The removal of historic tracks next to Bristol’s M Shed museum would be a ‘massive loss’ for the city despite the danger they pose to cyclists, mayor Marvin Rees has said.
Bristol City Council has long been aware of concerns for the safety of cyclists travelling along Princes Wharf towards the SS Great Britain due to the sunken railway lines, and in 2014 installed signs warning cyclists to dismount there following the death of father-of-two Sean Phillips.
Mr Phillips was training for a charity cycle race when the wheels of his bike became wedged between the tracks and he fell into the harbour, where he tragically drowned.
Earlier this year, a cyclist posted on Facebook that she was involved in an accident where the wheels of her bike also became stuck in the tracks near The Art Warehouse, once again throwing safety worries under the spotlight.
One person replied to the woman’s post, saying the tracks should be removed or covered.
But at a press briefing today (Wednesday) February 16, Mayor Marvin Rees said there were no plans to remove the tracks, which he added were an ‘important feature’ of the dockside along with the waterfront’s four iconic cranes.
He told BristolWorld: “I think removing the rails would be a massive loss for the city, as they form a huge part of Bristol’s industrial history along with the cranes and everything else outside the M-Shed.
“I think it’s a beautiful part of the city. That being said, we can’t eliminate risk entirely.
“We absolutely share in the sadness when people get hurt, but there are signs telling people not to cycle and that’s why they’re there.
“It’s dangerous for cyclists and it’s also a pedestrian walkway, hence why there’s a dedicated cycle path around the back of the M Shed.
“All we can do is remind people to be careful and behave accordingly.”
After the death of Mr Phillips, the city council introduced new warning signs, the new cycle route behind the M Shed and improved ground markings.
The tracks form part of the Bristol Harbour Railway and lead from the M Shed toward the SS Great Britain and the Vauxhall footbridge at the Avon Cut.
Today, they are used for steam train rides with a depot for the engines inside the M Shed.
The M Shed was previously a dockside transit shed and was occupied by the Bristol Industrial Museum until 2006, while the four electrically-powered cargo cranes that front it were built in 1951 - three of them are still operational.