Councillors in Torridge have voted against the proposal of a bike path next to a children's park and an elderly people's club, labelling the idea as "absolutely ludicrous" and leading to claims that those in support were "being really precious about this nanny state", however one councillor said that the council was being "anti-cycling".
The cycle lane route in Bideford was proposed by the community engagement officer Adrian Avery, which would see an existing path in Victoria Park designated as being "dedicated" for cycling. It would also connect the Bideford Quay along River Torridge in the south and the Westward Ho! beach and reduce congestion.
At the council's Community and Resources meeting earlier this week, Avery said that a cycle route through the park would not only improve health and wellbeing, but would also be suitable for young people to learn and develop their skills without mixing with vehicles.
However, the Torridge District Council, with a majority of Independent candidates, shot down the idea after some raised fears that cyclists and children "don't mix well".
Independent Councillor Chris Leather claimed that it was one of the most "cockamamie ideas" he had seen from the council in a long time. He said: "I couldn’t believe it when I read this report. Why create a problem when one doesn’t exist?
"The path would go past the bowling club where they are lots of elderly people and straight past the paddling pool where there are children and people picnicking. It’s absolutely ludicrous when there is direct route which cyclists already use and will probably continue to whether we put this here or not."
Conservative Councillor Jane Whittaker said it was a great idea, however she did'nt agree with its location. She said: “What happens on the Tarka Trail is that sometimes cyclists don’t consider anyone else so it really does bother me the path being next to the paddling pool.”
Meanwhile, Council leader Ken James announced that he couldn’t think of anything worse, adding that in his ward, there was a problem of cyclists riding past the school "hell for leather".
He said: "I was in the park the other day and four children had to step out the way for a cyclist. Is that how it’s going to be, priority for cyclists? I can’t support this."
However, there was one councillor who supported the proposal. Councillor Lyndon Piper from the Lib Dem party, lead member for leisure and a cyclist, said: "As a society we really do need to think about travel. Cars are causing us all sorts of problems so to say there is a situation without any problems is a bit blinded.
"We need to think about getting safe travel routes in our area. There is a bit of hyperbole in our society about cyclists at the moment. Some of the comments about cyclists being near children in the park, it’s as if we are talking about bringing machine guns in the park."
He said people went on autopilot sometimes and just got in their cars when they could cycle and find out just how good it could be for their health and for their pocket and it was often quicker. He said he found it relaxing going off road where you had to consider people not cars.
Piper added: "People here seem quite anti this project which I find disappointing."
Independent Councillor Anna Dart said that members were 'overthinking it' and being 'really precious about this nanny state we are living in where people can’t think for themselves or hear for themselves'.
She said: "I don’t see too much of a problem with this. I find it bizarre that we are talking about it. It’s a life-skill, looking after yourself. We have all got to learn it. Whether you are old or young, you take your life into your hands when you walk out the door."
When it was suggested that the proposal went out to public consultation about the exact route, Cllr Dart urged members not to waste the council’s limited resources on it.
In the end, members voted against the plan by five votes to four with one abstention.
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.