Not by any accepted definition of the term "subsidy".

You just (incorrectly) use the term because it fits rather nicely with your anti-motorist agenda.

If it were a subsidy, then pretty much everything we do in our day-to-day lives that we're not charged for but could be would be "subsidised". Get a grip!

Chris Hutt said...

Dave, you need to think about subsidy in terms of function rather than a narrow, dictionary definition.

Subsidy is typically a payment made by government (and hence by taxpayers) to reduce the cost of a product or service below what it would be if subject only to market forces.

In the case of road access we have a commodity which has a market value, or at least would have if a market were allowed to operate. If the market rate were charged there would be no congestion to speak of because supply and demand would match.

Road access is clearly most valuable at peak times. Let's take an example of a 3 mile urban commute by car at peak times. What is that worth? £5 a day perhaps? Clearly more than 50p and less than £50, so something in the order of £5 a day sounds about right.

Bristol could in theory charge the tens of thousands of motorists (and cyclists too) clogging our roads for road access at that sort of level, producing an annual income measured in tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions.

Instead the council make road access freely available, so foregoing the potential income. Consequently they must find that income by other means, namely by increased council tax. The council tax payers therefore have to pay tens or even hundreds of millions more than would otherwise be necessary. So the council tax payer is massively subsidising the car commuter.

A similar level of subsidy is received by motorists taking advantage of free on-street parking. Taken together these add up to quite extraordinary levels of subsidy for the car.

Bristol Dave said...

Yes, but Chris, isn't it funny how you only recognise "subsidies" in the incorrect sense of the word when it comes to motorists?

The dictionary definition is not "narrow", it is the definition, simple as that!

The concept of not charging for something, when in theory you could, is not a "subsidy". This is a plainly ridiculous concept and you clearly only (incorrectly) use this term because you can make it sound like somehow motorists are being given preferential treatment as they're not being charged for everything that theoretically they "could" be charged for - even though motorists are one of the most heavily-squeezed groups of people in this country when it comes to tax take and charges. This fact is widely acknowledged by almost everyone and often accepted by a lot of people, especially environmentalists.

Think of all the things you do in life that in theory you "could" be charged for, but that you're not. All these things are not "subsidised", by the (accurate) dictionary definition or any other.

You ignore the fact that motorists pay a huge amount more in tax revenue every year than they cost - these are cold, hard facts backed up with official government figures - and instead try to make out that somehow motorists are being "subsidised" by Council Tax payers - something you can't substantiate except with your bizarre unqualified statements on road "market value". I've provided proof to back up my assertions (which are also clearly backed up by common sense), and you have provided none. Honestly, what planet are you living on? I've never read such bollocks.

And for goodness sake, learn what a subsidy is, and stop incorrectly using the term to benefit your own agenda.

Bristol Dave said...

And as for wanting to charge motorists for the "market value" of using the road, would you therefore presumably advocate charging motorists the "market value" of the fuel, instead of the 70%(ish) duty + VAT that is currently charged, and more than makes up for it?

Thought not.

Chris Hutt said...

Dave, most people pay far more tax than they cost. Otherwise where would all the bureaucrats get their pay and pensions?

As I pointed out before, specific motoring taxes only account for around 5% of total tax revenues, so you are grossly exaggerating their significance for most people.

These taxes are not hypothecated to any particular purpose so the amount spent on roads is immaterial. You wouldn't expect the amount of tax on alcohol and tobacco to correspond to the expenditure on say the health and police services, would you?

Bristol Dave said...

The fact that these taxes are not hypothecated to any particular purpose, and in fact, that pretty much all taxation in the UK is non-hypothecated, is also the reason your "subsidy" argument falls down. Motorists pay more into the non-hypothecated "pot" than they take out (and let's not forget that they still have to pay all the other taxes everyone else does; Council, Income, VAT) - fact - so they can't, by definition, be "subsidised".

Chris Hutt said...

Let's look at it another way Dave. Let's suppose for the sake of argument that fuel duty is hypothecated to pay for road use. That's around 60p per litre (very rough figures), and a typical car does say 10 miles per litre (45 mpg) in urban driving, so such a motorist pays around 6p per mile.

But peak hour urban road space is worth vastly more than 6p a mile, more like £1+ a mile, so the peak hour urban motorist is only paying 6% or so of his road use costs, with the remaining 94% being paid by the taxpayer as a subsidy.

So for practical purposes the motorist pays next to nothing for peak hour road use. Outside peak times and in rural areas the picture may be different since the supply and demand equation will look very different.

Bristol Dave said...

But Chris, all your arguments (including the "subsidy" one) are based on a completely incorrect assertion that worth = cost.

It just doesn't.

The road (by your rather unqualified calculations) might be "worth" £1 a mile (though I'd counter that that is just a figure you've pulled from your arse) but there isn't an actual cost of that amount, is there?

So where you say that "the remaining 94% being paid by the taxpayer as a subsidy.", it's not actually being paid, is it?

We know how much is spent on the roads each year, this is the true cost and it's more than covered 5 times over by the revenue collected by motorists.

