Frequently asked questions about the Downs Loop proposal
The proposal talks about accessible paths. What does this mean?
At present, the Downs caters very well for people who are able to walk a fair distance on narrow paths and uneven ground. But for those who need a smooth, wide, and even path for walking the options are limited. It's particularly hard to get to the Sea Walls from Stoke Road. The proposed paths are designed to improve access for everyone including those using wheels - people in wheelchairs, those pushing buggies and riding bikes. There is a strong element of compromise in this proposal. The Downs offers us over 400 acres of flat parkland. By creating accessible paths for leisure and exercise and encouraging considerate use of them, many more people could enjoy this beautiful place. The accessible paths will not give priority to those on bikes. Signage will make this clear and most of the time, most people are considerate and aware of others and make space for those more vulnerable than themselves.

Has this approach been successful elsewhere?
Although not official or deliberate, this approach is used alongside Stoke Road. Many pedestrians and joggers prefer the wider cycle path further from the road rather than the narrow footpath. A segregated arrangement was provided, but people actually share the space very well, helped by the fact that the area is flat and has good visibility, just like the proposed new paths around the Downs. We have also learnt so much in the past year from talking to the National Trust, who have successfully developed ten new accessible paths (they call them “multi-user trails”) through the sensitive and much loved landscapes on their properties. This has required lots of planning and consultation but has illustrated that change is possible and brings positive benefits in terms of increased physical activity. Last year, the team visited the trail at Kingston Lacy in Dorset.

Why can't people just cycle on the road?
Confident cyclists can and do cycle on all the roads around the Downs and will continue to do so. Our proposal for a 2.3-mile loop is aimed at leisure and family cycling and will be of little interest to sport cyclists who are typically riding upwards of 40 miles. There are many people, in particular children, who find it difficult and stressful to be on roads, and for whom the modest Downs Loop distance would be a big achievement!

Since 2015, people of all ages have come to annual traffic free Cycle Sunday events which have repeatedly demonstrated a high level of interest in safer, calmer cycling around the Downs. Over 3,000 people attended our last event. We have experimented with closures of all the roads around the loop over the past five years. Downleaze/Rockleaze is dangerous for children on bikes. Even when closed to through traffic, many cars come and go from the 75 plus properties along that section. Visibility is poor due to parked cars. On Ladies Mile, cars sometimes approach at high speeds, and the narrowness of the road makes it hard for cars to overtake slow (and sometimes wobbly) cyclists. So, these two stretches are our priorities for creating new accessible and safe routes alongside the Downs.

What will the new paths actually look like?
The current paths around and across the Downs are mainly quite narrow. Along Ladies Mile, the path has become broken up by tree roots and there are eroded sections next to it. The proposed new paths will have a more 'natural' look with a surface that is pleasant to use, wears well, and importantly that fits within the landscape. Greenways and Cycleroutes who co-developed the Downs Loop proposal have recently finished an accessible path at the bottom of Ashton Court. Please do visit it to get a feel for what we are aiming for

Click the images above to enlarge

How will you protect tree roots?
Where there are tree roots close to the proposed path, a 'no-dig' construction method will be used. A Geoweb Tree Root Protection mattress will be laid under the path. The voids in the protection mattress allow tree roots to flourish. In some places, the current path will be replaced with new sections of path that are further from mature trees to allow them more space for healthy growth.

Click the image above to enlarge

I don't own a car or bike. How could I use the Downs Loop?
In Bristol, latest census data showed that 29% of households do not have access to a car. Visitors without a car can reach Stoke Road by bus (including via routes 1, 2, 3 and 4) and could then access the new path leading to the Seawalls. For people without access to a bike, the proposal suggests developing a new cycle hire facility next to the Water Tower on Stoke Road. This would be a great way for people to try cycling on a flat route in order to exercise and build their cycling confidence.

Why is one section of the loop on Circular Road and not off road?
Compared to Downleaze/Rockleaze and Ladies Mile, Circular Road is more open and at many times of the day, a quieter road. The main difficulty is that at times cars travel along it at speed, so we have proposed a new 20mph zone with physical traffic calming measures. Slower speeds will improve the experience for everyone whether they are walking and wish to cross the road or riding a bike.

Why does Circular Road need to change, it's already 20mph?
Unfortunately, not all drivers stick to the 20mph speed limit and it is currently difficult to enforce. The new 20 mph zone will use physical speed calming measures to slow speeds. Speed tables will ensure that the road is used in a more leisurely way as motorists look for a place to park and then explore the Downs from there. Several of the speed tables will be designed as continuous raised crossings to enable people to cross the road more easily. The feel of Circular Rd would alter, from being a through route to becoming an access route to an area of beauty (its original purpose), rather like the approach roads into Ashton Court. Access to the car parking along Circular Road will continue to work as it currently does with this proposal. Even if we arrive at the Downs in a car, we are all pedestrians once we park our car and get out.

I walk on the Downs regularly, how will the Downs Loop affect me?
The scheme is designed to increase access to a number of user groups. It will mean that those walking will begin to share some space with other users, but it will also provide new improved paths for those who are unable to walk over the grass. The cross paths, the outer path alongside Circular Road and of course the many beautiful walking spots such as the avenue of trees across the Downs will be unaffected. Speed tables along the length of Circular Road will slow traffic speeds and several of these will provide new places to cross more safely. A zebra crossing near the Water Tower will help link up the Downs for pedestrians and be of benefit to everyone wanting to cross Stoke Road.

I jog around the Downs, what about me?
We appreciate that many runners follow the same route as the Downs Loop. The first 500m to the junction with Ivywell Road will be the main change as the proposal includes a new path over the heavily eroded desire line there. This will provide an even, all weather surface for running on. After Ivywell Road, the popular route all along Circular Road to the junction with Ladies Mile will remain as it currently is. Many runners like this track (although it's a bit soggy in the winter!) and some cross to use the tarmac footpath on the other side. Along Ladies Mile, the new path will again provide a wider, even surface for running and space to run alongside someone else.

Who is going to pay for The Downs Loop?
The proposal has been developed by Cycle Sunday working with Greenways and Cycleroutes. We have been talking to the Downs Committee for the past year and a half about the details of the exact route and the construction. Along the way we have had lots of helpful advice from experts at Bristol City Council. The Downs Committee has agreed unanimously that we now take the proposal to a public consultation. Bristol City Council is not being asked to pay for the construction of the Downs Loop. We will fundraise via statutory bodies, charitable funds, and crowdfunding.

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