In support of the Bath Cable Car

Recently I have been working with census data that indicates around 31,000 local car journeys are being made in the city, with around 7000 Bath residents driving to work in Bath and 5000 school children being dropped off and picked up by car. The decision commuters and parents make to use the car is fundamentally down to the choices they feel they have to make those journeys.

For many people living on one side of Bath that work or go to school on the other side of Bath, the lack of good cycle provision, the challenging seven hills of Bath, and the time consuming hub centred bus network requiring you to change buses at the bus station, reduce the choices people feel they can make down to one. Use the car.

A more telling fact is that the work I am doing with the census data indicates around 7% of commuters are doing it by bicycle and a phenomenal 47% are walking to work. However we have 31% of commuters living in Bath choosing to drive to work in Bath.

The School data shows that 41% of pupils are walking to school, 33% are being dropped off by car, and only 1% are cycling to school. The big disparity between the 7% commuter cycling and the 1% school cycling is more than likely down to the poor design of our roads and the council not providing safe, well lit, protected cycle lanes throughout the city, particularly connecting communities to schools.

I do not let my daughter cycle from Bear Flat to Hayesfield School but I am happy for her to walk it. The roads are simply too dangerous and this shows in the complete lack of cycling to school that kids do.

Wheeled pedestrianism

More telling is that once you get out of the river valley and onto the southern side of the city, over 60% of all commuters commute by car. There are 14 census areas in the city, the 4 on the southern plateau are responsible for 34% of the local commuter driving (2330 out of 6776). Walking to work is very low (only 16%), whereas taking the bus to work is about the same levels as elsewhere in the city.

So we have three problems that impact the southern plateau:

  1. The physically challenging hills.
  2. The time consuming hub centred Bus Network
  3. The Car centric road network making cycling dangerous.

These combine to the point where people have no choice but to use cars to live day to day.

Yet the plateau has something amazing going for it. It’s mostly flat (I’m ignoring Rush Hill). It has most of Bath’s age 10+ students learning on it. In fact there are around 22,000 students if you include the University of Bath. It has significant numbers of large employers on it and some amazing communities.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 08.28.47
Bath topography with cycle routes. Note large flat Southern Plateau.

There is one simple fact I want to present:

A cable car station at Mulberry Park would make all of the schools and places of employment cycle-able within 15 minutes.

The cable car provides a fast and easy link between two parts of the cycle network over steep terrain. The cable car is the beginnings of a city-wide, flat cycle network.

The Cable Car combined with the Bicycle solves the problems of the hills and the hub centred bus network while Cycle Bath’s proposed Scholar’s Way creates a child safe cycle network connecting all schools, universities, and centres of employment on the Southern Plateau.

Scholars Way with Cable Car Connections

This is why I support the principle of a Cable Car and so should you.

We have an obesity crisis in this country and by 2030 we are predicted to be 35% obese up from 27%, the Netherlands 8.5% down from 10%. Air pollution, as an average across the UK shortens life by 7 months, whereas for obesity it is 36 months. We have spent years eroding our children’s travel independence while making them fat.

Innovative, cheap, multi-modal transport solutions like the Bath cable car integrated with bicycles provide a solution focused around active travel that solve congestion, air pollution, and obesity within Bath. It gets people out of cars.

Please attend the consultations. Give your feedback but please be open minded. This could be a real game changer in actually solving Bath’s transport problems by enabling most people that physically can, to be able to cycle around the city of Bath, freeing up the roads for those that can’t.

We need Curo to explore the principle of a Cable Car fully, in particular, the ticket pricing model they plan to propose. We need to see that actual proposed implementation and not shoot down the idea of a cable car before we know what the actual proposal is.

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This idea might sound crazy to you, but urban cable cars have been very successfully built elsewhere. I suggest you look at the Portland cable car   ($100 for an annual pass) or even the Porto cable car (€32.50 for 50 journeys). Both are successful. Both of those examples offer something for tourism, but more importantly, offer a lot more for their residents.

More information can be found here and if you want to leave online feedback then you can do that here .

