TBW Focus group sets the scene for a Town Transport Forum

Rhiann Childs taking part in the TBW focus group at the Town Hall.
Rhiann Childs taking part in the TBW focus group at the Town Hall.

Bridgwater Town Council’s Forward Plan states that we want to encourage more public involvement and that focus groups and themed forums are the way to do this. So we were overjoyed when SCC communications manager Lisa Rogers approached us for a ‘focus group’ to look at the Bridgwater Way. A group of 12 transport enthusiasts duly gathered at the Town Hall and the topic quickly moved from cycling provision through sustainable transport to public transport to pedestrian-cyclist cohabitation to the lack of late night busses and trains.

Lisa Rogers leading the discussion about TBW
Lisa Rogers leading the discussion about TBW

Lisa Rogers said “The purpose of the meeting was to gain feedback on The Bridgwater Way project and it’s work in Bridgwater.Specifically, we were looking to understand the extent to which The Bridgwater Way has become embedded in the town, what people associate with the brand and whether the brand could be widened in future. “

“It was useful to receive feedback on current transport provision and how things could be improved. Bridgwater is growing with massive investment planned for the town, we want to know how people currently travel, what might make them think differently about how they travel and what measures might need to be put in place to support those changes in the future. It is apparent that The Bridgwater Way has been a huge success and it was great to hear some really positive ideas on how the brand could be utilised to strengthen travel and transport in Bridgwater into the future.”

Concerns about pedestrian-cyclist mix

David Hughes of Camden road said “I am fully supportive of the TBW in principle although it was cycle orientated and it should not have been. I think that in the long run it will encourage more cyclists to use undesignated areas to the detriment of pedestrians. It is bad enough now; a case in point is that whilst walking home from the meeting in North Street I was passed from the rear by two adult cyclists weaving their way in and out of the pedestrians who had no idea that they were so close behind them. There seems to be plenty of funding for establishing routes at the moment but what provision has been made or has been set aside for their future upkeep as they age and deteriorate and what authority will afford to take on the long term responsibility to maintain an acceptable standard. Cyclists have by their own fault allowed themselves if you like, to be squeezed off the carriageway, now they are taking revenge by doing exactly the same to pedestrians.

David Hughes points to what he believes is an 'accident waiting to happen' in the pedestrian-cyclist mix.
David Hughes points to what he believes is an ‘accident waiting to happen’ in the pedestrian-cyclist mix.

Mr Hughes also said he believed there needed to be clarity about cyclist/pedestrian rights of way on pavements adding “These points do need to be displayed and drawn to all users attention from a safety education aspect on an unbiased TBW online site. Of course as now there will be no one to police it and conflicts between ignorant users will inevitably happen”.

Lisa Rogers added “Pedestrians do have the legal right to walk on a cycle path. Whilst cyclists and pedestrians can feel uncomfortable sharing a path at times, it is important to note the varying research that shows the reality is more of a perception of conflict rather than physical conflict itself; the majority of shared spaces are shared between cyclists and pedestrians with no issues. Regarding maintenance; any path that Somerset County Council build or adopt will be maintained.”

Public Transport issues

The Focus group members study the TBW 'brand' and their promotional material. Mr Hughes points to an individual with seconds to live.
The Focus group members study the TBW ‘brand’ and their promotional material. Mr Hughes points to an individual with seconds to live.

The meeting, whilst focusing on TBW, also looked at other transport issues .

Liz Edwards of Friarn street, said “We need to look at bus timetables. There are none after 8pm and this can be a problem for people wanting to travel to and from work or go out for the evening. Maybe there’s too many during the day time and providers are not working together on this”

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Eastover) said “All some of these firms are interested in is the profitable routes and pleasing their shareholders not the people”

Many people thought the transport system should be more integrated with cycle paths joining up to existing thoroughfares whilst others felt that more information, maps and access to relevant and useful apps, such as the Bridgwater Town App, should be promoted.

Old and Young alike

Lisa Rogers says "TBW has been a great success"
Lisa Rogers says “TBW has been a great success”

John Hubble of Taunton Road said that as an older person he was “..like many people of his age now unable to drive and so relied totally on what public transport could offer and as a result felt a lot more isolated by the failure to plan for everybody.

Rhiann Childs of Sydenham urged a look at transport to aid employment saying “Bridgwater isn’t an aging population, but with EDF coming it will be overwhelmingly younger and so we should be looking at transport that focuses on the 16-24 year old unemployed to help them travel to work”

Cllr Moira Brown (Eastover) said “We should look at linking transport schemes such as Park and Ride to help the flow of traffic and maybe at hire-cycles such as the BorisBike scheme in London”

Roger Smith of Angel Place put the case for a good transport network helping local traders saying his shopping centre “..had some 70,000 visitors a week as it was on a good bus route and had good nearby parking.” He also offered the centre for any promotional events that could be helpful. It was also pointed out that ASDA was well placed and benefited from it’s proximity to the town’s main bus station.

Town Clerk Alan Hurford put the case for better signage including “..making better use of the SCC ‘Variable messaging’ signs.”

Council Leader Brian Smedley says "Transport Forum will be launched in September"
Council Leader Brian Smedley says “Transport Forum will be launched in September”

Towards a Transport Forum

Leader of the Town Council Cllr Brian Smedley said “The issues raised at the meeting make it clear that the authorities, transport providers and users alike  all need to get around a table regularly to consider transportation in all it’s forms around the town and into the hinterland. This will be the role of the new Town Transport Forum which we will launch in September”

For anyone that may like to become more confident on a bike, The Bridgwater Way is still offering free cycle confidence training for individuals or groups. Please email tbw@somerset.gov.uk for more information and to book.

You can find more information about The Bridgwater Way on their web site here.