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Councillors support making some active travel measures permanent

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Councillors have supported proposals for a number of “pop-up” measures to support walking and cycling in Exeter to be made permanent, and to carry out public consultation on some of the other arrangements in the city.

Devon County Council introduced a series of temporary measures in the city and other parts of the county in June, using a £338,000 allocation from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund. Social distancing requirements have reduced public transport capacity and the changes mirror the County Council’s proposed strategic cycle routes, providing safer routes for higher numbers walking and cycling following the coronavirus outbreak.

The Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) heard that travel patterns have changed with public transport passenger numbers down by around 40%-60%, and cycling levels up. The improved facilities for walking and cycling support these changing travel patterns.

Public feedback was considered as councillors explored whether to make some of the changes permanent, extend the trial period or remove some of the measures completely.

The Committee approved proposals to proceed with advertising Traffic Regulation Orders to make the following measures permanent:

– a permanent point closure to vehicles on Homefield Road, and the alleyway between Ladysmith Road and Homefield Road, as well as making contraflow cycling on Park Place permanent to enable two-way cycling;
– no-entry except buses and cycles on Wonford Road, between Victoria Park Road and Deepdene Park which has “helped to significantly reduce traffic in the wider area”;
– a permanent point closure on Ludwell lane.

The trial of some of the temporary measures will remain in place to be reviewed at a future HATOC meeting, following consultation with the local community in the coming months. This includes:

– Magdalen Road, which has been made one way to provide extra space for pedestrians and a contraflow cycle lane, has received a mixed response from traders and concerns have also been raised over traffic being displaced onto Denmark Road. Although concerns were raised about the appearance of the temporary layout, the committee heard there was support locally for considering permanent changes to reduce traffic and improve the pedestrian environment in future. Consultation will be carried out with local residents and stakeholders on any future changes;

– Dryden Road. Consultation will be carried out with local residents and stakeholders, considering the impact on Bovemoors Lane, transfer of patients from Wonford House and long term changes to Dryden Road;

– The point closure on Chard Road will remain in place while consultation is carried out in the Whipton and Heavitree area to seek views of the local community on what changes they would like to see to streets around Heavitree.

Councillors also supported plans for a two-way cycle route on Sweetbrier Lane, with any specific parking requirements raised during consultation to be considered in the detailed design. The £250,000 scheme proposes to cover 280 metres of the road from Sycamore Close to near the junction of Vaughan Road and Sweetbrier Lane and would provide part of a north/south route along the alignment of the Northbrook and connecting major green space at Hamlin Lane Playing Fields and Ludwell Valley Park.

However, it was decided that the current point closure on Vaughan Road will be removed. This scheme has received negative feedback over concerns about difficulty for carers to visit elderly residents living in the area. Further consultation will be carried out to understand the impact of the changes on local residents and see if any alternative solutions can be found to reduce through traffic.

Photo of Councillor Stuart Hughes
Councillor Stuart Hughes

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “The decision by the Exeter HATOC means that the County Council will now look at carrying out wider consultation on a number of the locations where measures have been introduced, or extending the trials of others to identify the most suitable changes. This is an opportunity to establish a legacy of safe and healthy travel arrangements in Exeter, supporting our ambitious targets to encourage 50% of the city residents to walk and cycle to places of work and education.”

Photo of Councillor Yvonne Atkinson
Councillor Yvonne Atkinson

Councillor Yvonne Atkinson, Chair of the Exeter HATOC, said: “The Committee was pleased to listen to the views of a number of residents and to take these into account in deciding how to move forward on each proposal. Carefully weighing the balance of pros and cons it is recognised that not everyone will be satisfied. The decision to retain ‘pop-up’ measures in place while we go out to formal public consultation will give us the chance to measure the impact over a longer timescale and consider all options more fully. The proposals form part of the action plan to address climate change and poor air quality, and increase health outcomes in identified areas of the city by reducing car usage in local neighbourhoods and encouraging safe non-polluting walking and cycling around and to the city centre along these identified routes. Cars users will still be able to access the city centre.”

Devon County Council submitted its bid for the second rounds of Emergency Active Travel Funding in August but is yet to receive confirmation on its allocation. If funding is received, this is expected to have to be spent or committed by March 2021. If a further grant isn’t secured, then the delivery of any of the schemes and consultations is expected to be delayed.