The Railway Path and Council Elections

As summer approaches, the Railway Path is lovely: green, pleasant, and full of people -none of whom are waiting for a bus, which is something to celebrate.

In the runup to the local elections, we've seen lots of candidates claiming that "they" stopped the plans to run BRT along the path.

In fact, the people who stopped them were you , the people of Bristol. It was you who dragged out the plans from hiding, communicated them widely, got in touch with our councillors, organised and supported protests the like of which the city hasn't seen for ages. Together, you showed in your thousands how much people across the city valued the path as a park, not as "a-path-by-a-bus-lane", and were prepared to make the protest stick.

For the record, the campaign had active participation from members of -in alphabetical order- Green, Labour, The Liberal Democrats, and Respect, as well as some Conservatives. We had council support from, in alphabetical order: Green, Labour, and Liberal Democrat Councillors, and support from Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from all the main parties. It was a difficult balancing act: most of these parties had been compromised at some time, and they all seek a platform, but none of them played party politics within the campaign, and they have honoured the support they have given us since.

The parties who trade on hate played no part in this civic action. Bristol is stronger from having united communities, than being divided -something the path itself demonstrates, as everyone is welcome to walk, run or cycle on it.

The real threat to the path is the present policy of the West of England Partnership, a regional organisation not under the direct control of any single local government in the former Avon county area. The transport planners there don't recognise the park aspect of the path: BRT-on-the-path remains in their sights, judging by their roadmaps. It is important to keep them under close supervision, regardless of who ends up in a majority on Bristol council. Similarly we will still need to keep a close eye on housing and commercial developments that might damage the path, while supporting initiatives with a positive impact.

The whole BRT episode has shown how important local government is. Please do not abstain on Thursday, as these elections can make fundamental changes to our communities and our local quality of life, for better or worse. Nor should you treat the local election purely as a referendum on central government: it should be about how you want the city itself to be run.

The choices between candidates and parties that have supported the path as a park are about a range of matters which affect us: for some of us it is housing, care for elderly people, the future of education provision, green spaces, waste and health. maybe even the delivery of effective transport policy. For some it is the council tax we pay.

For us, while we campaign for a better environment, it is also about the kind of society we want to live and enjoy our path in, and our concern about the rise of intolerance and xenophobia that can damage our communities.

Vote for the Path by voting for representatives of the kind of society that will value what it means to the city.

Vote, then come out on the path with everyone else, enjoy the summer evenings on it. Without your effort: without the postcards, the emails, the protests and the letters to the press, the greenery would be well on its way to being replaced by tarmac.