Census data analysis (still ongoing):

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1gu-lCeT4HOLz9_Dnp7VV8-j5kF_S8AvhpjH2vMDgChQ/edit#gid=0

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1zSLXKO0zRBHeHcunKv5BU5waTtKqQGP2G9Y5bgdFubE/edit#gid=1020289527

[Addendum 13/04/2017]  The Bath Preservation Trust has also commented on this which can be summed up as “No objection in principle but details are too sketchy at this point to form an opinion.” http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/community-engagement-project/

 

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23 thoughts on “In support of the Bath Cable Car”

  1. I agree this sounds a very interesting idea – but I fear that yet again most of the money that could otherwise be used for cycling will be diverted FROM cycling to something that feels more ‘sexy’ to councillors, who seem to be wedded (or maybe that should say ‘welded’) to cars.
    In order to support the proposal for a cable car, I would want to see a firm commitment for it to be allied to good (ie safe and convenient) provision for cycling, including ample secure cycle parking at top and bottom stations; firm commitment to carrying cycles even at busy commute time (especially then!); and connections to proper cycling provision top and bottom. And all funding supposedly earmarked for cycling should actually be spent on cycling, based on what people say would make cycling as transport more attractive to them (especially commuters, students, and school pupils).

    1. I agree, Deborah…. but sadly I do not think your hopes will be realised. There isn’t adequate, safe parking at the station and probably never will be. I haven’t seen any plans for adequate parking at Mulberry Park either. I have spoken to parents who say they wouldn’t be happy with their children cycling in Bath in order to reach the cable car (too dangerous) and the parents are time-poor, so they wouldn’t have time to take their children to the city centre, join the queue to park, get to the cable car station, drop off children and bicycles and then drive out again. I must say, the thought of hundreds of parents dropping children off at the station doesn’t bear thinking about…the city is congested enough as it is.

      1. I’m getting confused by the premise of parents dropping kids at the train station with bikes to ride up the cable car. You’d just send your kid off on a bike. The problem is that the infrastructure, not just the cable car does not exist. Some Oxford schools have 60%+ kids cycling to school because there is a traffic free cycle path between the school and local communities. The cable car is just a connection between a good cycle network in the river valley and another on the southern plateau. Do these networks currently exist? No. Should they, yes? The cable car is just something that links them together, and would likely take 5-10 years to even be implemented. The important thing to recognise is that each element will be developed in isolation, but together they become a lot more effective.

      2. Awjreynolds….I don’t disagree, but I think the safe cycle routes should come first. As I believe you’ve pointed out, it’s safe to walk from Bear Flat to Hayesfield School but definitely more of a challenge to cycle this route. Parents will continue to drop children off by car (on longer trips) unless safe cycle routes exist. The cable car will not address this issue unless cycle routes are already in place. Deborah is right…. money needs to be spent on cycling and I share her concern that the cable car will detract from this.

      3. Hi Gail,
        The problem is that if you look at the spending habits of the city around cycling money, they re-appropriated £3.1M for the Bath Quays Bridge which could have delivered real change within the city, they spent £1.2M on Seven dials. They do not deliver real cycle network improvements.

        The idea that cycling money would be diverted for a privately funded project is not how this would work. The most likely scenario is that the council would be able to impose a Comminity Investment Levy (CIL) on the cable car build and that this money ‘could’ be used to develop cycle infrastructure around the cable car. There is no mention of any council money being used to support the build of the cable car. Hope that makes sense.

        The cable car is a private venture.

  2. Great to have some positive news about the cable car proposal. It is essential that those who end up below the cable car are not being spied on. Sort that and then let’s build it. The cable car has the potential of being a real asset – the Sydney Opera House of Bath!

    1. I would say that directly below is not usually the issue with most cable car system having waist high walls, it’s more either side that may feel intruded upon. However without a detailed design we have no idea if most of the cable car will be operating at 100m above people’s houses or if they are passing by kitchen windows at 10m high.

