The best and worst of Bristol road crossings

A pressing issue amongst the student community

In situations where people struggle to put their feelings into words on issues they hold dear, a frequented technique is to put those thoughts into words on paper.

Here I intend to do no different, with Bristol’s road crossings a core and abnormally passionate focus of mine, that I feel we can all get behind. Below we will explore, with loose anecdotes and critical analysis, the state of a few of the best and the worst places for pedestrians to take on.

Our analysis will begin with the best of the crossings within key student areas of the city, roughly from the top of the downs to the university, as well as other popular hotspots in between that represent pedestrian perfection.

Blackboy Hill/top of Whiteladies Road

Rating: 7.5/10

Upon first glance, this appears a complex mishmash of poorly positioned traffic lights that seeks to intimidate weary-eyed pedestrians.

For starters, why is there a completely unnecessary U-turn back up the hill that just adds another layer of confusion to an already over-congested area of town? This is before I even get on the complications caused by the ASDA garage that makes you doubt everything you knew about road crossings.

However, I feel after a few times navigating this example, you grow to understand and love it. The way it operates is typically simple, with the usual one traffic light ending, triggering another to begin, providing pedestrians ample opportunities. All the fuss is on one side of the network, while your side is free from the chaos of onrushing Stoke Bishop freshers. Activity becomes continuous across the network in a seesaw-like manner, with each action triggering another action, energising those around it.

I am not saying it is without its flaws, the crossing by the upper set of traffic lights with three lanes can turn into a game of car dodgeball if you get it wrong (be warned). Meanwhile, the existence of an army of scattered Vois, that occasionally looks like a poorly-located disused scrapyard, can further scramble brains.

However, overall the crossings here act as an energy hub, and should be appreciated and understood for their underlying simplicity and crucial access provided to the Downs on a summer’s day.

Clifton Down

Rating: 9/10

I apologise if this appears like a cop-out and a boring mainstream choice. Undeniably it is a standard centre of town that does not exactly scream the best that Bristol has to offer; a Boots, Sainsbury’s and extortionate Starbucks are not exactly our main tourist attractions.

Despite this, I still feel this road crossing deserves a place in this section, purely because of how easy it is to use in a part of Clifton that should seemingly allow cars to dominate pedestrians. There are few better sites than watching a line of U1 buses being held up at the lights resembling some sort of budget motorcade.

In the day, regardless of whether it is early morning or late afternoon, the time it takes post-clicking the waiting button is never so long to inconvenience you. Every part of the process is so basic and simple: click button, wait, cross road, one side to the other. You never lose the flow of your journey.

In contrast, most main roads in major cities require either longer waits, or some ridiculous maze of turns and 90-degree angles to make five yard gains to the middle of the road where you get stranded and become a sitting duck once you realised you have stumbled into a bus lane (yes, this is a personal trauma of mine).

As well as this, a massively underrated feature is that you never get stuck in a conversation you do not want to for too long. There is always a healthy number of people forming at the crossing on either side, increasing the likelihood of a stiff conversation that starts with “how are you?” and ends with “so what are your plans for the week?”. The speed of the lights changing provides effective protection against these lifeless encounters.


Now, time for the good stuff. The slander, the anger, the drama. There are numerous honourable mentions that could fit in here, with that four-way crossing outside Senate House coming to mind.

Nevertheless, this has nothing on the first of our worst Bristol Road crossings:

St Michael’s Hill roundabout

Rating: 3/10

For those of you who lived in Redland and opt to take the route up Hampton Road to uni, this will be all too familiar to you.

Having reached the top of the hill in a pool of sweat, once more overestimating the number of layers you need for the walk in, the last thing you want is a four-way roundabout with random cycle lanes and no entry signs chucked in for good measure.

I think the fact that no one, especially on the way towards the university, can figure out if going on the right-hand side pavement, or the left-side one, is the better option sums up the lack of understanding students have for this circle of chaos.

No matter how many times you look left and right, there is always some twist in the tale, often in the form of a van swinging round nearly 360 degrees around the roundabout and accelerating at you.

Harder to understand than anything, is why the exit coming up from Cotham Hill has two entry lanes that go in essentially the same direction. Personally, I maintain it is one of the biggest infrastructure failings of the modern era, causing genuine worry to at least one person in Bristol (myself admittedly). Surely they can still turn left with just one lane!

The SU-Pembroke road double roundabout crossing

Rating: 1/10

Even the thought of this pathetic excuse of a pedestrianised crossing riles me up. The worst thing is it’s not even one crossing on this double roundabout that defies any human logic, there are multiple.

(I have taken a pause at this stage of the article to compose myself and take some deep breaths.)

As you walk up past Sandwich Sandwich from the Victoria Rooms, taking the right-hand side poses some difficult challenges. Mainly, there is a railing in the way. No matter, you think, I’ll just cross over to the other side. Easier said than done, with the crossing basically being on top of the exit of the first roundabout, causing almighty confusion about whether cars are going to stop or not.

Even if you manage to find your way across this part safely, the pathway then stops again at the second roundabout at another exit. Hang on a minute, this is hardly a crossing, this is just an exit that I am expected to walk across with cars coming from every direction under the sun. At this point I am just a roadblock. I have essentially become part of the exit. Not fun, not clever, and frankly not on.

In positioning zebra crossings just off the exit of roundabouts, while trying to integrate pedestrians physically into the road network, this insult to the city deserves to be given the status as the worst road crossing in Bristol, in my humble opinion.

I hope you can all agree, and please, make sure you take great care around this area of the city in the future.

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