Bristol
Picture: John Sloman

By Jack Brown

The judging process for the selection of the Green Capital of Europe for the year 2015 has begun and for the third successive time, Bristol has thrown its hat into the ring. Joined by fellow UK city Glasgow, the city of Bristol will fight it out against a host of eligible cities from across Europe in order to claim the award, which was devised in 2008 and elected Copenhagen as its first winner for 2010.

But having lost out on being named as the Green Capital for 2014, finishing runner-up behind Stockholm in the announcement of the award in the summer, has Bristol made enough changes to be considered more suited for the award this year?

Bristol’s credentials as a green city are there for all to behold, and there is much to be seen around the city to succeed in each of the twelve categories on which the competition is judged, such as water consumption, green spaces and transport. It has numerous green spaces dotted around the city, such as the Clifton Downs, Ashton Court Estate, as well as many smaller parks, most notably Castle Park, situated right in the city centre.

The presence of inner-city farms at St Werburghs and Bedminster give credence to the notion of the importance of agriculture to the city, as do the many allotment sites that can be found all over Bristol. Finally, in recent years, it has been noted as one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the UK, with its many cycle paths, including the Bristol to Bath which is a favourite among the cyclists of the city. All it takes is a trip to the Clifton Suspension Bridge to gaze across the cityscape and to see for yourself that Bristol is a beautiful city, combining both natural and man-made elements.

However, there is one problem with the city, one which falls within a very important marking criterion for the award, and that issue, very simply, is transport. Despite a plethora of bus services throughout Bristol, traffic is still a very big problem in the city, particularly in and around the centre.

Rush hour traffic more often than not comes to a standstill, leaving local drivers with long waits. The bus services that are provided have been regularly criticised for their inability to provide ease of travel across the whole city, although these claims have been disputed continuously. The city council has on numerous occasions flirted with the idea of implementing a tram service, something that has benefitted cities across Europe such as Amsterdam and Sheffield immensely.

However, plans have never been followed through, and intentions to invest in ‘bendy buses’ were also scrapped.

Bristol will ultimately be judged on its vision for the future in the various categories. Therefore, can it be said that the city’s vision up to this point warrants its selection as winner? The green elements of Bristol make its place as a candidate a given, but in terms of its forward-thinking, it still has a few questions to answer.

Traffic has long been an issue in the city, and one that has seemingly never received a watertight strategy to be dealt with. Bristol finished as runner-up in the last competition, and it will need to present a very good strategy for the future, in particular regarding transport issues, if it is to succeed this and be crowned winner in June next year.