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"In a rural county the car is the most used and most important mode of transport," replies councillor to family bike ride organisers

More than 250 people, including families and children, rode through Shrewsbury to celebrate cycling and call for more action to improve safety for all

A councillor has waded into a celebration of cycling in Shrewsbury, responding to posts about the family event from an organiser and fellow local politician by claiming "the car is the most important mode of transport" in rural areas.

Cllr Richard Marshall — a Conservative councillor for Worfield and also, notably, a portfolio holder for highways and regulatory services at Shropshire Council — decided to reply to organiser and Liberal Democrat councillor Rob Wilson's posts about the event, questioning the popularity of the day and defending the car's role as "most important".

"Kidical Shrews was amazing," Cllr Wilson, who organised the event alongside residents, said, sharing pictures of the group including families and children enjoying the cycle.

"Over 250 people riding together, demonstrating the urgent need for Shropshire councillors of all colours to back changes to our streets to make them safe for all ages and abilities to walk, wheel and cycle. We cannot wait for the tragedy to act."

Kidical Shrews (Cllr Rob Wilson/Twitter)

[Cllr Rob Wilson/Twitter]

In a series of replies, Cllr Marshall could not help but ask: "Hmm 250 out of how many residents?" 

Before minutes later arguing: "Let's not forget however important it is to keep the roads safe for all users, in a rural county the car is the most used and most important mode of transport."

One final reply to someone, suggesting his argument in fact highlights why in a rural town it is even more important to offer active travel options, came a day later: "Agreed but I'm for people having the choice to do those journeys in whichever way they want to, so long as it's legal. That's the key, choice.

"I support the aims totally of having roads safer for all users but I also respect and support the rights of each individual to choose their mode of transport without being harassed by those that disagree. I will always stand up for personal choice."

Active travel options galore then? Cllr Wilson said the last comment "really concerns me" as "it seems to suggest that he believes that 'personal choice' is more important than safety? I hope I am wrong. One impacts directly on the other. He is the cabinet member for highways in Shropshire."

One participant called on the choice-protecting councillor to join the crowds at the next event and "share the joy". "It was a wonderful family friendly event. Many children were able to ride on the road for the first time," they added.

The event was a follow-up to the town's first Kidical Mass event in May, and follows in the footsteps of other events in some of the UK's biggest cities, promoting a vision of everyone, including children, being able to cycle safely in their hometown.

Speaking to the Shropshire Star, Cllr Wilson said: "It was great fun! We had scores of riders of all ages enjoying the freedom of pedalling on two wheels.

"There were cargo bikes, tandems, trailers, and even some bidding cyclists on balance bikes. It was such a great success that we're already planning the next event. We hope to make it a regular fixture in the town."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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24 comments

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Keesvant | 7 months ago
1 like

Amazing.. people cycling on the road for the first time ???🤯
I do think that in rural villige's like where i live owning a car is important.
To get grocery's, visit gp dentist hospital etc.
Though i cycle to work everyday my wife uses the car to get to work (18km) does grocery's etc

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hutchdaddy | 7 months ago
0 likes

Hard to believe that Cllr. Dick is a Lib Dem, he sounds so Tory, or maybe that's who he's trying to appeal to. He'd never get my vote in a month of Thursdays.

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wtjs replied to hutchdaddy | 7 months ago
0 likes

he sounds so Tory

Marshall is standard-issue Tory, as you would expect from his stance. The Lib Dem was doing the Right Thing!

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eburtthebike | 7 months ago
5 likes

"Agreed but I'm for people having the choice to do those journeys in whichever way they want to, so long as it's legal. That's the key, choice."

Cllr Richard Marshall is right of course, and having spent the last sixty years removing the choices of walking, cycling and public transport, the only choice left to the public is driving.  A self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one: make cycling and walking too dangerous and destroy public transport and people choose cars!  Who could have guessed.

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perce replied to eburtthebike | 7 months ago
3 likes

And build new housing estates miles from anywhere with no shops or other facilities.

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David9694 | 7 months ago
3 likes

Similar "car is king" story in Wiltshire. Despite decades of carving up the environment and raiding the public purse to make mass car ownership work, drivers seem unhappy about all that has been done for them. 

As well as the never-ending casualty reports that we've somehow become conditioned to shrug off (examples below) cars have killed off alternatives. It's another tanker load of spilt milk, but we have 6 buses Mon-Sat : it was 18 in 1974 and the village was smaller then.  

https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/23635793.tribute-teen-fatal-crash...

https://www.dorset.live/news/dorset-news/12-year-old-boy-seriously-8575281

https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/23634593.man-suffers-head-shoulde...

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Kapelmuur | 7 months ago
2 likes

Isn't the point about how to get from rural parts of Shropshire to the few towns in the county with the facilities people need?

Obviously Shrewsbury, inside the loop of the river, should be traffic free.   But if you live in Pulverbatch, for example, how do you get to Shrewsbury for shopping, banking, medical appointments etc.

A genuine question, it's many years since I lived in the county.

