'No new benefits to cyclists from BRT link' - campaigners
THE inspector at the heart of the public enquiry into the proposed BRT link donned his crash helmet and took a bike ride along the controversial route.
Christopher Millns, who has been hearing evidence from both sides of the argument over the last few weeks, got on his bike to see the proposed £50-million guided bus route from a cyclist's perspective.
After hearing six weeks of proof from promoters and objectors at the enquiry in Armada House, Mr Millns will eventually produce a report which could approve or oppose the scheme for the council.
Objectors have already raised concerns for cyclists on the route between Ashton Vale and the city centre.
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Experts and representatives of cycling organisations have suggested that the buses would put off cyclists and many objectors have focussed on the harbourside as a key battleground.
In documents submitted to the enquiry, Mike Ginger, a former council Cycle Project team leader, said: "The calm and uncluttered ambience of this unique and historic harbour setting will be shattered resulting in a qualitative reduction in traveller and visitor experience."
He also questioned the general effect on cycling that the new buses would cause.
He said: "It is reasonable to argue that some existing cycling and walking demand will be 'choked off' as conditions deteriorate.
"If cycling demand falls by say a quarter, this would represent a health benefit cost of £8 million euros [£6.5 million] over 30 years."
In a separate document produced by the Bristol Civic Society, objectors said: "It is proposed that both dedicated BRT buses and regular buses run along the road that separates the new M Shed from the future Umberslade development on WappingWharf.
"We question the desirability of running large vehicles across the new southern entrance of the recently opened M shed."
Finally John Grimshaw, the former Sustrans boss who helped to found the Bristol to Bath cycle path, submitted his own suggestions.
He said: " The proposals cause severance and delay to existing routes, fail to enhance cycling or to provide a continuous route parallel to the BRT, and would, in my view, comprise a worse situation than walkers and cyclists experience at present.
"Overall the BRT provides almost no new benefits for cyclists, whilst at the same time causing considerable severance, delay and inconvenience to existing routes."
He added: "It cannot be desirable to promote an order, largely for the benefit of out-of-town travellers, at the expense of local people travelling by the most sustainable of methods - walking and cycling."
The enquiry is set to continue for another two weeks, with the inspector due to consider his findings and produce a report soon after. If approved, the guided bus route could be operational from 2015. It is still not clear whether bendy buses, double deckers or other vehicles will be used.
The Government has pledged £30 million towards the scheme, with the remainder coming from the four councils in the Bristol area.