  3. Most children who go to school on the south side of Bath live on the south side of Bath (and so walk or drive or get buses) and the private school kids come from all over the place NOT just the centre of Bath. Beechen Cliff School isn’t even in the equation. So a cable car will not help the school run traffic. It will not help commuter traffic to the biggest employer in Bath – the RUH. It will not help air pollution on the London Road (arguably the most polluted road in Bath), or congestion in the centre. It will not take supermarket delivery vans, white vans or HGVs off the road. Curo have not even promised to take bikes on the cable car as they have not provided any detail in their ‘consultation’ – and they will not be operating it anyway – bikes take up lots of room and so will eat into the profits of any private operator. If the cable cars have to scale down in size for any reason through this process you will probably end up not even being allowed to take bikes onto the cable car as you are not allowed to in Barcelona or Dubrovnik. I think if any of these things weren’t an issue then maybe, just maybe Lyncombe/Widcombe/Greenway/Perrymead should take one for the team. Improved, green, electric, regular buses (oh, and in an ideal world, free). If people will get out of their cars and onto these buses then there won’t be any congestion on the road to slow the buses down… surely there’s another way to improve cycling in Bath (which I am pro) that’s not so environmentally damaging and won’t have such a potentially negative impact on the UNESCO World Heritage City status?

    1. Firstly environmentally damaging? Two pylons and two station, using electricity is not environmentally damaging. In fact, give the rubber and break particles generated by eco-buses, this is the best environmentally friendly solution you could have for the city.

      You also need to understand the difference between damage to the World Heritage Site and danger to the World Heritage City status. The WHS is damaged by ANY building. This is not the same as putting the WHC status in danger. That’s a very very different level of danger and would probably require flattening the roman baths.

      I am concerned that people are making huge assumptions around this without supporting the principle of a cable car. Neither you nor I have ANY idea what the proposed scheme is going to be. You are jumping to huge conclusions and objecting to the ‘principle’ of a cable car. That’s extremely short sighted. I want to see what the proposed system will be. Whether it will support cycles. What the ticket pricing is. Objecting now to the principle is so so so short-sighted.

      The Cable Car is the single best cycling enabler the south of the city has ever seen. To kill a ‘back of a fag packet’ idea without seeing the fully realised proposal is really really strange.

      “It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.”
      — Nicolo Machiavelli

  4. OK, so just ignore everything I flagged up in my last post – every problem that Curo says the Cable Car will solve that it will not solve – congestion, air pollution, school run traffic, commuter traffic, green solution, etc etc etc. I’m sorry, sir, but YOU are the one making huge assumptions without any information whatsoever. I think e-bikes are the way forward but that was jut dismissed out of hand when Curo decided to tell us the result before even starting the ‘consultation’. Oh, and it’s NicColo Machiavelli…

    1. I’m making no assumptions, I am however very very keen to see the full proposal from Curo. I find this out of hand dismissal of an idea extremely short sighted. TBH I’m not particularly impressed with Curo and Arup over this. The exhibition should not have gone ahead. They should have presented to Bath a fully complete proposal. What they seem to have created is a bunch of us squabbling over assumptions and rumours and the staff at the presentations did not help matters by making grand statements. I still think a cable car as part of an integrated transport strategy is a good idea. I am less than impressed by Arup/Curo vague back of the fag packet exhibition. It needed to be so much more than it is. People are rightly asking “What have they got to hide?”

      At a minimum they should have had tower sites, mock-ups of cars/towers, price plans, details on carriage of bicycles, and the operational integration with existing public transport. As a PR exercise I feel it’s a complete and utter failure raising immensely more questions than it answers.

      I’m supporting the principle of a cable car until the release of phase 2 documents. Beyond that I have no opinion. I have a hope that they get this right and it doesn’t become a money grabbing tourist attraction. The proof of that hope will be in Phase 2.

      For now I am giving Curo the benefit of the doubt.

  5. A cablecar to the train station is good if you’re trying to maximise sale prices and profits on your new for-profit private property development at Mulberry Park. Miraculously that is what Curo’s engineers present as the solution for the whole of Bath, despite it not addressing the issues highlighted by Jo above and the significant construction costs (money which could be spent on more effective solutions).

