Chelsea Road: promoting and enhancing walking and cycling access

Oct2014 Chelsea Road

Transition Bath believes that walking and cycling access to all local shopping and service areas should be encouraged and improved. Many people both within Bath and visiting Bath regularly need to shop and access services without a car, and we believe many others would choose to do so if it were safe, pleasant and convenient.

The Transport & Built Environment group has produced a map that show that many people in Bath live within 10 minutes’ walk of a neighbourhood hub (with shops, cafés and other amenities), highlighting the resources that are available to residents and customers within easy walking and cycling distance. However it is also clear that many people choose not to do make use of these, and furthermore that one of the reasons for this is the lack of safe walking and cycling access.

We wanted to look at a particular neighbourhood hub and so, inspired by a member of the group living just off Chelsea Road, thought this might provide an excellent example of a neighbourhood hub where improvements might be made. This road is on the boundary of Kingsmead ward where 37% of households have no car and Newbridge ward where 25% have no car, so these residents need to walk or cycle to the shops.

An initial grant was obtained in 2010 from the Bath Car Share Club, now superseded by the Bath City Car Club. At the time it was anticipated that this would fund the research and analysis throughout the project, but it rapidly became clear that there were a much greater quantity and variety of views and concerns than we had foreseen. The group has since self-funded the project, putting time, energy and resources into gathering the input of people in the surrounding communities, and have also sought to liaise with local councillors so that any positive changes suggested by the community might be taken forward.

Outline of the project:

Background research June 2010 – January 2011
Residents questionnaire on access and shopping habits (total responses 689 of 2088 questionnaires, 33%) April – September 2011
Residents meetings 19th March & 23rd April 2012
Traders survey on customer access (total responses 24 of 35, 67%) May 2012,
Joint residents & traders meeting Monday 2nd July 2012
Launch of ‘Making Chelsea Road Local Centre Thrive’ Saturday 19th January 2013
Working group design meetings March – April 2013
Survey of households on specific access proposals (total responses 638 of 2301 questionnaires, 28%) July – August 2014
Trader survey on specific access proposals (analysis in progress) late 2014
UPCOMING Final Public Meeting 7pm at Weston Methodist Church Friday 20th March 2015

Initial research

The initial phase was background research. The 2001 national census showed a total of 2,423 households north of the river within 10 minutes’ walking distance of Chelsea Road, with 6,027 residents and a daytime population of 7,827 people. We decided at this stage not to include households living south of the river, as there are alternative shopping areas at Twerton and Moorland Road and there are only a few crossing points.

We discovered from the census data that 23% of households in the project area have no car, and 48% have only one so are likely to have limited car use within working hours. This makes walking and cycling access especially important for these households. Housing type varies from large semi-detached houses through terraces to purpose-built flats and houses subdivided into flats.

Survey of residents’ access and shopping habits

This was conducted in April-September 2011, through the delivery of questionnaires to 2088 households. A copy of the questionnaire can be found here. 689 were returned (a pleasing response rate of 33%), and these highlighted a number of concerns regarding Chelsea Road as it stands, as well as positive suggestions. These included:

  • Amount and speed of vehicles using Chelsea Road
  • Narrowness of pavements in and around Chelsea Road
  • Lack of safe crossings
  • Access difficulties for people with low mobility, those in wheelchairs and those with buggies
  • Increased greenery and visual identity in Chelsea Road
  • Opportunities for improved cycling facilities
  • Potential for walking access through the cemetery, and a general call for more off-road paths

These ideas and issues were explored at two residents meetings in March and April 2012, and, following a survey of the local traders in May, a joint residents and traders meeting in July 2012.

In November 2012 we produced ‘Making Chelsea Road Local Centre Thrive’, which presented all the project work up to this stage, and we held a launch event in Chelsea Road in January 2013. A copy of the executive summary can be found here and a copy of the full report here.

Design group meetings

Following on from this research, we leafleted the 2,100 households and the traders once more to inform them of a design group meeting. Those residents that wished to (no traders chose to be involved) met during March and April of 2013 and produced three possible designs. One of the designs was chosen as the preferred option, which formed the basis of our final piece of research. It can be seen here.

B&NES Council Chelsea Road Traffic Survey

On Wednesday 2nd October 2013, B&NES Council conducted a transport survey, which found that 2924 vehicles entered Chelsea Road, but only 418 stopped (about 1 in 7), 156 were already parked there, and 2506 (86%) of the vehicles passed straight through, highlighting how the road is often used as a ‘rat-run’. A summary of these results can be found here.

Final survey

Using the selected option, a questionnaire was produced, showing the schemes proposed and asking a number of yes/no questions. This was delivered to 2,300 households in July – August 2014. 638 were returned (again, a decent response rate of 28%), with a third of those responding (nearly 9% of all households in the area) leaving additional comments.

Some of the proposals in the survey had widespread support:

  • having two new crossings over Newbridge Hill;
  • opening up walking and cycling routes through the cemetery;
  • a new bus stop on Newbridge Road.

Other elements did not:

  • narrowing Newbridge Road at the crossing point;
  • closing the central part of Chelsea Road to vehicles.

Opinion was divided over two proposals:

  • moving the crossing over Newbridge Road nearer to the Post Office; and
  • making the central section of Chelsea Road available for community uses (a few said the term ‘community uses’ was unclear).

Important concerns and comments included:

  • closing part of Chelsea Road would cause worse problems on other roads;
  • removing through traffic requires a left turn option or roundabout between Newbridge Road and Newbridge Hill;
  • the proposals could have safety implications;
  • there could be funding and value for money concerns;
  • a variety of alternative traffic calming measures;
  • Chelsea Road should be one way; and
  • Chelsea Road should only be closed occasionally for special events.

The full analysis of the householder responses can be found here.

In late 2014 a corresponding survey of the traders was carried out, and the analysis is can be found here. It is interesting that the traders support two of the three proposals which had strong backing from householders, and gives weight to the recommendation that these be implemented.

***UPCOMING Final Public Meeting – 20th March 2015, 7pm at Weston Methodist Church*** Further details of the meeting are here.