We wrote to all five parliamentary candidates with 5 questions, listed below. Below that are the responses from four of the five candidates.
Our 5 questions
Q1 The Department for Transport sponsored Propensity to Cycle Tool shows that with Dutch style infrastructure*, around a quarter of all commuting trips in Taunton Deane would be by bike, increasing to around a third if E-bikes become popular as well. This area has amongst the highest potential cycling rates in the region.
If elected, would you work for the development of a comprehensive, Dutch-style cycling network for the Taunton area, seeking significant investment from DfT, the LEP and local authorities to deliver it? If yes, how would you work to that end?
Q2 TACC has identified numerous problems for cyclists, and potential cyclists, in the design, construction and maintenance of roads and cycling infrastructure (see Design Standards). There is currently no specific funding for cycling infrastructure set aside by Somerset County Council, and there are no national design guides for cycling infrastructure. Furthermore, SCC often uses outdated and/or inappropriate road design guides.
If elected, would you lobby DfT for national design guidance for cycling infrastructure to guide local authorities, and would you support TACC in seeking dedicated local funding for cycling infrastructure construction and maintenance, nationally and with local authorities?. If yes, how would you go about this?
Q3 Would you support the creation of cycling superhighways from the proposed urban extensions to the centre of Taunton and the railway station, to provide genuine, high quality safe cycleways providing a real alternative to motorised travel for work, shopping and leisure journeys for our newly designated garden town?
Q4 Currently there is a large road building programme (at least £15b) and planned major investment in HS2. Meanwhile bus services are being cut back and there is little specific direct funding for walking and cycling, particularly in Somerset. Do you believe that the current transport spending priorities are right and are there any changes to it that you would like to make? Should improved levels of investment come from central government to improve bus services, walking and cycling?
Q5 If elected, would you be prepared to work with TACC and the local authorities to improve cycling as a day to day means of travel to all? If yes, what would be your approach to this?
The replies in the order that they were received
Gideon Amos, Liberal Democrats
Q1 Yes – and not only would I work on this I have done so in the past as a Councillor for central Oxford where achieved physically segregated and protected cycle lanes as part of the Oxford Transport Strategy which closed the high street to motorised traffic in favour of cyclists and pedestrians. I also devised and led study visits for local authorities to the Netherlands to see their cycle friendly transport planning as part of my role as Chief Executive of the TCPA.
Q2 Yes and I would do so by forming a Taunton Deane Cycle User Committee (ideally a committee or sub-committee of the County and Deane Borough Councils) and through relevant all party cycling and transport and planning groups in the House of Commons
Q3 Yes I would support cycle super highways but would expect them to follow and be part of the most direct routes from a to b and only divert off the highway where this created a clearly shorter route to the station/town centre. I would also expect them to minimise stop, start interruptions and eliminate as far as possible sharp changes in direction at any ppoints both of which undermine the objectives of better cycle routes.
Q4 I believe current spending priorities are wrong in that they focus on national network projects (improving journey times on long distance routes) failing to prioritise schemes that would have more benefit for towns and villages themselves – including cycling schemes.
Cycle routes are too often fundamentally misconstrued, not taking a straight route or line form a to b is the most common fault but the building of key cycle route bridges in Taunton with the addition of signs saying “cyclists dismount” is a huge mistake.
Q5 Yes I would be delighted to work with TACC – I already cycle daily as commuter. I would work with TACC to help achieve its objectives in Parliament.
Clive Martin, Green Party
Q1 My brother-in-law is a keen cyclist and lives in Walthamstow. I stay with him and my sister very regularly as I have to be in London quite often for work. Waltham Forest is one of the London authorities bringing in a “mini-Holland”.
Details of the scheme can be found here:
I know that initially there was a lot of opposition as roads were made one way or closed altogether to through traffic by the creation of cul-de-sacs but the scheme is well underway now and you can see the benefits. There are identifiably more people walking and cycling than there were a year or two back. I’ve also been to Bristol 3 or 4 times over the last couple of months for work and been struck by the volume of people cycling there and what appears to be a pretty comprehensive network of cycle routes, in many places separated off from vehicles and pedestrians.
If elected I would of course campaign vigorously for this sort of scheme in Taunton and also elsewhere in the constituency.
Q2 I’d absolutely support this. My own dealings with Somerset County Council’s Highways Department as an active parish councillor, to arrange for a 20mph speed limit in Bishops Lydeard, have been frustrating. I accept that some of the difficulties may be the result of under-staffing following on from 7 years of cuts to local government funding. But I have found it odd that I have had to point them repeatedly to current Department of Transport advice in this area, and it seems that TACC has also had to point out to them that they are not aware of, or certainly not following, current policy advice.
Realistically the answer to this, and most questions, is where do we find the money? On the one hand we’ve seen the removal of the rural bus support grant and on the other a commitment to spend millions locally on road schemes. We need to turn these priorities on their head, putting support for cycling, pedestrians and public transport at the top of the hierarchy of spending priorities. That sort of shift will only come about when we have elected representatives actually prepared to stand up and admit that the likelihood is that if we spend more on socially useful transport we will spend less on road schemes.