    I’m not against a genuine public consultation on cablecars but please can it be run by someone who doesn’t have a large financial interest in skewing the results to bump up profits on their for-profit property developments.

  6. awjreynolds you are making assumptions, you are assuming that bikes will be allowed on these cable cars (Barcelona and Dubrovnik being held up as examples of cable cars in comparable UNESCO WHS at the Curo consultations when you CAN’T EVEN take bikes on these cable cars, not to mention it being a completely incorrect ‘fact’ – only the cities of Venice and Bath are entirely World Heritage Sites). And on the back of this you have become the cable cars biggest supporter (and probably Victor da Cunha’s new BFF). Pouring tons of concrete into the ground to create 2 termini and to support a minimum of 3 steel stanchions that will be taller than the spire of St Michael’s Without to solve a transport problem that it will not solve seems to me a rather foolhardy act. I’m surprised you aren’t a bigger supporter of e-bikes.

    1. I’m assuming you’ve seen the Bath Preservation Trust response? http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/community-engagement-project/

      Let me sum it up for you. In principle they support the idea but the details are too sketchy to form an opinion.

      You’ve formed an opinion on hypothesis without any actual facts in front of you. If you read what I’ve written, I’m in principle supporting the cable car and would like to see the full proposal. I’m really unsure why you want to jump to conclusions without seeing a full proposal.

      An aerial tram/cable car has huge potential but the final proposal might fall short. People who have formed an opinion on the aerial tram before seeing the final proposal really need to think hard about the assumptions they are making and what agenda they really have.

      I’m supporting the aerial tram/cable car principle. I reserve judgement on the final proposal. It must tick two boxes. Good ticket pricing for regular users and ability to transport bikes.

      As to eBikes, I own one, am writing an article for the Chronicle and am shown using one as part of the upcoming ‘I bike it, I like it’ council campaign. Get one. They are simply amazing.

  7. I do wish awjreynolds would stop pimping round this idea that the Bath Preservation Trust supports the idea of a cable car. They do not. They simply say – taken directly from their website – “BPT has not yet taken a position on this”. Just. Stop. Doing. That.

    1. Neither have I taken a postion on an actual Cable Car. However they have stated they can take a position once the full proposal is known. Their statement on whether it would be possible for a Cable Car to operate in Bath is quite positive, as is mine.

      As an integrated public transport solution (with cycling) it has the ability to impact congestion but the devil is in the detail. Too many people are making conclusions without seeing the full proposal.

      However I do understand why many residents of Widcombe would be against the idea.

  8. Please other contributors, I urge you to look into the cable car issue. It is a two fixed-point location non-joined-up transport option which will not reduce air pollution or congestion on the Bradford Road (which is busy Mon-Fri term-time school drop off and pick up/end of working day) or Bath as a whole. There may be thousands of journeys made by car that could be made by other means but this is not the means. Also, how does it address traffic to and from the two biggest employers in Bath – Bath Uni and the RUH? It doesn’t. Is it a tourist attraction or a commuter solution? Our big red buses are hardly heaving 24/7. The BANES tax payer will end up footing the bill for this white elephant.

    1. Jo, You are jumping to conclusions. Neither you nor I currently have enough detail to understand how it will or will not work. I do not understand why you would not want to see a full proposal before making a decision on it’s viability.

      Train stations work for many people due to the multi-modal transport that they support (train + bike).

      One thing I will say is that it absolutely has to be a tourist attraction. It’s what will keep the prices low for residents to use.

      Either way, we’re arguing about an idea, not a proposal. The key is getting the proposal.

  9. You need an addendum to your addendum of 13/04/2017 because you have used quotation marks to “sum up”, as you put it. You are misleading your fellow MAMILs (not intentionally I’m sure) – using quotation marks indicates a direct quote and BPT do not say “No objection in principle but details are too sketchy at this point to form an opinion” as you claim but “BPT has not yet taken a position on this” as I claim. I CAN use quotation marks because I am directly quoting from their website. Check it out, folks!

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