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Bamfurlong Lane M5 overbridge closure (Complaint to National Highways)

National Highways have announced a 13-month total M5 bridge closure of Bamfurlong Lane, breaking the link between the airport and Cheltenham, and requiring very significant diversions for cycle riders on generally busier roads with poorer quality cycling provision.

A map with a large no entry sign marked on the Bamfurlong Lane bridge, indicating the loss of cycling and pedestrian route between Churchdown and Cheltenham.
Location of closure marked on Opencyclemap, showing the severance between Cheltenham and Churchdown, and the limited and circuitous diversion routes required. Also shows impact on the NCN 41 route.

We’d previously highlighted the impact the M5 bridge closure would have, particularly given the ongoing roadworks on surrounding routes, and had asked National Highways to consider the impact of the disruption so soon after causing similar problems with the Brookfield Lane closure.

The Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign has therefore raised a complaint to National Highways, asking them to review the decision, and to make provision for access to pedestrians and cycle users through the majority of the works period.

Our complaint about the M5 bridge closure of Bamfurlong Lane

Sent via email to National Highways SW, Cllr Dom Morris (GCC), Sustrans SW

Dear National Highways,

The Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign raise a complaint about the proposed thirteen-month full closure of Bamfurlong Lane M5 overbridge commencing in November 2022, and whether there has been due process and diligence in considering the needs of active travel users, particularly those using cycles.

At present, Bamfurlong Lane provides a popular route for a wide range of cycle users, particularly travelling between south and west Cheltenham, Staverton, Churchdown, Innsworth, and Gloucester as well as surrounding villages. It also connects to National Cycle Network 41 which provides a quiet cycle track route along the edge of Gloucestershire Airport.

The full closure necessitates a substantial diversion, which will have a greater impact on pedestrian and cycle users than those travelling in private motor vehicles. The diversion will require cycle users to travel circuitously via the B4063, which has extensive ongoing roadworks.

When the M5 bridge closure works were originally proposed, we were advised that the closure would not be undertaken until the B4063 roadworks had been completed. However, the works are far from finished. At present, a long section of single lane signal-controlled works has a cycle diversion via the unlit, obstructed and poorly maintained Pheasant Lane, which is inaccessible to adapted cycles. Cycle users choosing to remain on the carriageway experience significant motor vehicle pressure due to the length and timing of the signals.

Works will also commence shortly to the west of the M5, and so for those who are travelling onwards to Gloucester, no alternative away from the roadworks will be available. Cycle users will need to contend with increased traffic conflict, made worse by the motor vehicle displacement that the bridge closure will create. This has particular impacts on less confident cyclists, lone cycle users (particularly female) and younger/older/disabled cycle users.

Concrete blocks obscure the entrance to the Pheasant Lane cycle route as darkness falls. The National Highway M5 overbridge closure at Bamfurlong Lane will require cyclists and pedestrians to use this route on a long diversion.
The unlit and isolated Pheasant Lane section that many cycle users will be forced to use by the closure.

We believe the decision to proceed with the full closure, rather than either provide at least a walking route, an escorted crossing during reasonable hours, or a temporary bridge, will have significant detriment to cycling accessibility and safety, particularly given the costs of making such provision in such a large scheme are not unreasonable. We have seen other schemes where National Highways did provide continuity, and we believe Gloucestershire deserves better.

These issues have previously been highlighted to National Highways and Gloucestershire County Council, but they appear to have been ignored in the planning of the nature and timing of the works. It is also disappointing given the recent extensive severance experienced during the Brookfield Road closure, a very similar issue which was highlighted to you by ourselves, and others, at the time.

We would like to request that a specific assessment is undertaken of the impact of this closure on all road users, not just motor vehicles, for your confirmation that reasonable and due consideration has been given to the additional risks and equality impacts that implementing this closure, at this time, will have on cyclists, and a reconsideration of reasonable adjustments to the works to protect continuity.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Chiswell
Secretary, Cheltenham & Tewkesbury Cycling Campaign