Action to reduce crime risk on the Bristol Bath Railway Path

CyclingWorks Bristol became concerned by the spike in crime that took place on specific sections of the Bristol to Bath Railway Path in late 2020, as we know that many bike commuters use this traffic-free corridor as part of their daily journey allowing them to avoid the alternative of busy roads.

We raised the issue with both Bristol City Council (BCC) & South Glos Council (SGC) and have reached out to other organisation with expertise locally and beyond to try to understand what actions might be taken to improve personal safety. We used these learnings (our thanks go to all contributors) to put together a survey for all path users (cyclists, walkers & runners) working with Bristol Cycling Campaign (BCyC), Bristol Walking Alliance (BWA) and others.

The survey was completed by just under 1,100 people, the fact that 72% of these live in postcodes bordering the path and 59% of them told us that they (normally) use the path at least a few times each week, means that we are confident that the results are robust and offer compelling evidence for decision makers & stakeholders.

The key data points from the results were as follows:

  • 93% of people were aware of the crime spike, with social media being the primary of source of information for 60% of them.
  • 85% of people told us that their confidence in using the path had been eroded by the recent crime spike.
  • 47% of males, rising to 57% of females said that they were “considering alternatives, especially after dusk”, or are now “avoiding using the path until reassured”.
  • When asked about “steps that could be taken to make you feel safer” 94% of people expressed that increased police patrols were very important or important.
  • When asked about the visibility of police on the path, 70% of those on the path recently said they had not seen the police.
  • Of the other crime reduction steps raised in the survey, improved lighting & targeted CCTV were supported by 90% or more, with 84% supporting better maintenance of undergrowth along the path borders.

Based on these results, together with BCyC & BWA, we are now in discussion with BCC & SGC and calling for:

  1. A commitment to a determined plan of action to restore people’s confidence about their personal safety when using the path.
  2. Work to encourage Avon & Somerset Police to maintain/increase patrols in the short term.
  3. A commitment to an immediate path maintenance programme i.e. fix broken lights & thin undergrowth.
  4. Funding for improvements to lighting & installation of CCTV at some access points and known crime hotspots.

We have also asked that a location based incident tracking mechanism be set-up to allow an accurate path crime report to be created, as this has been highlighted as an issue for non-street locations, like the path.
You can find more about the survey results and requested actions in the survey report