… “to help ensure local people can walk or cycle in a safe way”.
There have been calls to make it safer to move about:
Sidmouth Nub News today looks at how efforts are being made to allow for social distancing as a walker or cyclist:
Sidmouth’s public rights of way and its walking and cycling routes will soon be cleared to help residents with social distancing. From Monday (May 18) Devon County Council will begin seasonal vegetation cutting on public rights of way across the county. It is hoped keeping these key walking and cycling routes open and clear will assist with social distancing.
The Herald carries a piece by Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clarke on the latest developments at County Hall:
Calls made to spend more on walking and cycling projects and less on roads
Devon County Council is being asked to approve more than £48million of spending on maintaining Devon’s roads as part of its £75million highway maintenance program when the cabinet meets on Wednesday.
But Cllr Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat group leader, has said that either by choice or necessity, in the short term it is likely more people will be walking or cycling and it calling on the county council to set out a priority list of ‘quick wins’ that will help encourage people to walk and cycle and make it safer for them.
Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “While we await details on how much local authorities will be allocated, we have begun to look at the pressure points and how we can help people practice social distancing, particularly in urban centres where narrow footways could restrict pedestrian movement.”
Devon Live carries a longer version of the report – with an excerpt here:
Call made to ‘rip-up’ roads strategy and invest in walking and cycling projects
“Now is the time to be looking at this in detail and, in effect, ripping-up the highways budget approved in February and starting again.”
Calls have been made to ‘rip-up’ a budget for maintenance for Devon’s roads so more money can be investing in boosting support for walking and cycling projects.
Devon County Council is being asked to approve over £48 million of spending on maintaining Devon’s roads as part of its £75m highway maintenance program when the cabinet meets on Wednesday.
“While we all recognise that Devon’s roads need to be fixed, the potholes filled and road drainage problems sorted out, now is the time to be looking right across all the County Council’s highways budgets and plans so we can put more into public transport, cycling and walking. The urgency is now, not in the next year’s budget round,” said Cllr Connett.
He added: “We need to involve local cycle groups wherever possible and identify the problem areas that if they were sorted quickly, perhaps even on a temporary basis, we could make it safer for people to cycle and walk and also have time to see how the changes work. If successful they could perhaps be made permanent, and if they don’t work or are not used, they could be quickly taken away.
“As important as links across a town or city are the cycle and walking links from nearby communities as this could also help with the capacity issues there may be on public transport. It’s also the case that if more children are now likely to cycle to school, especially across town, for example, that the county council will need to consider how it adapts roads to make it safer for them.”
Last week, the Government launched a £2 billion package to create new era for cycling and walking, and Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, any additional funding that comes to Devon will be used to promote active travel and help ensure local people can walk or cycle in a safe way as government restrictions on movement are eased.
He added: “While we await details on how much local authorities will be allocated, we have begun to look at the pressure points and how we can help people practice social distancing, particularly in urban centres where narrow footways could restrict pedestrian movement.
“We are also looking at how we can use any additional funding to fill gaps in our existing urban walking and cycling network plans. We will be talking to local councils and businesses to help us better understand how we can support any local aspirations for improvements.”
Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, which is being held virtually, will see councillors recommended to approve both the capital funded and revenue budget highway maintenance programmes for 2020/21.
The capital funding projects of nearly £50m consists of planned, programmed or structural maintenance, to restore or replace highway components which are dilapidated due to traffic loading, weather impacts or aging of assets, while £26m of revenue funding is allocated for reactive repairs, routine and cyclic maintenance.
But Cllr Connett said: “Before the lockdown comes to an end and the schools start back, we need to have really thought about what the new world of travelling to work and school will be. Now is the time to be looking at this in detail and, in effect, ripping-up the highways budget approved in February and starting again.”
Cllr Carol Whitton, Deputy Labour Group Leader added: “The tragedy of Covid-19 offers a chance to change. We can already see many good examples around Europe, that have achieved good progress giving more space and safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Indeed, in many places around Exeter we will have do this work to enable people to comply with the government’s social distancing rules. “
” Going forward, so many people have been saying across Devon that the better air quality, lack of excess traffic, and returning natural world, has had a hugely beneficial effect on their mental and physical health. We must therefore also look seriously at how we can make further changes that will preserve this for the future.