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Improvements to “unsafe” roundabout shelved as major cycle route scaled back

Somerset West and Taunton Council say rising construction costs are to blame for the decision, an excuse a local cycling group said “doesn’t hold water”

Cycling activists in Somerset have criticised the local council’s decision to scale back a new cycle route through Taunton by removing from the plans a key roundabout in the town centre, which cyclists in the area have described as “unsafe”.

Somerset West and Taunton Council announced in June that work would soon begin on a £3.5 million cycle route, funded by the government’s Future High Streets Fund scheme, which would link Taunton railway station to Vivary Park via the town centre.

According to the council, the route will feature new cycle lanes, different surfaces at certain junctions, a new bridge over the River Tone, 32 Sheffield stands along the route, and new toucan crossings.

But the Somerset County Gazette has reported that a major roundabout has been scrapped from the scheme due to rising construction costs and the impact of bus service improvements.

> Dutch research finds cyclists increasingly at risk at roundabouts 

Earlier this month, Councillor Mike Rigby, the local authority’s portfolio holder for economic development, planning and transportation, told the council: “The active travel element of the Future High Street Fund grant allocation creates cycling improvement schemes that focus on delivering an enhanced cycle route between Taunton railway station, through the Firepool and Coal Orchard developments to Vivary Park with additional cycle-parking.

“Due to rising costs, as seen across the whole construction industry, coupled with the potential impact of bus service improvements along East Street and beyond, we have taken the decision to remove the Market House roundabout from scope at this time until additional funding can be secured, and the impact of parallel activity assessed.”

> Work starts on UK's first truly Dutch-style roundabout next month 

The Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC), a local active travel group, has slammed the changes to the proposed scheme, with many of its members publicly protesting the decision last weekend.

“Local cyclists told us in our 2016 survey that they felt unsafe going round this roundabout. After Station Road, it was top of the Taunton list for spots where they felt most vulnerable,” says TACC chairperson Pip Sheard.

“The council were granted funding but now they are backtracking and say they cannot do any improvements to [the roundabout] for cyclists.

“Neither of the reasons we have been given – the overall cost has increased and a bus priority scheme on East Reach might affect the roundabout – in our view hold water and should prevent the council improving the junction as soon as possible.

“A cheaper and simpler scheme could go ahead at this junction which can retain some of the cobbles but providing a smooth, three-metre-wide surface in matching colour for cyclists to use.”

The current proposed scheme is one of 33 new safe cycle routes earmarked to be delivered in Taunton in the future, at an estimated cost of £150 million.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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