TRAFFIC IN BATH: PARADISE OR PURGATORY?

A Public Meeting chaired by David Gledhill, Editor, The Bath Chronicle, on 22 January 1998

In March 1997 a meeting ‘Traffic in Bath: Paralysis or Planning?’ was held to put forward views on how traffic flow could be improved and the city centre made more attractive to residents and tourists. This meeting was a sequel to discuss the City Centre Team's proposals for achieving this objective.
After a welcome to the approx. 70 audience, the chairman asked John Mulholland, representing Bath Chamber of Commerce, to speak about the CC Team and its proposals. He described its composition as representing all interested parties and its objectives as being: to act now with experimental schemes which could be amended after experience; to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists; to restrict cross-town traffic; to limit access to the centre during some periods of the day; and to improve car parking.
Cllr Jeff Kenyon, a member of the Team, then described the vision they had - SPA: a Sustainable, Prosperous, Accessible City, achieved by operating a Pedestrians First policy; installing bus gates at Orange Grove and Westgate Buildings through which only buses could pass to improve the regularity of services; controlling times of access for delivery vehicles; reducing on-street parking; encouraging commuters to use Park & Ride sites; introducing a 20 mph speed limit;and investigating alternatives to buses for public transport.
Bill Bloomfield, Chairman of the Federation of Residents’ Assns., then emphasised the need for Residents’ Parking schemes and more Park & Ride sites to prevent commuters parking in residential areas.
Eamon McClelland, Access Officer, B&NES, then described the difficulties people in wheel-chairs and those with sight or hearing problems had at present. It was impossible for them to get to some parts of the city. These people, who wish to use the facilities, must be consulted about the design, especially for public service vehicles. The requirement is for everybody to be able to move all over the city in comfort and safety.
During the discussion (inevitably!) the open-top tourist buses came under fire. It was explained that the Road Traffic Act of 1985 prevented the Council from controlling them but the Transport Minister, Glenda Jackson, had been made aware, with a 20-minute film, of the problem and asked to amend the law.
The almost simultaneous re-development of the Spa, Southgate and Royal York Hotel make it essential that programmes are co-ordinated and conservation should be a particular concern. It was pointed out that the Heritage aspect was a major feature of the CC Team's report, involving much of the proposed expenditure.
It was considered that there was insufficient attention paid to integration of public transport to encourage drivers to leave their cars. Although it was important not to close the city to cars it was possible that closing one entrance to Charlotte St car park before 9.30 am would encourage commuters to use Park & Ride, thus leaving that car park for visitors and shoppers. The introduction of effective signs to Park & Ride sites was necessary.
The use of traffic lights at the bus gates was considered unsatisfactory in view of the way drivers ignored the restrictions on using Pulteney Bridge; the use of rising bollards to provide physical barriers to cars was suggested.
The quality of the buses used for the Park & Ride service in Bath was deplorable and should be improved to match that of the Bristol service.
Car parking throughout the city, including residents’ parking areas, will be the subject of Oscar Faber's consultants report in March, but the value of a parking space is high - garages sell for thousands of pounds.
The need to take into account the difference between shopping hours and evening traffic patterns was emphasised.
Finally, an orange-badge holder made three points: Broad St car park is unsuitable for disabled drivers as it is too far and uphill from the main shops around Stall St (and may be required for the Royal York Hotel); getting money from banks requires o/b holders to be able to park outside to prevent mugging; churches hold services every day and o/b holders are an important part of their congregations but need parking nearby.
Don Lovell.