Is Bristol City Council ready to grit its treacherous cycle paths?

After accidents and heaps of criticism, policy change looks increasingly likely

Following a string of dramatic cycle crashes on black ice this week, it looks like Bristol City Council could reverse its policy only to grit cycle routes after “severe snow fall”.

The council hasn’t yet confirmed or denied anything, but tweets from the city’s assistant mayor for transport, Cllr Mark Bradshaw, suggest action may be imminent.

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Earlier this week cyclists were told by the council to avoid one of the country’s busiest cycle routes, the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, which sees 6,500 users on foot and bikes per day.

YouTube footage from Wednesday shows cycle commuters skidding out of control on the path, which follows a disused railway line between Bristol and Bath. In one video, two people on bikes crash within ten seconds, the first losing control turning to enter the path, before a second comes off taking evasive action.

Earlier in the week Bradshaw said: “We’re already at work on options for gritting our main cycling paths and we appreciate the current situation isn’t ideal for cyclists or pedestrians.

“When significant snow is forecast, our plan already involves gritting two of the busiest routes — the Bristol to Bath Railway Path and Castle Park.”

Since then Bradshaw tweeted that he has instructed council officers to grit the path after all.

Sustainable charity Sustrans’ South West Area Manager, Jon Usher, said the council’s earlier failure to grit the Bristol to Bath railway path and Castle Park, another popular cycle route, was contrary to its own winter maintenance plan, something the council denied.

Usher was even prepared to grit the path himself this morning.

Bristol City Council replied on Twitter: “BBRP and C. Park only come under the Winter Service Plan when severe snow fall is predicted. We hope to improve this soon.”

One witness to black ice on the route said she “saw half a dozen people come off their bikes” on Wednesday morning.

In an official statement earlier this week Bradshaw said:

“It’s not an easy or cheap process given the specialist vehicles and amount of manual labour which is involved, but it’s an area where we’re keen to improve.

“In the meantime, we recommend that cyclists use primary roads and bus routes during their travels if temperatures fall below freezing. These routes are always gritted as a priority precautionary measure. We recognise that this is not a perfect solution and hope to improve it.

Details of all the routes which are gritted can be found on our website.”

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, snow apparently remained on pavements and cycle tracks five days after the last heavy snowfall.

Matthew Ball tweeted this photo of a snow-covered cycle track beside a snow-free road: