The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is a 13 mile car-free cycling route connecting the cities of Bristol and Bath. The path is popular with residents and visitors alike, and is as much a home to local wildlife as it is an important commuting route.

We asked local sustainable transport charity Sustrans to give us a better understanding of how this local landmark came to exist.

Children on the Bristol & Bath Railway Path during its construction in 1979 - credit John Grimshaw
Image: The Bristol and Bath Railway Path in 1979, credit John Grimshaw

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path was launched by Cyclebag in 1978, with a plan for a traffic-free route along the River Avon towpath as far as Hanham, then joining the derelict railway at Bitton. 

Works commenced in June 1979, with over 300 volunteers putting in about 800 days of labour to complete the first 8kms of the route. The path was opened by the end of that year and was an immediate success. At the time this was the only cycling provision in the whole area – there was not a single metre of cycle lane or path anywhere else in the county.

Following more volunteer-led construction and negotiations with local residents, other sections were gradually added, and the whole path was finally opened on 6 August 1985, exactly 150 years after the opening of the original railway line, and 6 years on from the start of the cycle route development at Saltford.

Cyclists on the Bristol & Bath Railway Path on its opening day in 1985 - credit Sustrans
Image: The opening of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path in 1985, credit Sustrans

In the years since the first section of the path opened it has only grown in popularity. Over the last few years, numbers have doubled on some of the busier sections, and it is estimated that 3 million journeys are made using the path every year.

Popular attractions along the route include:

Family cycling along Bristol and Bath Railway Path in Mangotsfield - credit South Gloucestershire Council
Image: The Bristol and Bath Railway Path passing through Mangotsfield in the present day, credit South Gloucestershire Council

The path runs through several districts in East Bristol which are worth a visit if you want to break up a long cycle ride. Read our local's guides to Easton, Fishponds and Keynsham to see what there is to do in each of these neighbourhoods dotted along the route.

We've also got plenty more suggestions for things to do in East Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath, depending on how far you think you can cycle!

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