Q3 I would of course support this. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the “garden town” designation. The funding for this so far pales into insignificance compared to the huge profits that will be made from building all around Taunton on any available greenfield site. And those new developments at places such as Galmington, West Monkton and Staplegrove, seem to have precious little emphasis on how people living there will travel by anything other than private car.
I am a recreational cyclist. I regularly attend meetings in Taunton but I cannot get safely from Lydeard to Taunton by bike as the A358 is terrifying if you are on a bike, and going round on the lanes takes ages. I have been a member of the campaign for a cycle path from Bishops Lydeard/Cotford to Taunton since its inception and am currently vice-chair of that group. We are actively looking to promote such a route as there will be some money available for this within the next year or two from the new development now planned for Lydeard. We have a route designed for us by Sustrans and are now seeking to meet with landowners to get their views. I hope this is evidence that I am genuinely committed to these ideas.
Q4 I am opposed to HS2. I support putting more money into socially useful transport options.
Q5 Of course I would be prepared to work with TACC and local authorities on this. The Green Party believes in evidence based policies. We wish to lower the priority of the private car because burning fossil fuels drives climate change which will affect us all. We now know that levels of nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants are way above legal limits in many towns and cities across the UK. There is therefore clear evidence for the dangers posed by private transport as well as the health benefits of cycling. In a rural area with minimal public transport this is a difficult cause to sell to people who are dependent on their car. But we will only progress if we do so on the basis of facts and evidence. As part of that process we have been happy to work with people who have expertise wherever we can. So we would work with TACC because you clearly “know your stuff”.
In the long run, after the election is over, the Green Party will not disappear. We will continue to have members who are active in TACC. We will continue to publicly support your work.
Rebecca Pow, Conservative Party
Thank you for your email, as you know this is an area I am particularly interested in and have been working on for some time and indeed I have met with TACC to discuss your issues. (our note: TACC as a group hasn’t met Rebecca yet, although we are aware the Cycle Somerset did meet her at the Houses of Parliament in late 2016. Some Cycle Somerset members are also TACC supporters)
I have dedicated piece on cycling on my website and you may be interested to know that I am pulling together an environmental policy pamphlet that includes a section on cycling.
Please see my answers to your questions below – keep up the good work and I hope to meet with you again after the election.
Q1 This is a successful model when used in appropriate places and certainly something to aspire too
Q2 I have already met with TACC and Cycle Somerset to discuss cycling in the area (our note: TACC as a group hasn’t met Rebecca yet, although we are aware the Cycle Somerset did meet her at the Houses of Parliament in late 2016. Some Cycle Somerset members are also TACC supporters) and I am aware of design issues relating to cycling infrastructure and will certainly continue to highlight key concerns if re-elected. I have already feedback to Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Highways England.
Q3 I have already been in discussion with Taunton Deane Borough Council regarding improved cycling networks throughout the Taunton area, particularly opportunities that might arise through the newly designated Garden Town Status, something I was highly involved in securing. I am continuing discussions with GWR relating to the Taunton Rail transformation project which I also played a role in delivering funds for. I will continue to do this.
Q4 I am delighted that over the past six years, thanks to Conservative led Governments, encouraging cycling and walking has risen up the agenda. Cycling rates have increased in areas where dedicated funding has been made available, and spending on cycling has risen from around £2 per person in 2010 to £6 per person in England in 2016-17. The Department for Transport’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy has made over £1 billion of funding available to local bodies that may be invested in cycling and walking over the next five years. This goes beyond the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto commitment to invest over £200 million to make cycling safer, and commits over £300 million to dedicated cycling and walking programmes alone.
Q5 I have already met with TACC and other cycling groups and the local authorities to discuss improvements to cycling in the constituency and I shall continue to press on these issues if re-elected. I shall be working in particular on the potential of opening up a cycle route between Bishops Lydeard, Cotford St Luke, Norton Fitzwarren and Taunton and a safe cycle crossing at J25 of the M5.
Obviously there is more to do and more that I will do if I am re-elected on June 8th, I hope that I can count on your support.
Martin Jevons, Labour Party : holding reply received from a Labour Party activist
Martin is currently on holiday but will be back at the weekend. The decision to call a snap election as caught us all on the hop so in Martin’s absence I will put forward the Labour Party manifesto aims.
1 Bring the rail franchises in public ownership
2 Commit to keeping Network Rail into public hands
3 Build a Crossrail for the North
4 Introduce a National bus strategy
5 Making cycling safer and more accessible with national standards to reduce deaths and serious injury.
Somerset Labour party are committed to Sustainable Communities. A major part of that would be enhanced public transport and reduce the number of vehicle mile in the county. At the same time encouraging the use of public transport ,cycling and walking. The effects on the environment and health would be beneficial to all the people of Somerset. Will work with local cycling groups to ensure that we provide a grass roots solution to Tauntons traffic problem
No reply at 25 May 2017
Interested in what the national party manifestos say on cycling check out this interesting Guardian article.