Working together to keep path safe

December 22 2020

CYCLISTS are organising and police taking action after a series of attacks on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.
Incidents reported to police and shared on residents’ and cyclists’ Facebook groups in recent weeks include sexual assaults and harassment, robberies, threats and the placing of tree branches and nails on the path.
Police have arrested a 13-year-old boy in relation to a sexual assault and other incidents reported in Fishponds, and are calling on path users to report all incidents to them.
Most of the reported incidents have been happening in the early evening and many have been centred on two areas – the old Mangotsfield station, where the path divides between Emersons Green, Warmley and Staple Hill, and the stretch near Morrisons in Fishponds.
They include:
• A man robbed of an electric scooter at knifepoint on November 19 near Mangotsfield station.
• Branches thrown on to the path near Mangotsfield station on November 12 and 16 as cyclists approached. In the second incident a cyclist was threatened with rape when she shouted at a teenage boy hiding in bushes nearby.
• Roof felt nails scattered on the path between Mangotsfield and Warmley stations on November 15.
• A teenage boy robbed of his bike after being pushed off near Morrisons in Fishponds on November 25
• A woman chased and sexually assaulted while riding her bike past Morrisons on November 25 and 26.
• A cyclist knocked off his bike, suffering a fractured shoulder and broken ribs, by the Whitehall Primary School crossing on December 1.
An Avon and Somerset police spokesperson said a “problem solving plan” had been introduced in response to public concerns, adding: “Working with local partners including Sustrans and Bristol City Council, measures include targeted high-visibility patrols and days of action, bike marking days and an emphasis on information sharing between Bristol East and South Glos neighbourhood policing teams, both of which cover the length of the path.”
Ward councillor Ian Boulton said that while there had been problems with crime and anti-social behaviour on the path before, the recent level of anecdotal reports from the Staple Hill and Mangotsfield section was “unprecedented”.
But he said the number of reports to police did not match levels reported on social media and added: “It is vital that everyone with any information, either as a victim or a witness, calls the police in order to help them put the jigsaw pieces together.
“This will help them to see the whole picture and bring this small group of young men, who are causing so much upset and distress and only seem to be getting bolder in their behaviour, to justice.”
People are being urged to report all incidents they see on 101, or to call 999 if a crime is in progress.
Members of the Bristol Cyclists and Bristol & Bath Railway Path – OnePath Facebook groups have been sharing information about incidents and organising ways for people to team up and ride the path together for safety.
Transport charity Sustrans helps care for the path.
The charity’s South area director James Cleeton organised a socially-distanced ride on Saturday for path users to show solidarity. He said the path was “very busy” with people on bikes and on foot, with support from Easton ward councillor Afzal Shah and music from a Fishponds residents group.