Town Centre Public Space Improvement Project
Our submission to the consultation on the Town Centre Public Space Improvement Project
Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) was formed in October 2016 and part of our remit is to work with the local authorities to improve the cycling and walking environment. We believe that more walking and cycling will help address Taunton’s traffic problems and provide public health and environmental benefits. TACC now has over 100 supporters.
TACC strongly supports the proposals as a first step towards a high quality public realm in the town centre and a shift towards more sustainable ways of accessing and crossing the town centre. The town centre is attractive but enjoyment of it is marred due to the dominance of traffic and associated noise, safety and environmental impacts. Studies from elsewhere show that shopping centre viability is highly dependent on people walking, using public transport and cycling . Town centres with sufficient public realm quality and interest become destinations in their own right as attractive places to visit and spend time, supporting the local economy .
East Street and St James Street have high levels of pedestrian activity interacting with through traffic and we agree that these streets should be the initial priorities. St James Street is part of the National Cycle Network, but currently one way, meaning that it does not function as a cycle route southbound. The “closure” of this street needs to be for motor vehicles only, with cycles permitted to travel in both directions to complete the missing link, unless an alternative river path alignment is provided as an alternative.
The partial closure of Hammett Street to motor traffic is also important in avoiding rat running from East Reach to North Street via Tancred Street and Hammett Street, an existing cycle route from North East Taunton to the town centre.
We strongly support the proposals for the river path. People do try to use the path at night but lack of lighting and poor sight lines makes this feel quite risky. A section is prone to extensive puddles after wet weather, which is another discouragement. The path itself could be an attractive traffic free route serving new and existing housing areas.
- We ask that the interim and final schemes are designed so that the path that cyclists are expected to follow is clearly indicated on the surface, so that visual priority is self evident. This will help to manage interaction with people on foot and make clear that cycle access is allowed. We would point to the free for all approach in the centre of Bristol where there are no markings or signs, resulting in confusion. The Exeter approach appears to work more effectively.
- We understand that there will be a turn around area in East St. This must be clearly designed so that conflict with cyclists is minimised. There is clearly potential for U-turning drivers to collide with cyclists, unless potential conflict areas are designed out by ensuring high intervisibility between drivers and cyclists.
- Consideration needs to be given for how cyclists can safely access East Street from East Reach. In the longer term we would hope to see the environment of East Reach changed substantially, with one motor traffic lane in each direction with parallel cycle tracks. Such changes would make East Reach a much more pleasant street to dwell on and would be expected to provide a much more attractive and successful commercial environment.
- Our recent survey of cyclists showed that there is a demand for more cycle parking including facilities that give greater security. We request that TDBC will provide groups of Sheffield racks (similar to the existing ones in the town centre) at various points along East St., Coal Orchard, St James St (near the shops) and High Street (near Iceland) that were are identified in the survey as needing cycle parking. The survey also suggested that there is a demand for higher security parking. These could be in the form of “Bike Bins”, which are able to accommodate two bikes including panniers etc. (They are not particularly attractive and would be best suited to locations such as in Billet Street (near Wilkinsons) and under the multi story car park).
- We do not support general taxi access as this will dilute benefits of the scheme and possibly encourage East Street as a through route for taxis. There are numerous local drop of points, including the turn around on East St. We do have concerns that access for people with severe mobility problems could be affected, and suggest a solution is found for East Street if this indeed is a problem (e.g. taxi drivers ringing ahead to seek permission to enter, although we understand there could be enforcement issues around this).
- Our survey also identified 15 particular ‘hot spots’ , two of which are Station Road and East Reach. We are therefore concerned that these could be made worse with additional traffic. We would like to work with the local authorities to improve conditions at these locations, including extending/improving the existing cycle lanes. We note that TDBC has already identified the need to improve the pedestrian environment at Station Road, and we support this. We would also highlight the potential for the currently closed to traffic Railway Street to be made a permanent no motor vehicle street, making it two way for cyclists, with a new crossing point to the station, providing a convenient access for the large residential areas off Greenway Road.
- We note comments in the public arena suggesting that this scheme will have adverse consequences for the town centre and businesses. We wish to highlight to the council a significant body of evidence which demonstrates that removing through motor traffic and providing cycling infrastructure and pleasant walking environments, increases turnover, and improves the viability of commercial streets. See the “Value of Cycling” report for the evidence to back up this assertion,which also applies to East Street etc.
 A report on Bristol that shows that retail traders under-estimate the number of people who walk to shops and the amount of trade those people account for.
Sustrans: Shoppers and how they travel 2008
Living Streets: The pedestrian pound