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New cycle lanes and wider pavements: abandoned in Exeter

  • by JW

Devon County Council cites ‘pushback’ from traders as schemes are scrapped.

“Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans.”


Exeter wants to make the streets of the city a bit more pleasant:

Improved cycling infrastructure for Exeter > interactive map – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Higher-density car-free neighbourhoods for Exeter – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Exeter Transport Strategy: slowly emerging… – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Exeter Transport Strategy > consultation now open – Vision Group for Sidmouth


Just before lockdown, it introduced an ambitious plan, as covered by Radio Exe:

Exeter carbon neutral plan unveiled – Radio Exe


And during and after lockdown, the County Council introduced several measures to deal with social distancing, pedestrians and traffic in Exeter:

New cycle lanes and wider pavements: ‘pop-ups’ for Devon – Vision Group for Sidmouth

New cycle lanes and wider pavements: priorities and funding – Vision Group for Sidmouth


There have been two problems confronting the councils, however…


Firstly, there is the fear of a repeat of the revolt which happened very expensively for the County Council over plans for Totnes:

Futures Forum: Going against the flow: introducing a one-way street against the wishes of traders and residents…

And this sort of investment is not going to be risked again by the council:

Futures Forum: Traffic Management Plan for Sidmouth > starting with parking restrictions


Secondly, there is the fear from shopkeepers that any ‘restrictions’ on traffic will hurt trade:

New cycle lanes and wider pavements: the problems – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And so plans to part-pedestrianise Topsham have been stopped:

Pedestrianisation plans for Topsham dropped following poll – Exeter City Council News

Although it does seem a little hasty, as one commentator puts it:

Ben Gibbard on Twitter: “@ExeterCouncil How can a snap poll, organised by councillors against the pedestrianisation in the first place, effect a decision in this way? Despite the evidence showing that pedestrianisation improves retail footfall as well as reducing pollution in locations where it’s been tried?” / Twitter


The excellent local news website the Exeter Observer does some penetrating investigative journalism.

And as it points out, the city and county councils really do need to get a move on with doing something about Exeter’s traffic issues:

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans – Exeter Observer

Is the “Net Zero” Exeter plan fit for purpose? Part I: Exeter’s carbon footprint – Exeter Observer


Martin Redfern has put together a very solid piece on how plans for Exeter itself have faced a ‘pushback’ from anxious traders:


Council abandons temporary COVID-19 cycling and walking safety plans in Exeter city centre

Devon County Council cites “pushback” from traders as schemes on North Street, South Street, Fore Street and Cowick Street are scrapped. Meanwhile temporary changes in Topsham are dropped after “snap poll”.

Devon County Council has abandoned its plans for temporary COVID-19 cycling and walking safety measures in Exeter city centre despite widespread support for the changes from survey respondents and consultees.The proposed changes were to be funded under the first phase of a £250 million coronavirus emergency active travel fund announced by the Secretary of State for Transport on 9 May.The county council has repeatedly said it would provide “improved foot and cycle access to the city centre via South Street, Fore Street and North Street, including widening of footways with temporary barriers on key pedestrian and public transport route to the city centre, including additional space around busy Cowick Street bus stops.”Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council cabinet liaison for Exeter, initially confirmed the changes would take place by 1 June but work only started elsewhere in Exeter the following week.Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highways management, then said the county would be “moving on to additional changes to the city centre” and subsequently confirmed that “further changes” would be introduced “over the next few weeks as the roll-out of this programme continues”.And Exeter’s Highways and Traffic Orders Committee was told as recently as 22 July that the schemes on Fore Street and South Street were “in progress” while the scheme on Cowick Street was under “discussion”. However the county council has since said that the first tranche of funding has been spent on measures which have already been installed, while information about the North Street, Fore Street and Cowick Street proposals has been removed from its website and no further details have been provided for the South Street scheme.

In June Exeter Cycling Campaign conducted a community survey which received responses from more than 900 people in just ten days, 90% of whom were car owners.

96% of respondents were in favour of low traffic neighbourhoods, 95% said they would feel safer cycling in the city if separate bike paths were built, 69% wanted less motor traffic on residential streets and 55% supported the introduction of lower speed limits.

However a presentation by the county council’s Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment to Exeter’s Highways and Traffic Orders Committee on 22 July said that, alongside public support and a majority in favour, there was “pushback” from traders who were “typically less receptive to changes”.

The day after the decision to drop the Topsham scheme was announced, the county council cabinet approved a £27 million increase on highways spending this year, making the “largest ever annual investment in Devon’s road network”.

It has since announced that the junction of North Street and South Street in Exeter city centre will be closed next week, not for the installation of temporary emergency active travel infrastructure, but to resurface the carriageway.

Council abandons temporary COVID-19 cycling and walking safety plans in Exeter city centre – Exeter Observer

photo: Up / Down [Exeter] | Sento | Flickr