Last week I visited Backfields, a small regenerated industrial street behind Stokes Croft, where I met Andy Degg of Green Hat Design – a graphic design company that believes in sustainable business values.
Andy is leading an exciting new initiative for businesses in his street called ‘Green Street’. The initiative is just exactly the sort of thing I like to hear about in the run-up to Bristol European Green Capital 2015, as it illustrates a positive response to some of the tough challenges set by 21st century city living.
Andy told us: “As Director I’m generally out in meetings or presentations three or four times a week and as such travel is a big issue for me. I can’t park outside the office and the closest on-street parking is all metered. Then there is the issue of parking once I get to the meeting”
So far, similar to dozens of letters I receive about business and parking, but Andy isn’t complaining about it. Like a growing number of modern businesses – particularly those with sustainable values and a youthful outlook – he appreciates that city centre car travel is not a realistic or desirable option for the future and he is doing something about it.
“For most meetings in Bristol,” he says, “I either walk or use my push bike. However for meetings where this isn’t practical I have to try and bring in my car and park it nearby until I need it, which can be costly and impractical.
“To resolve these issues I met with Nina Skubala, Bristol Lead IYRE Adviser from Business West, who suggested I talk to Sally Jones, Business Engagement Manager of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund at the council. Sally organised for me to loan an electric bike for two months as a trial of usage.”
And how was it?
“Great, I loved riding it and it made everything so much easier. I used it 18 times in the two months and travelled 83 miles. I’m definitely interested in getting one for the company on a permanent basis. This was especially useful for meetings in Bristol over 3 to 4 miles away such as Westbury-on-Trym and Stoke Bishop.
“Additionally as of this month Green Hat also has City Car Club membership for meetings outside Bristol.”
Andy hopes to organise 12 neighbouring local businesses to form ‘Green Street’. Some of its aims are the usual standard of any small business organisation – litter, unwelcome graffiti or tagging (yes there is some of that even in Stokes Croft!) and planting schemes.
Yet in addition, Green Hat Design is pushing more innovative solutions for energy consumption and sustainable travel.
“The street are due to meet this month to discuss the possibility of a pool of bikes for us all to use which would help share the costs. I’m looking to the car clubs to see if they can cut us a deal between us. Most city centre businesses have challenges with work day travel. So clubbing together on a solution seems like the way to go.”
Bristol is changing fast. Cars will always be a useful and practical option for some journeys to some destinations, but they cannot continue to be the only solution for business travel. 25000 additional vehicles made their way out of the showrooms and onto Bristol’s roads in the 10 years to 2011*. We can’t fight the facts. We need to take practical action. I will be following Green Street closely, and I am confident it will have much to teach us about travel options for the future.
“I of course cycled to meet Andy on my electric bike which has contributed to a significant reduction in my car use”