Residents and shoppers fearful of plans to ban private vehicles from Park Street have been promised they will not lose access.
Opposition councillors at Bristol City Council say most people are opposed to the idea amid concerns that elderly and disabled people must be protected from the changes and that cars could be pushed onto nearby roads.
In response the Labour administration insists forthcoming public consultation will include options of closing the street only to through-traffic, which mayor Marvin Rees announced in his annual State of the City address last month.
Hotwells & Harbourside ward Lib Dem Cllr Alex Hartley told a council meeting that installing a bus gate was “the wrong solution to the wrong problem”.
He said he had received hundreds of responses from local residents both for and against the proposal in a survey he put out recently and that about 58 per cent opposed it and 39 per cent were in favour.
Cllr Hartley told member forum he welcomed assurances from cabinet member for transport Cllr Don Alexander that a bus gate would not restrict access for locals.
“Many residents acknowledged that we need to do as much as we can to tackle both the climate emergency and air pollution in the city centre but felt that the closure of Park Street to private cars would push traffic down Jacob’s Wells Road and Park Row, which would add to existing pollution and congestion issues in those areas, including outside the BRI,” he said.
“Many residents expressed how difficult this would be for them, and local businesses to operate.
“Outside of rush hour, Park Street is not that busy, and improving bus services would do more to reduce traffic and improve the area.
“What was clear from the vast majority of respondents was the need to make sure that those most affected – those living on or on the roads just off Park Street – need more support if this is to happen, perhaps an exemption for local residents, or improving the local residents’ parking zone conditions.
“We must offer car drivers more of a carrot by creating better public transport networks before trying to force them out of their cars through an ever-growing number of bus gates which force people to take journeys many times longer and more polluting.”
Stoke Bishop ward Conservative Cllr John Goulandris told the meeting on Tuesday, November 9: “Many of my elderly and disabled residents can’t use public transport so have no option but to use their cars for accessing the city centre, usually via Park Street.
“I’m looking for a commitment to ensure those residents with blue badges will still be allowed through any proposed bus gate.”
Labour deputy mayor Cllr Craig Cheney replied: “The quick answer is we are only consulting on the changes at the moment, so that absolutely is one of the things we can consider in that consultation.
“Obviously there is no intention to close it to shoppers and residents, so it’s only the closure to through-traffic which we are consulting on.
“So absolutely it can be fed into the mix of the conversation.”
Cllr Goulandris asked where the proposed bus gate would be, adding that if it was at the top of Park Street, it would cut off access to shoppers and residents.
The deputy mayor replied: “The point is the consultation will have a range of options that could include top or bottom or both.”
In a written reply to the Tory councillor before the meeting, Mr Rees, who did not attend member forum, said: “We are planning a consultation that considers a number of options, of which one is the potential closure of Park Street to through-traffic while still providing access for residents and shoppers.
“All options will be aimed at reducing bus journey times and making bus journeys more reliable, as well as delivering public realm improvements.”
He said the aim was to improve bus services and public spaces rather than tackle air pollution, which was being done through the Clean Air Zone from next year.