Following the COVID outbreak in the spring of 2020, the government gave money to councils across the country for rapid street changes to give protected space for walking and cycling. The Emergency Active Travel Fund changes have come through in two phases, with ‘Tranche 1’ and ‘Tranche 2’ funding. In line with the government push for fast-track action, the Tranche 1 changes were implemented using quick and dirty interventions and with little community engagement.
In August, BWA submitted comments on the Tranche 1 changes to a Growth & Regeneration Scrutiny Commission working group. In summary BWA said:
- We support the changes. We particularly support the high street changes and Baldwin Street/Bristol Bridge closure in tranche 1, and the point closures in tranche 2, because they are good for improving the environment for walking.
- We support the fast-track implementation using quick and dirty measures, but we are very conscious of the need for public engagement, and we welcome the approach to future engagement that is intended for the Tranche 2 changes.
- We suspect that the high street changes will not stick, because people will not see the point of them whilst they remain as ugly roadworks barriers, and whilst the space is not much used by businesses.
- We would have liked to have seen more Council engagement with businesses and the community to help ‘sell’ the high street changes, encourage business to use the space outside their premises, and to talk round issues raised.
- To some extent, the lack of engagement makes the high street changes seem the ‘cinderella’ of the various EATF measures. But we recognise that the Council has had money from government only for quick and dirty changes, and its resources have been stretched. We reluctantly accept that more permanent changes will have to await later funding.
- Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders: we support the use of ETROs, on the basis that they allow people to experience the positive impact of changes, thus defusing some of the fears they would have expressed if the changes were implemented only after prior consultation.
- Public information: we are concerned that there is a general lack of understanding of the benefits of the changes being made, and the vision behind them. The planned engagement will help, but perhaps it might be complemented by a public information media campaign?
The full submission is here.