Bristol Bridge could be closed to cars to encourage the 'right' travel habits after lockdown

May 07 2020
Bristol Bridge could be closed to cars to encourage the 'right' travel habits after lockdown

BRISTOL's oldest bridge could be closed to private cars under pedestrianisation plans.

Mayor Marvin Rees said Bristol Bridge, which crosses the floating harbour at Welsh Back, linking Victoria Street and the High Street to Baldwin Street, would be closed to all vehicles other than buses and taxis and those with an “extreme exception”.

Mr Rees made his remarks about the bridge - built in the 18th century on the site of an earlier stone bridge dating back to the 1200s - during a Facebook Live video broadcast, during which he described a range of measures to encourage the “right” travel habits when the people of Bristol emerge from lockdown.

Under normal traffic conditions the bridge is congested at rush hour, as drivers use it to travel to and from the Centre from the east and south of the city. 

As well as the “incredibly exciting” opportunity to accelerate the pedestrianisation of the area around the bridge, which the council calls the Old City, Mr Rees shared changes that would affect cyclists, bus users, taxi drivers and anyone who drives a car to work.

But he warned that moving out of lockdown would not be “straightforward” because the COVID-19 virus is “going to be with us”.

That makes it “very complex and risky”, he said.

Mr Rees said Bristol City Council is talking to employers about encouraging their staff not to drive to work.

The authority is also seeking government support so that buses can run more frequently to make up for the seating that will be lost owing to the need for social distancing.

It is also in discussions with the taxi industry about having a “casing around the driver” to shield them from passengers and vice versa, Mr Rees said.

TravelWest’s Wheels to Work scheme, where people can get free bus travel and £100 off the cost of a refurbished bicycle, is currently limited to key workers.

Answering questions from members of the public about other aspects of life that have been curtailed under lockdown, Mr Rees said the council was having conversations with Bristol school leaders about children returning to school.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said he is planning a phased return of schools, and Mr Rees said the council was talking with unions to ensure teachers feel safe when that happens.

The council will be following medical advice on when to reopen children’s play areas, the mayor said.

Asked about rough sleepers who have been put up in hotels during the Covid crisis, Mr Rees said a group within the One City office had been set up to look at how to “secure move-on accommodation” once lockdown is lifted.

Mr Rees said the council is lobbying the government for more funding as it takes on the challenge of emerging from lockdown.

All these things cost money and we can’t be shortchanged by national government,” he said.

The council is facing a budget blackhole of about £82million as a result of coronavirus.

It has received about £26.5million in emergency coronavirus funding from the government so far.

But it estimates its emergency costs total about £29million and that it has lost about another £80million in revenue through lost council tax payments, lost parking charges, and lost rents from properties.

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service