Every August the bridge is closed to pedestrians and vehicles for two evenings during the Bristol Balloon Fiesta Night Glows (Thursday and Saturday) from 6pm until Midnight.
Although the bridge is over 150 years old and consists of many original components which are able to safely deal with the demands of modern traffic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, large numbers of pedestrians on the bridge walking in the same direction at one time can cause a problem. The energy created by so many people walking across the bridge can cause a swaying motion amplifying the natural movement of the bridge. This is called resonance and could lead to a very powerful vibration or wobble, similar to that which closed the Millennium Bridge in London. This would be very uncomfortable or scary for pedestrians and could cause panic as people try to get off the bridge.
It is also impossible for us to regulate pedestrian traffic when such large numbers are involved. To get everyone across safely during the event, we could only allow a maximum of 200 people on the bridge at once. We would have to erect turnstile barriers and employ a large number of stewards at both sides of the bridge to control the flow of people, leading to a large bottleneck in Ashton Court as people would have a very long wait to be allowed on to the bridge.
For these reasons, we take the decision to close the Bridge to everyone between 6pm and midnight on Thursdays and Saturdays during the Fiesta Night Glow. The timing on these two evenings is due to the departure of many thousands of people from the site in a very short period once the night glow and fireworks have finished. We aim to use this time to carry out essential maintenance and annual inspections, which means that we will be hard at work making the bridge better and safer for you to use for the rest of the year.
The bridge is open as normal throughout the rest of the Fiesta.
We hope you understand our reasons for closing the bridge and that we have to make your safety our priority. We apologise for the inconvenience.