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.
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’.
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.