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ribena | 7 months ago
15 likes

The car is popular because the infrastructure has been designed around it. 
it's a circular argument. 

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belugabob | 7 months ago
14 likes

"Agreed but I’m for people having the choice to do those journeys in whichever way they want to, so long as it’s legal. That’s the key, choice"

Does that include the choice to walk or cycle without being put in danger by a sizeable minority of motorists acting illegally and dangerously?
Also, some choices are (currently) legal, but decidedly unethical/bad for the environment.

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CargoJoe | 7 months ago
22 likes

"I also respect and support the rights of each individual to choose their mode of transport without being harassed by those that disagree"

He should cycle with me to my workplace and see whether I'm able to "choose my mode of transport without being harassed by those that disagree" with my choice.

Also, isn't the point of the Kidical Mass protests exactly that? Campaigning for better cycle infrastructure so that people have the choice to cycle safely?

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Roulereo replied to CargoJoe | 7 months ago
0 likes

Does that include in your workplace as well? I'm sure I'm not Robinson Crusoe when I say I've even had co-workers voice their 'opinions' of cyclists to me. 

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levestane | 7 months ago
13 likes

Shrewsbury is a town, i.e., not the countryside. In remote rural locations without public transport the car is important, but no more so than other road users including the sheep.

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chrisonabike replied to levestane | 7 months ago
8 likes

I'd say our long-term centralisation and the rapid increase in it since the advent of mass motoring means there are two groups of people who both agree on the importance of the car in the country.  First those who enjoy town wages and amenities while having a quiet country home.  These are often Very Important People - like our captains of industry, councillors, MPs, celebrities etc.

There are also those who can continue to survive in the countryside mostly because motor vehicles enable them to reach essential services.  That is sufficient work (jobs having centralised), getting kids to school (same with schools), people to doctors and hospitals etc.

I don't have good ideas about addressing this centuries-old structural change.  I just note that in places with mass cycling there is also (mostly) good, continuous provision outside of major towns and cities.  In the UK you might not even find a footway beside the only road (derestricted) between two villages...

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Simon E replied to levestane | 7 months ago
10 likes
levestane wrote:

Shrewsbury is a town, i.e., not the countryside. In remote rural locations without public transport the car is important, but no more so than other road users including the sheep.

Shropshire is awash with people who live in large detached houses in rural locations and drive their SUVs into town daily (as well as less well-off people who also drive because the bus and train services are so shit). All the housing estates being built are created with no consideration for people who don't (or don't want to) drive a car to get anywhere. There is almost no infrastructure for cycling in Shrewsbury, you're lucky if you can find the disjointed shared paths. It's even worse in the smaller towns.

Councillor Marshall doesn't care about active travel or cycling, walking and all that piffle. As I said yesterday, he's an ostrich. Shropshire council has far too many councillors like this, who simply vote as their leader tells them every time. They are dragging their heels on safety around schools and School Streets - a 'pilot' (to start in February 2024) has finally been announced 3 years after the motion was tabled. It also happened with Rob Wilson's Vision Zero motion in December:

https://andybodders.co.uk/2022/12/18/shropshire-conservative-councillors...

Marshall's tweets on that topic earlier this year were similarly tone-deaf.

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DonLogan replied to Simon E | 7 months ago
3 likes

There is infrastructure in Shrewsbury, it's just that it's terrible. Where it is separate from the main roads it's in poor condition and confusing. The infrastructure on the main roads is mainly paint - often referred to as murder strips. I assume that the council tick that off as using the active travel budget.

Compare that to Telford, a town created where the car was king in the 70s there's more cycling/walking infrastructure in place, some linking up quite well but again, most of it is in poor condition and ill thought out. Proper investment, a council with a brain and a desire to vastly improve the bare bones that are there could make a real difference.

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Simon E replied to DonLogan | 7 months ago
0 likes
DonLogan wrote:

There is infrastructure in Shrewsbury, it's just that it's terrible.

Painting a white line down the middle of a few pavements is not cycling infrastructure.

Getting into the town centre (or just about anywhere) is a nightmare, all the arterial roads are relatively narrow and at times very busy. Smithfield Road, Welsh Bridge & Frankwell, Castle Foregate/St Michael Street, Chester Street/Ellesmere Rd, Belle Vue Road & Coleham, Abbey Foregate... I could go on! And that's before you try getting to any of the schools or the college site on London Road or negotiate the halfway-to-gridlock that is Harlescott & Sundorne on weekdays or the Meole Brace roundabout & retail park at the weekend.

High Street and Shoplatch are closed to vehicles 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays but the rest of the time the main shopping street is a noisy, congested and polluted rat run for cars (and most of the occupants are not there to go to the shops).

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DonLogan replied to Simon E | 7 months ago
1 like

I agree totally - I've experienced a great deal of the roads/routes you mention. 

I should have put quotes around 'infrastructure'. Quite scary that somebody has signed it off and so much of it too. I've found it safer to avoid the roads with the paint (if you can) but then you get drivers who wonder why you're not using the 'perfectly adequate' (I remembered them that time!) cycle lanes.

