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Results – What has been achieved

Bristol Legible City is a complex initiative that has developed diverse projects. It is difficult to assess impact although some evaluation has been carried out. This is important to inform future work.

2002 evaluation report
In early 2002 the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership was commissioned to produce an evaluation of Bristol Legible City’s progress. The following are summaries from the findings.
Or read the full report [Download Evaluation Report.pdf]

Bristol Legible City has won two awards: the Regional Planning Award and the Royal Town Planning Institute Award for Innovation in February 2002.
Jill Pain, chairman of the judging panel, said…
‘This is an outstanding example of planning innovation and achievement, which fully deserves wide recognition. The planning professionals involved should be proud that their work has resulted in significant environmental and public benefits. We were particularly impressed by the use of specially developed maps using three-dimensional building images that people can readily recognize.'
The collaborative and connected nature of Bristol Legible City was also praised by the Planning Officers Society. James Russell said…
‘Identifying with our towns and cities, and making them more attractive and understandable to residents and visitors, is one of the keys to urban renaissance. The Bristol project is a credit to the joined up working of all involved, and should be a template for others to follow.’
This praise has been matched by local users. The Bristol Civic Society has praised the project. One member commented…
‘The signs, especially the maps, are one of the best things to happen in the city last year.’
Charles Manton, writing in the Bristol Civic Society April 2002 Newsletter, said…
‘Our congratulations to all concerned! Three cheers for Bristol being best.’ In addition to the quality of the system, he praised the way the signs had escaped ‘the scourge of advertising stickers which disfigure just about every other vertical surface in the city.’

Benefits for business

Helping business operate more effectively is another key aim of Bristol Legible City. John Savage, Chief Executive of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce says:
‘All our research shows that signage was a major problem in
attracting businesses to the city and helping them get the most out of it. The new pedestrian signing and maps not only helps to overcome that problem but – because it is unique –contributes to making Bristol a more attractive place. Of course, business will not be satisfied until vehicular signage is improved, but this is an excellent start.’

A good example of where Bristol Legible City is helping business is Broadmead Shopping Centre . Broadmead attracts 39 million visitors each year, but needs to attract more to withstand the threat of out of town shopping and to make the case for expansion to investors. Better signing, maps, and information are essential. A major problem is that customers and visitors find it difficult to locate Broadmead, as well as know what it has to offer, because of the confusing nature of Bristol City Centre.
‘Legible City is a ‘significant step forward because it creates the correct impression for our visitors ’, says John Hirst, Broadmead manager, As a result ‘we give the right impression to newcomers, customers feel more comfortable and it tells them all that we mean business.’ He adds: ‘We see many people looking at the signs/maps each day. Customers are impressed by them. It creates a good feeling for them. They are impressed by Bristol. Our city is being seen as progressive. It sets a standard for us and a benchmark for other cities.’
Thomas Cook, one of the shops at the entrance to Broadmead, like the signs and maps as they no longer have to deal with large numbers of enquiries about Broadmead. They told John Hirst that
‘only a small number of people now ask for directions. This allows staff to concentrate on their business.’

Cultural benefits

Other organisations that have benefited from appearing on the Bristol Legible City maps are Bristol ’s higher education institutes, Barry Taylor, of the University of Bristol , said that it has not only helped people find their way to the university, but also that it has
‘added visual interest to the central area and boosted Bristol’s image as a modern, hospitable city.’ In terms of the University of Bristol, Barry Taylor says: ‘Bristol Legible City has benefited the university in two ways. One is that there are fewer lost souls wandering the streets of Clifton looking for us. The second is that the university markets itself partly on its location at the heart of a creative, forward-looking city. Bristol Legible City is evidence that this is the case.’
Over time, he believes, it may have a positive impact on resident’s pride of place – not least because of the quality product.
‘All the elements of Bristol Legible City work well, both individually and as a suite ’he believes. ‘It is clear that they have been thought through with enormous care and imagination.’

