Calls have been made for more bridges connecting south Bristol to the city centre as a key footbridge closes for half a year.
Gaol Ferry Bridge, connecting Southville to Wapping Wharf, will shut in June for at least six months while contractors repair “corroding and rotting” steel beams.
Concerns were made about how diversion routes could lead to clashes between pedestrians and cyclists, as well as access for disabled people, when Bristol City Council approved the closure during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May 10.
Labour and Green councillors both said new bridges were needed across the river.
Councillor Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport, said: “Its structure is almost 90 years old and now needs substantial repair after inspections.
The planned works will include replacing corroding and rotting structural steel beams, as well as replacing the bridge decking and repairing some stonework. We’ll also repaint the bridge.
“I’m aware of the concerns that people will be inconvenienced while this is undertaken, as well as the nearby traders.
“I’ve met with them several times already to keep them updated. We have explored the possibility of a temporary bridge, but this is physically challenging given the span and extreme tidal range.”
Council chiefs looked at building a temporary replacement bridge, but this idea was dismissed as too difficult and expensive, costing about £1 million.
People will instead be diverted either to the Vauxhall Bridge to the west, or the Bedminster Bridge to the east, both about half a mile away.
Green councillors representing Southville raised concerns about how well the diversion routes will be signposted, and potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, as these routes will not be segregated.
Cllr Tony Dyer called on the council to consider new bridges.
He said: “We support this investment, it’s long overdue. North-south crossings have always been a pinch point between the south of the city and the city centre.
“What we would like to see is a review of where we can provide additional capacity for extra crossing points. Increasing capacity would help and enable the active travel that we’re so keen to encourage.”
New bridges are already being explored, according to Cllr Kye Dudd, cabinet member for climate, as part of discussions with developers building major schemes along the waterside.
He said: “Given the amount of concerns that have been raised about loss of footfall, it demonstrates how important these bridges are.
“We probably do need more across the New Cut and the harbour. There are a few ideas floating around certain developments about whether we can get those bridges in place.”
The works to Gaol Ferry Bridge are the first in a £15-million programme, with five other bridges seeing work done over five years.
These are the Bath Bridge, Bedminster Bridges, Langton Street Footbridge and Vauxhall Footbridge.
As part of these repair works, council chiefs were urged to improve disabled access on these key river crossings.
Transport campaigner David Redgewell said: “These bridges are very important to disabled people.
“Crossing the river and into the harbour area should be fully accessible, but some of these bridges aren’t fully accessible at present.
“We ask that this is fully investigated, to make sure we can access this properly, and to make sure that diversion routes are fully accessible.
“The harbour is the heart of Bristol, and from the south of the city we should be able to access it.”