East Street buzzing on Saturday

On Saturday 19 September East Street was buzzing with visitors and shoppers, enjoying the ample and safe walking and cycling space, friendly atmosphere and sunny weather.

Also present were a number of cycling services: Dr Bike (provided by On You Bike), the TACC with maps, route advice and info on our campaigns, and Somerset County Council Road Safety promoting Bikeability.

East Street buzzing

TACC in East Street

Manifesto presented to Somerset County Council

Over sixty councils and community groups in Somerset have expressed support for a reversal of the County Council’s prioritisation of car traffic over walking and cycling in the way roads are designed and resources are prioritised.

This is not the end of the route for Somerset

A recent Freedom of Information request showed that Somerset County Council’s capital expenditure on new roads was £47 million in 2018-19, with £116,000 spent on cycle infrastructure.

This is an extreme example, but in the years 2017-19 for every £1 of capital expenditure on walking and cycling infrastructure more than £13 was spent on infrastructure for motor vehicles.

The manifesto (1) has been drafted by Bruton Safer Walking and Cycling, Taunton Area Cycling Campaign and Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign. The first draft was sent to all parish and town councils for their comments and the final ‘consensus’ manifesto takes on board much of the feedback.

Now the three groups are due to meet senior councillors and officers at the County Council, to discuss how the County Council will take this forward.

Incentives from government

Since the manifesto was drafted, the Government has published ‘Gear Change’(2), a new plan for cycling and walking. It mirrors the principles of our manifesto and includes detailed guidance on how to design more equitably for people walking and cycling (3). The upbeat foreword is written by the Prime Minister.
Gear Change sets out plans for a new body which will assess the performance of highway authorities in enabling walking and cycling.

‘Design attractive and safer streets’

James Hood, one of the authors of the manifesto, said ‘Across Somerset the inboxes of town and parish councillors remain full of complaints about speeding traffic and inconsiderate driving and parking. As one parish councillor from Cranmore put it “the major blights on our rural existence are speeding traffic, dangerous roads and inadequate alternatives to car”. We are living with the consequences of decades of car-centric planning of our towns, villages and highways. We can and must do better. We need to design and build a Somerset in which walking and cycling are safe and attractive choices. Having declared a Climate Emergency, and given the new Government guidance and funding, we look forward to our County Council taking a strong and active lead.’

Carleton Lord of Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign said’ we are at a turning point in our transport policy nationally, climate change and congestion are making us reconsider the dominance of the car, which is a very inefficient and polluting way to move people around. The County Council have a chance to make active travel a key part of their agenda.’

Mike Ginger of Taunton Area Cycling Campaign added ’We hope that Somerset County Council will now start to design our streets so that they are safe and attractive to use for people walking and cycling of all ages and abilities. This would mean the end to big road junctions with no convenient crossings, excessive guard railing and barriers and negative signing like ‘end of cycleway’.

References

1 Read the manifesto in full
2 Download ‘Gear Change’ from Department for Transport (PDF)
3 Download ‘Cycle Infrastructure Design’ from Department for Transport (PDF)

Examples of bad designing
The first image shows that pedestrians and cyclists have to cross multiple lanes close to the junction, where motorists are looking out for other vehicles, not people crossing. Posts are on middle of path.
The second image is an example of shared footways always give way to side road junctions with flared mouths, resulting in conflict and route discontinuity.
Pedestrians and cyclists have to cross multiple lanes.Shared footways always give way to side road junctions.

Missed Opportunity for Active Travel in Taunton?

Somerset County Council (SCC) have applied for a second instalment of funding from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel fund. They have been given an indicative allocation of £480k but to get this, must meet certain criteria. This includes swift and meaningful plans to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians (both groups), including on strategic corridors.
For Taunton, SCC have applied for 2 schemes:

  • to continue the East Street scheme with additional measures
  • to construct a link from the railway station to Canal Road (to link with Firepool)

We are on record as supporting these measures. But we believed that the Emergency fund second instalment was intended to enable more ambitious schemes. The railway station link was already planned and doesn’t seem to meet the funding criteria.
TACC submitted proposals to SWT and SCC for measures to provide for better walking and cycling on East Reach, Station Road and Wellington Road (see plans below). Any one of these would have been transformative.

