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Safe travel

Reallocation of road space for active travel

In May 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government published statutory guidance for highway authorities regarding the need to reallocate road space towards pedestrians and cyclists. The government recognised this period, when vehicular traffic volumes were significantly reduced, as a unique opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities.

To help deliver these changes, the government has provided funding through several tranches of the Active Travel Fund (ATF):

  • ATF Tranche 1, allocated in June 2020, provided funding for temporary/pop-up changes to road layouts;
  • ATF Tranche 2, allocated in November 2020, provided funding to extend and make permanent the temporary changes to road layouts;
  • ATF Tranche 3, allocated in March 2022, provided funding for further improvements to walking and cycling routes, building on the changes made through ATF Tranches 1 and 2.

Why are the changes being made?

As outlined in the Department for Transport’s Gear Change vision, increasing active travel (walking, cycling and wheeling) levels can deliver a range of benefits:

  • Improved physical wellbeing, reducing rates of inactivity-related illness;
  • Improved mental wellbeing, reducing rates of depression;
  • More efficient use of road space, reducing congestion;
  • Increased footfall for local businesses;
  • Improved air quality;
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, helping tackle climate change.

Therefore, schemes have been developed to encourage greater use of active travel. They have been devised to embed and build upon the positive behavioural changes observed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when walking and cycling rates increased in many areas.

What is Devon County Council doing?

To prioritise the areas of greatest demand a high-level analysis of journeys to work was undertaken. A list of the top 10 settlements with the highest workday populations has been produced and is shown in the table below.

Rank Built-up area Local Authority Population
1 Exeter Exeter 115,625
2 Barnstaple BUA North Devon 28,911
3 Newton Abbot BUA Teignbridge 25,750
4 Bideford BUA Torridge 18,939
5 Exmouth BUA East Devon 18,694
6 Tiverton BUA Mid Devon 13,568
7 Teignmouth BUA Teignbridge 9,865
8 Tavistock BUA West Devon 8,841
9 Sidmouth BUA East Devon 8,411
10 Totnes BUA South Hams 7,770

Table: Devon settlements with highest workday populations (Census 2011).

The measures have therefore been focussed on the regional centres of Exeter, Newton Abbot and Barnstaple/Bideford, where there is the greatest economic activity. Many of the interventions have been developed from the existing programme of active travel enhancements, as laid out in our Cycling and Multi-Use Trail Strategy.

It is recognised that although public transport usage fell during the pandemic, it continues to have an important role in tackling climate change. Therefore, schemes have been devised to avoid adversely impacting key bus corridors. Furthermore, where possible measures have complemented bus routes; for example, the Wonford Road, Exeter bus gate has reduced vehicular traffic on Stagecoach’s H1 and H2 routes.

  • Tranche 1 (June 2020)

    Tranche 1 of the fund was allocated in June 2020 with Devon County Council receiving 100% of their indicative £338k allocation. This funding was used to introduce temporary, pop-up walking and cycling measures across the county.

    The funding allocations requested for Tranche 1, based on advice from the Department for Transport (DfT) to focus on the main urban areas with greatest public transport usage were estimated at:

    • Exeter: £150k
    • Sub-regional Centres (Newton Abbot, Barnstaple/Bideford): £150k
    • Rest of County: £40k

    More information can be found via the following links:

    Implemented measures, along with others across the country, can also be viewed via the Sustrans Space to Move Map which also invites public feedback to be recorded.

  • Tranche 2 (November 2020)

    In July 2020 the DfT released further guidance on Tranche 2 of the ATF issuing an invitation for bids to be submitted in August 2020. The objectives of Tranche 2 were as follows:

    • Implement measures to create an environment which is safer for both walking and cycling
    • Replace public transport journeys with cycling
    • Avoid public transport overcrowding
    • Deliver health, environmental and congestion benefits

    Devon County Council submitted a bid comprising a range of interventions, including making some ATF Tranche 1 measures permanent. The Council was subsequently awarded £1,283,450, of which 80% was capital funding and 20% was revenue funding.

    More information on the guidance and schemes implemented can be found via the below links:

  • Tranche 3 (March 2022)

    In June 2021, the DfT invited bids for capital funding under Tranche 3 of the ATF, to be submitted in August 2021. Bidding authorities were instructed to propose schemes which:

    • Have a high propensity to convert short vehicle journeys into cycling and walking, resulting in carbon, air quality and congestion benefits;
    • Could tackle areas with poor health outcomes and with high levels of deprivation;
    • Have a high number of potential benefactors;
    • Comply with the Cycling Design Standards, as set out in Local Transport Note LTN 1/20;
    • Have been prioritised through Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans or similar local strategies;
    • Will be developed in consultation with local communities;
    • Are supported by local authority leaders.

    Devon County Council was subsequently awarded £1,350,000 of funding for four schemes. More information on these schemes can be found via the below link:

More information on other active travel schemes can be found at: Transport planning – Roads and transport (devon.gov.uk).

For any queries regarding the Active Travel Fund please email: transportplanning@devon.gov.uk 


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