City Council hopes that by the end of the summer, a slice of the Old Town area – which includes restaurants, cafes, independent shops and the Bristol Crown Court – will be free of traffic.
Council officers have also started to restrict a main route for vehicles through the city center and are developing plans to widen sidewalks to help with physical distance and improve cycle paths through Bristol.
Marvin Rees, the directly elected mayor of Bristol, said the idea was to find new ways for people to travel safely during the coronavirus crisis and to discourage them from returning to unsustainable habits afterwards.
“We have Covid’s immediate challenge now. But we also still have the challenges that we had before, “he said. “It’s not just about orienting us around the crisis – it’s about making sure that we think about recovery and restoration at the other end. “
The plans for the old town include historic pedestrian streets such as Corn Street, St Nicholas Street and Small Street. One of the attractions that could benefit is the markets of St Nicholas, home to quirky shops and street food stalls.
Rees said: “We want to make the city center a real destination. We think this is a fantastic opportunity to transform the center of Bristol and make sure it is a prosperous place in the future.
“It is important that we do it now. Normal modes of transportation have been disrupted. People don’t move. It is really important that when people start to move in droves, they do not revert to patterns that are 15 to 20 years out of date.
“We are trying to reconstruct the city in a way that suits a range of challenges, taking up the Covid challenge here and now, but also addressing the broader challenges of social inequality, social immobility and climatic and ecological emergencies. We are in crisis, but we must also think about the medium and long term. “
The Bristol Bridge, one of the main access routes to the city, must be closed to traffic, with the exception of public transport, taxis, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians. Sidewalks need to be widened in some of the busiest shopping areas outside of downtown, including Clifton Village and Stapleton Road. Bike paths will also be improved.
Many ideas were traced before the coronavirus, but the crisis prompted city council to speed them up.
Rees, a Labor politician, called on the government to think further. He said, “What we really want from the government is predictability. At the time of agitation, we do not want any surprises.
“What would be fantastic to get out of it would be a commitment from the government to take a 15-20 year trip with us with predictable finances so that we can plan and build the kind of cities the world needs.”
The council says plans for the Old Town and the Bristol Bridge could be delivered by the end of the summer. In the coming weeks, the council is expected to announce new deadlines for implementing the changes and has said it will also listen to people’s concerns about them.
The response has been mixed. Many residents are in favor, but some motorists find it more difficult to navigate in the center of the city.
Carla Denyer, Green Party advisor for Clifton Down, said: “The coronavirus emergency has shown us how important it is to have space for walking and cycling. As cars start to hit the streets and public transportation faces restrictions, we need to make changes to keep everyone safe on our streets. “
But she said that certain streets had been excluded from the plans, such as the busy Gloucester Street. “We will continue to press for more routes to be added to the program. We would also like to see measures in quiet residential streets to create “low traffic neighborhoods” or perhaps even “superblocks” in the Barcelona style. “
Across the city, neighborhood groups are presenting proposals that they believe would improve their neighborhoods. Among them, the Redcliffe Residents Action Group & Neighborhood Forum, which has developed a detailed plan to transform a two-lane road, Redcliffe Way, into a pedestrian shared space with new local stores, green spaces and affordable houses.
The group said, “As Bristol reopens after Covid-19, we want to say yes to development that prioritizes clean air and makes room for nature and people to play, walk and play. bike.”