Arts organisations

The Royal West of England Academy has not previously benefited from signing. For them, the sign system is ‘excellent ’ and the maps ‘helpful –though there should be more.’ They commented…
‘Anything that facilitates circulation within the city is to be welcomed. I think the benefits will be more evident in the long term when people become more familiar with the attractions that are located within the city through the sign system. In the short term blc1 provides a comprehensive and inclusive orientation system and provides an extremely visible impression of Bristol working together for the benefit of its citizens and visitors.’
Dick Penny, Director of the Watershed Media Centre , said that Watershed continues to ‘increase its visitor numbers …assisted by increased visibility to visitors.’ He calls the signs ‘distinctive, clear and informative ’and the maps ‘very good – informative and fun.’ He added…
‘Signing in the central area is now much clearer and gives pedestrians a good idea not just of where they are and where they want to go but also what else is available to them –it makes the city feel more accessible and attractive. The design sends out a strong message that this is a modern city with a sense of quality and style. Debate around the whole concept has helped raise aspiration in Bristol to make it a better city and projected Bristol to external audiences in a positive manner.’
The Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre felt that even though they have had
‘no feedback that customers have come here with the help of Bristol Legible City ’the signs were generally very helpful.

Survey of usage

The first independent survey of the signage system since installation offers encouraging results for Bristol Legible City. The biennial Bristol Visitor Survey, undertaken by South West Tourism on behalf of Bristol Tourism and Conference Bureau, which looks at road and pedestrian signs, maps and information boards among other points, found that 61.3 per cent of visitors said that Bristol ’s pedestrian signs were either good or very good (8.2 per cent found them poor or very poor).Out of an optimum score of 5, the average was 3.84 this figure shows an increase from 3.44, the average score in 1999.The results were less encouraging for maps and information boards where 36.6 per cent found them good/very good while 13.4 per cent found them poor or very poor. Out of an optimum score of 5, the average was 3.48. An increase from 1999 when it was 3.20 the average score in 1999. However, over one-third of respondents had no opinion. John Hallett, BTCB director, said:
I think visitors are often under less pressure with time and hence are sometimes less likely to take signage, and their interaction with it, in their stride. I think that the results are encouraging and show a higher level of satisfaction than we saw two years ago but indicate that good street signage is but one part of the total information service that today’s discriminating tourist expects.’

There has been some criticism of the signs. At-Bristol have commented that it has not been beneficial for their leisure and tourism. Using the delay in introducing good vehicular signing as a key reason, there is a sense of frustration in not seeing adequate Brown and White signing, and see Bristol Legible City as responsible for this delay. However, since October 2002, the Brown and White signs throughout the city have been given priority and the complete overall of the system is underway.

Other criticism has been leveled at the current concentration of new signing in the city centre, Ruth Davey of Bristol East Side Traders , welcoming generally the system as making it easier to get round the city centre says:
‘Our small and medium sized enterprises in Bristol ’s inner city (Easton Ashley and Lawrence Hill wards) have been crying out for years for better signage that will lead people from the city centre to neighbouring retail areas such as St Mark ’s Road, Stapleton Road, Stokes Croft etc. Traders in St Mark ’s Road, in particular, have been trying to get better signage as their clients come from all over the region and some find it difficult to find their way around.’
Plans for the extension of the pedestrian signing to neighbourhoods should go some way to solving this problem.

Gillian Davies of the Christmas Steps and St Michael ’s Hill Association told the Bristol Evening Post (4 May 2001) they saw the signing system as the introduction of ‘modernism ’in heritage areas.
‘They are totally inappropriate for a conservation area and provide a superb example of 21st century brutalism …They are not appropriate for historical settings such as Christmas Steps or King Street. They are also very “busy” signs which can be quite confusing when you have got several pointing in the same direction.’

Clutter reduction
Since the project started,180 new signs and maps have been installed. As a result, over 300 pieces of obsolete street furniture have been removed. Bristol Chamber of Commerce welcomes the clutter reduction programme, although in its April 2002 Newsletter, it stated the ‘proliferation of new commercial signs’ makes this difficult to implement. In Queen Square, one of the countries largest Georgian squares, up to 30 pieces of redundant furniture have been removed. Of the street plates, poles, no waiting and one-way signs that have been removed, just three Legible City signposts and maps have taken their place, therefore greatly reducing sign clutter throughout the city.

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