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Objectives of policy

This page outlines Bristol City Council’s policy on providing routes and paths for people on foot and on bike, and offers guidance as to when these should be shared or segregated.

This policy should be read in conjunction with Bristol’s walking and cycling strategies. Both these strategies set clear objectives to encourage active travel as healthier, accessible and environmentally friendly ways of getting about. They aim to do this by making walking and cycling around the city easy and convenient by providing routes that meet the needs of people on both foot and on bikes

It is acknowledged that shared use paths can sometimes be problematic for people on both foot and on bikes, due, for example, the lack of clarity over priority and boundaries between the two forms of transport. The position statement on shared use paths aims to clarify the council’s position about how it will or will not use shared paths to support the aims of both the walking and cycling strategies.

Types of facility

There are three different forms of provision:

  • Unsegregated – people walking and cycling mix freely
  • Delineated – a feature such as a white line or different coloured paving creates visual guidance for people walking and cycling with no change in level
  • Segregated – Kerbing provides a level change to create a separate facility for people walking and cycling

Unsegregated shared use paths between people on foot and on bikes in busy areas or where people are moving in many different directions should be avoided wherever possible.

The ambition is to create good parallel networks and where possible, segregation should be provided for people on foot and on bike, both from each other and motor vehicles. On major, busy linear routes, provision should generally be segregated, separated by grade and/ or a physical demarcation to clearly define the space and in particular assist those with sensory disabilities.

There is no easy formula that can be applied to prescribe design solutions and whilst subjective views of users are important, decisions on shared use paths should be made objectively and with reference to evidence and research. The design of provision will depend on the level of usage and the character and quality of the place it passes through, but using as far as possible a consistent design approach to aid legibility for all users

In busy areas and at pinch points people on bikes should be expected to moderate their speed; no type of movement is fully unconstrained within the central area and cycling cannot be any exception. In the vast majority of cases the empirical evidence shows that people on bikes do slow down. Surface treatments, layout, planting and furniture can be used to reduce the speed differential between different users without creating conflict.

Where major cycle routes cross public spaces, delineated routes are preferred. These will generally be at the same level as the walking environment so that they do not restrict events and walking movements, but be clearly lined and with cycle marker logos to minimise conflict.

In fully shared areas, be they quiet routes in outer suburbs or central city spaces, subtle cycle markers and/or standard signage should be employed as a means of legitimising cycling, where people on foot have priority, but not sole rights.

Reference Documents and Guidance

A wide variety of reference documents and guides are available such as the Dutch CROW Design manual for Bicycle Traffic. Although the reference documents vary in terms of type and focus, when viewed as a whole, surprisingly consistent:

  • There is no simple formula or calculation which can be applied to make a decisions on whether people on foot or bike should reasonably be expected to share the same space; and decisions must take into account local conditions
  • That said, decisions should be based on a rational assessment of the density of flow of both people on foot or bike in the context of the physical space in question.

Putting it into practice

For internal schemes, the Growth and Regeneration Quality Assurance Board is best placed to sign off schemes following a balanced multi-disciplinary discussion.  This is for complex schemes where site constraints prohibit the optimal solution.

The following principles should be applied when deciding on the type of intervention appropriate:

FlowTreatment TypeExample street/placeQA Board involvement
LowUnsegregatedPortway A4Option to 'call in' schemes
MediumDelineatedStraight St. (Gardner
Haskins), Castle Park
Option to 'call in' schemes
HighSegregatedBaldwin Street, Clarence
Pinch points Pedestrian priorityJunction of Welsh Back
and Queens Sq
Full consideration
Table 1: Method for gauging appropriateness of solution (After C.R.O.W Manual)
It is difficult to apply exact figures to the flow levels as any suitable design solution will depend on the location specifics e.g. width of shared use paths, the nature of movement (eg linear or multi-directional) or the potential for increases to existing flow levels (planned, adjacent developments).

External schemes by developers or agencies will be considered through the planning process and at the pre-application stage. Teams within the Place directorate already work with planning officers to ensure this happens.

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