You're inventing "costs" to be "subsidised" that simply don't exist. The "costs" don't exist, and neither does the "subsidy".

Just because something isn't charged for that in theory could be (which could include most things in our lives, not just the road) that doesn't mean it is a "cost", and nobody (it seems) but you treats it as one.

Can you imagine if governments or companies started treating "charges that theoretically could exist but don't currently" as "costs"? They would be laughed out of office.

Chris Hutt said...

But you're the one confusing value or worth with cost. I may have a product to sell that costs me just a few pence to make or buy, but the value of that product is what people are prepared to pay for it at a given time and place, which might be many times what it cost me.

I would have thought you would understand that much about economics. It's about supply and demand. If demand for my product exceeds the number available then the value increases dramatically. Conversely if demand falls below the number available then the value falls, possibly even below my costs.

The same principle applies to urban road space. At peak times its value rockets and, in the absence of a sensible pricing mechanism, the result is massive queues (congestion) as people pay in time instead of cash, just as with any other commodity.

Congestion is our version of soviet style bread queues. I'm genuinely surprised that you favour such a system over the market economy.

Bristol Dave said...

I'm not confusing value and cost. If anything, you are! You seem to be claiming that a real, measurable, cost (i.e. a loss) exists when a government doesn't charge people for something that theoretically they could do, and that somehow the "tab is picked up" by taxpayers (i.e. a "subsidy") - this simply isn't true.

Just because the "value" of something is high, if the true cost (however low or high it is) is covered then there is no financial loss, even if you're not charging the value of it, providing you're not a business trying to make profit, which the government isn't (or shouldn't be). This is the case with roads - the value of road space you claim is high (though I'd counter you don't really know the true value any more than I do as the market decides that) but the actual cost of the road is not only low, but is met many times over by revenue taken from motorists.

Therefore, as there is no financial loss in operating the roads, how can a "subsidy" exist?

Tod said...

Sorry Dave, who’s talking nonsense? The usual anonymous ranter who doesn’t ever listen to what other people are saying, and seems to lack understanding of even the most basic facts.

Of course Council officers engage with the public other than through the press office. I’ve met and talked with many of the more junior ranking over the years in various situations. The problem is that they have to work within very tight political constraints, not to mention being pushed hither and thither by those higher up in the hierarchy. The upper echelons have their own priorities, which are not the same as the public’s priorities.

With regard to highways, as has been pointed out by Valerie and Chris, Councils - that is to say council taxpayers plus additional grants from central government taxpayers - in fact pay a large share of the direct costs of car transport. In addition there are many other huge costs that are passed on by motorists as externalities.

Cotham Road. Very sparsely populated road. Surely there’s only one house actually on it? There’s a lot of missing the point going on. Transport routes, by definition, are for the travelling public. A route described as the Avon Walkway surely ought, as a minimum, to enable people to walk safely, in this case between Crews Hole and St. George through to Conham and Hanham. But for a long while now people cannot journey on foot along Conham Road and be confident of their safety because of being confronted by having to cross the road twice in extremely hazardous circumstances due to blind corners and speeding motorised traffic at either end.

The point is very simple, so please don’t keep trying to throw up a smoke-screen of different issues to try and sidetrack this thread.

Chris Hutt said...

Just to avoid confusion, I think Tod's comment is directed at 'Dave' who commented earlier as Anon and not at Bristol Dave, although I may be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Interesting... on the value=usage scale cycletracks could be free. The point is finding a way to ameliorate the walkway problem in this location. Simply closing the road in either/or direction, as suggested, just moves the traffic problem onto residential streets.
Land purchase may be required to divert the cycle/walkway away from the road or some other means, like bridges across the road or river or 'floating sections', to bypass the section.
That's what needs to be addressed, not who pays for it as 'we' all will in some shape or form.
Compulsory purchase of land on the inland side of the road (the council seems quite good at this for road schemes) and widen the road sufficiently to accomodate a safe walkway on the riverside.
Maybe than someone may be stimulated to do something about the width/condition of the actual walkway in places (see blogs elsewhere).

Rob, Crews Hole said...

Good to see we've got back to Conham Rd.

The land on the 'inland' side of the road rises very steeply - Dundridge Park is at the top. Some of the land was also used for tipping by Butlers Tar Works and is therefore badly contaminated. Widening the road for the full length on that side would probably cost more than my Millennium Walkway idea.

A floating walkway is a good idea but it would have to be built to deal with floods so again it would be expensive. There is a video on You Tube at which shows the flooding in Feb 2009.

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for posting that video link Rob. That's really quite impressive. Happy coincidence that the video caught a cyclist on the road and being overtaken. You get a pretty good impression of how fast people drive along there too.

As you say widening the road on either side would be very expensive due to the engineering works required.

Anonymous said...

So, to sum up:
Bridges are off-putting for cyclists.
Road closure merely relocates the traffic problem.
Either direction one-way-system is impracticable (as above).
'By-passes' or road widening are too expensive.
Zebra crossing would be badly (unsafely, too near bend) located.