Cable car in Bath

Results of Transition Bath North-South Alternative Transport Survey

In July’s newsletter we asked you what you thought of 7 potential solutions to solving the difficult problem of how you encourage people to cycle or walk up and down the hills in Bath in a North-South direction. Thank you to all those who took time to complete the survey.

The survey was partly as a result of work Curo has been doing looking at transport solutions for the new housing development at Foxhill/Mulberry Park (ex-MOD Foxhill) and partly because we felt that the council’s recent transport consultation had focussed almost exclusively on East-West transport along the River Avon corridor and ignored the problems of North-South pedestrian and cycle travel.

The results of the survey were inconclusive in that no one solution stood out, but there was a strong opinion from everyone who completed the survey that a solution needs to be found and that the council should include it in their Transport Consultation. A number of other solutions to the problem were also proposed, some of the comments included at the bottom of the page are perhaps more interesting than the answers to the survey questions?

As a result of the survey Transition Bath will approach the council and ask them whether they could include looking at North-South pedestrian and cycle transport in the Transport Consultation, it is clearly something that you want the council to address.

Survey Results

The seven proposed alternatives were:

  • A cable car
  • A vertical passenger and cycle lift from the twin tunnels cycle path
  • A Trondheim like cycle lift
  • Racks on the back of public buses
  • Provision of electric bikes for all new homes in Foxhill
  • A ‘Boris Bikes’ like cycle hire scheme, but with electric bikes
  • A funicular railway

The results were a little mixed with no one solution being preferred. The only question which drew unanimous support was ‘Do you think B&NES council should address north-south transit issues for bicycles and pedestrians in the Transport Consultation?’ which returned a 100% conclusive ‘Yes’.

The graph below illustrates the results:
North South Transport Survey Results Graph

Interpretation:

  • The strongest support (59%) was for a Trondheim like cycle lift costing about £1million, which would run up from the bottom of Perrymead to Foxhill. Curo have been exploring this solution with the council.
  • The expensive cable car solution (35%) and the low cost bike racks on buses solution (35%) tied for second place.
  • Curo have since stopped looking at the vertical lift from the twin tunnels as it wouldn’t top out in the middle of the Foxhill site

We asked for general comments in the survey, and these produced perhaps more interesting feedback than the multiple choice questions on the 7 proposed solutions. An excerpt of these comments appears below, and they include some additional alternative solutions:

Not just on this alignment, but also two ? more alignments towards the west. Cycle racks should be on the front of buses, where the bus driver can see what’s going on & should be a standard fixture as in USA.  Cable cars are the best option, but the money needs to be found. Electric bikes are a nice option,  which is 24 hr, with low running costs. It is a pity that the new 20 mph speed limits don’t match the 15mph top speed of the electric motor.
This is predominantly an issue of perception and safe routes.
A perception that Transition Bath seem to be encouraging. Comments like “it is the preserve of the super fit” are not helping the issue. You really do not have to be super fit to ride up the hills of Bath. You need a suitable bike, a suitable route and a healthy dose of enthusiasm / encouragement / desire.
Safe routes. Making out that grand schemes, costing £££ are the only way forward* is approaching the issue from completely the wrong angle. Roads like Wellsway are perfectly suitable, if it were not heavily dominated by motorised transport. The token gestures, and botched, cycle paths only add to the unfriendlyness to cyclist.
Sort the routes out, enable people to overcome the perception and people will cycle.
*I happen to think that some of the schemes mentioned would benefit Bath on many other fronts, hence my selections in the multiple choice. I suspect none of them would help cycling.
The high cost of bus fares and limited service as it stands would greatly deter cyclists.  The Trondheim style cycle lift sounded like a good idea but the video has put me off of it – it seems excessively slow and not terribly safe (wobbly!). How about adapting that with a conveyor belt – the cyclist could stand on that or cycle up it but would be moving more quickly.I think an elevator like in the Greenwich tunnel would be used by people walking into town as well.  I think the cable car and funicular would be prohibitively expensive – and to be honest there’s not much to see in the Foxhill area that would entice tourists unless the council has something planned…
To be honest, one of the biggest deterrents to cyclists is the traffic.  I live on London Road and my commute into work is mostly flat however I have been forced off my bike for safety reasons.  Sort this out first before any grandiose schemes please.
Bath is such a small and congested city, that promoting non-car transport is a huge priority. I am a keen cyclist, but do acknowledge that to get up any of our hills it becomes sport, not a viable or attractive form of commuting. Any solution would have to be usable by all (not just residents of the new estate), as we need to raise the profile and critical mass of cycling to make this a really worthwhile step towards a future solution, rather than a gimmick that a few initial residents will enjoy. I would say it’s worth the risk of a few lower cost options (particularly the Trondheim like lift – as this is more visible than racks on buses which potential cyclists may remain unaware of, or given the feeling against cyclists, may be shy of using if it slows down bus progress. Once cycling in Bath becomes normal and for everyone, this can only improve the city, its prospects and enjoyment of all who walk or move around it.
Any lifting system that makes use of potential energy of cable cars, carriages, bicycles, lifts etc travelling downhill on return leg.A la Combe Down stone quarry system used on Prior Park Rd by the Georgians…
Before we lived in Bath we lived in St. Gallen, Switzerland, a UNESCO site like Bath and surrounded by steep hills as well. One option to get around was a funicular called muehleggbahn, here are some technical details, unfortunately in German: http://www.muehleggbahn.ch/index.php?id=17
This needs to be an out of the box solution – a cable car would bring more tourists to Bath and get them out of the centre to see the wider area – fantastic! Residents could have a pass for going up
Other options:

  • Loan of attachable electric motors (http://www.rubbee.co.uk/) – could be automated with credit card deposit, motors returned by zipline)
  • Shallow zig-zag path, cheap but planning issues
  • Shallow spiral (i.e. built underground), expensive but possibly a cycle tourist attraction
  • Gym for Foxhill residents to increase fitness
The solution is so obvious that everyone has forgotten it. Starting at Green Park Station a railway ran to Dorset via Radstock and Midsomer Norton with Tunnels under Combe Down. Of course the railway was not viable and so had to close. But as a route for trams linking Bath with Oldfield Park and Combe Down, eventually, continuing to Radstock, the economics would certainly be viable. That route could even link up with Frome as that railway line is still in existence.This could eventually lead to a tram system linking West Wilts towns to Bath which would take pressure off Warminster Road, London Road and road to Radstock, which would lead to Park and Rides being unnecessary,

This idea may sound potty to car crazy politicians but it is certainly the route most European countries would take. And there could be some EU money to help implement it.

The Trondheim solution looks very interesting – never heard of this before. Could more than one be installed elsewhere in Bath? Are there other locations in the city where this might make sense? Are there any safety issues?A lift down to the Combe Down tunnel also seems sensible – but why not have a small charge for an annual pass to help it pay for itself?

I can’t imagine a cable car getting built, but then again it could work… how would residents underneath it feel? Probably not too keen.

I live on Midford Road next to the glasshouse field and increasingly use my bike to get around. People like me would also benefit from one of these solutions, along with the whole population of Combe Down / Odd Down.

Posted in Planning, Transport.