We are puzzled by SCC’s comment that it has ‘taken onboard community feedback’. They could be referring to their website Commonplace mapping, although there aren’t that many entries for Taunton (apart from Juntion 25). On the other hand, the website Widen My Path has hundreds of comments and shows strong support especially for East Reach and Station Road improvements.
Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, SCC need to show some ambition if we are to have any hope of securing funding for the proposed Local Cycling and Walking Plan.

Proposal Park StreetBridge Street - Station Road
Proposal A38 Wellington RoadProposal East Reach

Somerset County Council fails to address safety concerns

Taunton Area Cycling Campaign is again highlighting the inadequate situation created by Somerset County Council and their contractors at the major works scheme at J25. They have removed a cycle and walking path forcing people walking and cycling, including wheelchair users, to use a hemmed in 1 metre wide path over a length of nearly 100 metres, making social distancing impossible.

Trying to get past on coming cyclists whilst pushing bikes.

Somerset County Council and their contractors have responded to our concerns with a series of ‘cyclist dismount’ signs with no additional space for walking and cycling.

Government signing advice is not to use ‘cyclist dismount’ signs. Walking takes four times longer, thereby increasing the risk of inadequate social distancing by 400%. So the County Council has actually made things worse.

We are repeating our call for action to deal with this situation, in line with government current policy, since we have been told by Somerset County Council officers that the current works will continue for 12 months.

Inadequate arrangements

Ian Bright of Taunton Area Cycling Campaign said: “We are very unhappy with the very poor response from the Council. It is unwilling to allow cyclists some road space due to ‘safety issues’ of motorists queuing to exit the motorway. It is impossible for cyclists and pedestrians to socially distance with the current arrangements. When TACC discussed the scheme with the County Council at the planning stage in 2017, we were given re-assurances that pedestrians and cyclists would be properly accommodated during the works. We feel that by requisitioning the existing path for the road at an early stage of the works, the County Council have gone back on this. We are not satisfied with the current inadequate arrangements.
We would like to think the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is of equal importance to motorists. We are demonstrating how dangerous it will be for cyclists if we are forced to use the carriageway under the bridge, and the inconvenience to motorists trying to pass slower traffic.”

Riding on carriage way is dangerous. Push button to cross the slip road can't be reached

The option of using the road is only for the most confident. Even worse in the opposite direction. We also point out to Somerset County Council that other aspects of the works are sloppy, such as the push button to cross the slip road, which they have made inaccessible for people to use.

Our proposal to Somerset County Council: make a one way system

Our proposal to SCC to make one way systemIf Somerset County Council will not provide a traffic lane for the safety of people walking and cycling, we are suggesting a compromise solution.

By narrowing the inner lane slightly and with barriers, it is quite possible to provide a one way system so that people do not need to pass each other in the narrow section, as shown in the first photograph. Narrower traffic lanes would help reduce the excessive traffic speeds that we witnessed at the site.

Members of TACC would be very happy to meet with the County Council and its contractors on site to discuss our entirely reasonable compromise proposal together with the need for additional signing to improve safety. We wish to stress that we want to work constructively with the County Council, as is the case on some projects. But we feel that in this case, our efforts are not being reciprocated.

Manifesto for prioritising walking and cycling

A recent Freedom of Information request showed that Somerset County Council’s capital expenditure on new roads was £47 million in 2018-19, with £116,000 spent on cycle infrastructure. This is an extreme example, but in the years 2017-19 for every £1 of capital expenditure on walking and cycling infrastructure more than £13 was spent on infrastructure for motor vehicles.

Taunton Area Cycling Campaign, in close cooperation with Safer Walking and Cycling in Bruton and Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign, have compiled a manifesto. This manifesto calls on Somerset Country Council to reverse the way it prioritises car traffic over walking and cycling in its design and resource decisions. The manifesto is based on responses to a consultation with parish and town councils and other community organisations in Somerset in May/June 2020. Groups were consulted on an initial draft of the manifesto and the manifesto was amended to accommodate the comments, where possible. It has received support from many community organisations across Somerset.

Read the Manifesto’s priorities »

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