Cyclists fume over Bath footbridge closure saga
Cyclists say their commuting has been thrown into hazardous chaos by the closure of a key footbridge.
The 19th century Victoria Bridge across the River Avon on the edge of the city centre has been closed indefinitely by Bath and North East Somerset Council.
The footbridge - the cables and beams of which are corroded - was shut in mid-October for safety reasons.
Now the campaign group CycleBath - previously the Bath Cycling Campaign - is urging the council to come up with a timetable for getting it fixed.
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It has tabled questions at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet on Thursday and says it is worried B&NES regards it only as a footpath rather than route used by cycles.
The council says new diversion signs for cyclists and pedestrians will be put up after the previous ones were stolen, and that structural engineers are putting together a report on repair options.
CycleBath member John Lucas said: “The bridge is a highly important route for cyclists in the west of the city, being the only off-road route in the area, and is the route I and many others use to reach the city centre from Oldfield Park.
“It is also well used by pedestrians, including children going to Hayesfield School. The alternatives for both pedestrians and cyclists are horrendous - long diversions on roads that are not safe or pleasant for either to use. To the east this is the main road route to Green Park. To the west it is the Destructor Bridge, which is one way so only legally usable in one direction, and which can only be accessed by the main roads and goes through areas that many would not wish to travel through. Further to the west of this the alternative is Windsor Bridge, a very busy road that many cyclists would not wish to use.”
The group’s chair Malcolm Dodds added: “The council says that it regards cyclists as its second highest priority when planning and spending on transport, but too often it feels like we are treated as second class citizens.”
Fellow cyclist Tony Ambrose said: “The state of Bath for pedestrians and cyclists is shameful. We seem to be stuck in the last century whilst the rest of the UK and Europe have been busy civilising their historic city centres. Whilst the council talks the good talk about the environment all they do is make it more difficult, dangerous and unpleasant for people to get around on foot or by bike.”
The questions ask the cabinet to confirm what other signed, equally safe alternative routes have been designated for cyclists whilst the bridge is closed and how these have been communicated to cyclists along with an reopening date.
In a statement, the council said: “Although we recognise the importance of the route for cyclists and pedestrians, the council must ensure that any highway structure is safe for people to use - public safety must be paramount. We are currently awaiting a structural engineer’s report which is expected next month before considering what the options are to make it safe for people to use.”
It added that the authority’s commitment to promoting cycling was extensive, with investment in the Two Tunnels scheme on the edge of Bath and the Five Arches project at Midsomer Norton as well as new cycle paths at Pinesway and plans for improvements at Churchill Bridge and Claverton Down, and work to promote cycling and cycle safety in schools through the Sustrans Bike-It project and Bikeability training.