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.
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.
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.”
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
If 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.