We visit two Bristol streets already seeing an impact from the Clean Air Zone

Many rush hour drivers are finding shortcuts and alternative routes to avoid the zone
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Just after 8.30am on a freezing weekday morning and City Road in St Paul’s is deserted and devoid of all traffic. Walk the short distance to Ashley Road at the end of City Road, however, and there is a long queue of cars and vans, their exhaust fumes forming white clouds in the icy morning air.

Since it Bristol Clean Air Zone: everything you need to know as zone charges begin ">was introduced on November 28, these two neighbouring streets have suddenly become divided by Bristol’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ). City Road is within the zone but Ashley Road is outside, which means many drivers are now using an alternative route around the CAZ to get onto the M32.

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“It has definitely got busier in the past two weeks,” says the local council street cleaner, brushing up the leaves near the traffic lights on Ashley Road. Across the road, there is an even longer queue of rush hour traffic at the bottom of Ashley Hill.

“It must be people coming down from St Andrews and Bishopston,” muses the street cleaner. “They’re avoiding City Road and Stokes Croft because they know they’re going get zapped by the clean air zone cameras.”

Further along Ashley Hill, the local lollipop man is helping parents and their kids cross the road. He tells me he has been told by the council not to talk to journalists but that’s after he says he also noticed the street get busier with traffic since November 28.

Quite to what extent the CAZ has impacted the amount of traffic circumventing the zone and looking for shortcuts in the backstreets is hard to say. Other passersby and local shopkeepers I speak to say Ashley Road and the junction with Ashley Hill has always been busy during the rush hour.

City Road sits inside the CAZ and was virtually deserted during the morning rush hourCity Road sits inside the CAZ and was virtually deserted during the morning rush hour
City Road sits inside the CAZ and was virtually deserted during the morning rush hour
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Ahmad has run the Soomar Mini Market on Ashley Road for 20 years. He says that although there hasn’t been a big change in traffic flow outside his shop since the CAZ was introduced, the scheme is causing him problems.

“The problem I have is that my van is old and not compliant for the Clean Air Zone so I’ve contacted the council for help but I’m still waiting to hear from them. It means that at the moment I can’t take the van certain routes to get things for my shop so I may have to use different suppliers and warehouses.”

Drivers have to check whether or not their vehicles meet the standards by using an online checker. Failure to do so could land them with a £120 fine, reduced to £60 if paid within a week plus the original £9 or £100 charge.

Bristol City Council has announced a six-week ‘grace period’ allowing people who should be fined the chance to pay the daily charge, avoiding the fine. Fines are paid online using a reference number included in a letter.

Traffic queues build up on Ashley Road during the morning rush hourTraffic queues build up on Ashley Road during the morning rush hour
Traffic queues build up on Ashley Road during the morning rush hour
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Across the city centre in Redcliffe, a number of shops and businesses now find themselves located inside the CAZ. Redcliffe Pharmacy is a community chemists on Redcliffe Hill. It is also offers Covid and flu vaccinations and many people would drive there and park outside.

Manager Mohammad Asif says it’s too early to say whether the CAZ will impact his business but he worries about older customers. He says: “Although I haven’t seen custom drop off in the first two weeks, I think some of the customers who may have older, non-compliant cars will be worried about driving here.

“Although we’re inside the zone this side of the river, it stops at Coronation Road on the other side so a lot of people are parking in ASDA car park to come here.

“The problem is that it’s quite a walk from ASDA to this pharmacy, especially for older people in the winter when the pavements might be icy.”

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On the other side of Redcliffe Hill, I meet Joy who works at the faithSPACE Methodist Church on Prewett Street. The church, which is shared with St Mary Redcliffe church, has a car park which for years has been used during the day by permit holders who work in nearby offices.

Joy says that although it may be because those office workers are still working from home, she is worried that the recent drop in cars parking there may be due to the CAZ.

She says: “It’s too early to say, but I have noticed fewer permit holders parking here in the past couple of weeks. There are hardly any cars today, for example.

“Of course, it might be because it’s approaching Christmas and people may be leaving their cars at home to go to office parties, but it could be because they have cars that don’t comply with the CAZ.

“It’s a bit of a worry because although we don’t charge an exorbitant monthly fee for the permits, it’s still an important revenue stream for our church and it kept us going through the pandemic.”

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