Somerset Council has received plaudits from cycling organisations for becoming the first shire county council in which 30 per cent of councillors backed the Space for Cycling campaign.
The campaign calls on councillors to make cycling a safe, convenient and enjoyable option for day-to-day journeys for people all ages and abilities. This requires a combination of protected space on fast or busy main roads, low traffic volumes and speeds on local routes, and quality links through town centres.
Seventeen out of Somerset’s 55 county councillors are now publicly backing the campaign, including Cabinet member for Resources David Huxtable and Shadow Cabinet Members Hazel Prior-Sankey and Claire Gordon.
Cycle Somerset Campaign Officer Jonathan Sladden said: In Somerset 30% of children say they would like to cycle to school but only one tenth of this number do so. If parents felt confident that their children could cycle safely to school just imagine the beneficial effect this would have on the rush hour traffic.”
Cllr Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “As an authority we want to see more people cycling, it’s good for people’s health and means fewer cars on the road and less congestion.
“All local authority budgets are stretched and we have to make tough decisions about where money is spent. Improvements to cycling facilities will take their place among all the other priorities and pressures with which we are challenged.”
CTC and local campaign groups argue that stronger evidence of local political support will translate into a greater likelihood of central funding. This funding can be invested into creating quality infrastructure which will benefit all road users, which is why councillors in rural and urban areas alike are encouraged to show their support for Space for Cycling.
Robbie Gillett from CTC said: “Space for Cycling is a real opportunity for councils to show their support for a healthy, environmentally sound and revenue generating mode of transport, namely cycling.
“Support is needed from all quarters of local government in order to plan-ahead effectively. We would encourage more Somerset councillors to back the call and for officers to identify areas for improvement in the near term.
“However, we recognise that space for cycling cannot be achieved on promises and aspirations alone – and that national government will need to provide additional funding. CTC is calling for an allocation from the national transport budget of at least £10 per head per year to be dedicated to cycling.”
A map of all councillors supporting Space for Cycling and their comments can be seen here.
Space for Cycling has six themes:
1. Protected space on main roads and at junctions
Often the most direct route for cyclists is along main roads - where they have to mix with fast moving and / or heavy traffic. This can be intimidating for would-be cyclists. We need to see protected cycle lanes on main roads that allow people of all ages and abilities to cycle. This is distinct from inadequate pavement conversions that stop and start. Adequate provision is also needed at major junctions.
2. Removal of through motor traffic on residential streets
Fast or heavy through traffic make residential streets inhospitable for cycling and walking. Cycle-friendly road closures and planters are inexpensive ways to remove non-local motor traffic, creating more pleasant and liveable neighbourhoods. Local residents can still access their properties by car, and deliveries and refuse collections would be unaffected.
3. Lower speed limits
Reducing motor traffic speeds is proven to prevent death and serious injuries to cyclists and pedestrians alike, especially children, with little impact on most journey times. Many areas have already introduced 20mph speed zones, which should be the norm for urban streets. Lower speed limits such as 40mph will also be needed on rural lanes.
4. Cycle-friendly town centres
Our town centres could be revitalised as places where people want to spend time, meet friends, enjoy social activity and access a variety of services. To make these spaces more liveable, we need to prioritise people over motor traffic, prioritising walking and cycling . This can create lively, pleasant high streets that are economically viable and socially vibrant.
5. Routes through green spaces and parks
Greenways and parks provide some of the most appealing cycling environments, attracting groups currently under-represented among cyclists (for example, older people). People use them for all kinds of purposes: from commuting to work, to weekend family outings, to shopping trips. Considerate cyclists and pedestrians can happily get along together with the right facilities.
6. Safe routes to schools
Bringing up our children to be healthy, independent adults is one of the most important things we can do, and helping them to cycle is one of the best ways to do it. Cycling and walking to school are good for children's physical and mental health - and our national child obesity levels are among the highest in Europe. Less driving on the school run will make the streets safer and nicer for all.