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Adam Sutton replied to Simon E | 7 months ago
4 likes
Simon E wrote:

There is almost no infrastructure for cycling in Shrewsbury, you're lucky if you can find the disjointed shared paths. It's even worse in the smaller towns.

You can cut and paste that statement for North West Kent. Frustratingly the swathe of new developments also have no consideration for providing cycle infra beyond shared paths. What they do do, is add in traffic calming measures that make cycling on the road more dangerous as it encourages MGIF mentality before the road narrows etc.

 

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wycombewheeler replied to Adam Sutton | 7 months ago
4 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

... What they do do, is add in traffic calming measures that make cycling on the road more dangerous as it encourages MGIF mentality before the road narrows etc.

Of course the highway code is clear not to overtake other road users where there is traffic calming, but of course that's not part of the highway code as understood by drivers.

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chrisonabike replied to Adam Sutton | 7 months ago
0 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:
Simon E wrote:

There is almost no infrastructure for cycling in Shrewsbury, you're lucky if you can find the disjointed shared paths. It's even worse in the smaller towns.

You can cut and paste that statement for North West Kent. Frustratingly the swathe of new developments also have no consideration for providing cycle infra beyond shared paths. What they do do, is add in traffic calming measures that make cycling on the road more dangerous as it encourages MGIF mentality before the road narrows etc.

It's frustrating.  I recently toured round several of Edinburgh's new developments and found they are built for exactly the old model of motor commuting (and shopping, and taking kids to school...).  There appeared minimum thought for active travel e.g. flats with no bike storage - which I think is against their own policies.  West Craigs for example is only 6 miles from the centre on the more cycle-friendly routes.  Could be less than 5 if they made cycle provision along the main arterial roads.

They don't even appear to tie in well with public transport.  Yes - new routes could be added of course - if buses can get through the congestion.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Adam Sutton | 7 months ago
0 likes

I was down that way the other week visiting the in-laws in Bexleyheath. I decided to plan a route down to Grain which, once I got out of Dartford / other side of the M25, wasn't too bad considering even for shared paths. They mainly seemed to be wide enough to reduce confict and smooth enough that you didn't feel you needed MTB suspension.

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mattsccm replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 7 months ago
0 likes

Of course he is right. In rural areas a car is, for most people, the only viable option to get around. Buses are few and far between if at all. The village I work in has two a day. One each way (thats one am and one pm) to allow a commute to a local town. If you want to go to the other , bigger town a couple of miles further away you drive, walk or cycle. The latter two won't work for most people. 

Infrastructure isn't possible. How do you put a cycle way along and narrow country road between banks? The danger here is dimwit delivery drivers, sadly those most needed by those unable to drive to the shops or those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. 

To my mind the only viable solution is to scare idiots into driving safely. Lets say a car confiscation, and life ban for any contact with a cyclist. £10,000 for evey mph overthe limit. You get the drift

I do see some confusion above. Just how the devil can you have a rural town? Somewhat of an oxymoron methinks. 

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Simon E replied to mattsccm | 7 months ago
1 like
mattsccm wrote:

Of course he is right. In rural areas a car is, for most people, the only viable option to get around.

Richard Marshall isn't just stating that a car is the only viable option in those places. We all know that already, I lived in such a place for many years. He's not talking about a village with 2 buses a day. He is dismissing Sunday's event because he sees no reason to provide cycling infrastructure in a town of 76,000 people. 250 people going on a Kidical Mass bike ride are irrelevant, you should get a car and drive. Everywhere. No other option is allowed to be viable.

Some councillors and other commenters love to use the idea of Shropshire being a rural county as an excuse but the fact is that, like many places, the bus provision is dire in and around the major towns too. Bus services have been cut and cut and cut, starved of cash after having been privatised and run (mostly by Arriva) solely for profit. And he couldn't give a damn about it. Suck it up, peasants.

The refusal among (mostly Tory) councillors in Shropshire to engage with concepts such as active travel, cycle infrastructure, School Streets, pedestrianisation of the town centres and so on is criminal. And Richard Marshall is one of a number of councillors who are very gung-ho about building yet another bypass around the town, at great financial and environmental cost, despite the Tory-run council already being close to bankruptcy. The wilful incompetence and arrogance is even greater than many people realise.

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Adam Sutton replied to mattsccm | 7 months ago
3 likes

I get the thing with rural areas. Our bus service is shit and we aren't rural, we are just out of London in Kent. My husband couldn't get to work without the car, he tried public transport and it just doesn't work or is viable. For my London commute I have to cycle 6 miles to a station where there is a half decent service as our local station is served so poorly.

The problem we have as noted is new developments where there is opportunity from the start to build decent infrastructure, they haven't. It's laughable that they are calling the tens of thousands of houses they're building "Ebbsfleet Garden City" which sounds idyllic, because it isn't. They're killing the area with overdevelopment and crap infrastructure, hence we are looking to get out.

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