As we head for recovery we need to firmly put the promotion of walking and cycling back at the ‘heart’ of any transport strategy. This was the message from Government last week, and it chimes with the thoughts of Bridgwater Town Council who at their first public council meeting during the lockdown period presented a draft transport strategy and welcomed as key speakers the Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign. In the same week the ‘On Your Bike’ organisation re-opened in Town Council Premises of Trinity Hall providing another way for local people to consider an affordable way to get back into cycling. When it comes to ‘recovery’ and ‘climate change’ Town Council Leader Brian Smedley says “We have to look at these things in tandem………..”
A Manifesto for Cycling
Speaking at the Council meeting Gary Perrett said “The Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign (BACC) group are in a unique position to support the rollout of both temporary & permanent walking & cycling new infrastructure routes within Bridgwater. In this unprecedented time, our local councils are giving out advice on the requirements of social distancing and we all understand that this will remain the case for sometime. Somerset County Council (SCC) are also working towards a carbon neutral Somerset and to that end have created a ‘Climate Emergency Strategy’ and a ‘Somerset Climate Action Network’. It is therefore evident that we must all change our attitudes to how we travel to/from and within our town. This crisis has shown us that where there’s political will things can change. National and local governments around the world have realised this, implementing emergency measures to temporarily widen footpaths, create new cycle lanes and restrict motor traffic on residential streets and create low-traffic neighbourhoods: all designed to open space and enable people to socially distance.
Getting people walking & cycling more is not just a transport issue, it is also about our physical health & mental well-being. The Transport Secretary talked about “changing our behaviours”, something we fully support. Getting out in the fresh air is beneficial, but it can also change people’s attitude to the world around us and broaden their view of our fragile environment. Over the last 12 months the BACC team has been working with SCC on the development of a Local Walking & Cycling Infrastructure Plan (LWCIP) strategy document for Bridgwater. These plans will identify priorities for investment to create effective networks. To this end we have extensively audited all the streets of Bridgwater and the surrounding areas. Phase one of this project to map ‘existing – as is’ routes is complete and we are currently working on phase two, which will confirm the ‘ideal – should be’ routes. We are in a strong position to make recommendations on all of the ‘ideal’ routes in town, the priorities for investment, quick win routes and can support the creation of ‘pop-up lanes’.
Please take some simple steps to give people space for social distancing, space to walk, cycle, and safely complete their shopping or essential trips. Turn this crisis into a positive; create more cycle and walking lanes and re-think the speed limits on all those ‘cycle-friendly’ commuter routes. We must capitalize on the upsurge/interest there has been in cycling during the lockdown. We urge you to take this opportunity and support BACC in its vision to make our town safer, healthier and cycling & walking friendly!”
Safer Transport Systems
Cllr Glen Burrows (Labour, Eastover) the town council portfolio holder for Transport said “We were delighted to receive the BACC’s Manifesto for walking and cycling and have no hesitation in recommending that the BTC supports its aims. We suggested that there could be more mention in the manifesto of walking, and development of a safe cycling programme for schools and social media. “
Cllr Burrows laid out the indicators showing how transport will deliver against the key areas include
-Putting pedestrians, children and cyclists first – safer transport systems and regular audits of street and pavement safety along with promotion of safe cycling in schools and via social media;
-Improving well-being and physical health – increased number of people walking and cycling via promotion of cycle paths, shared pavement;
– By reducing congestion – contributing to a more vibrant economy;
– Campaigning to reduce income inequality – with improved travel choices and cheaper fares;
– Protecting the environment – lower carbon emissions and improved air quality;
– Seeking to hold Somerset County Council accountable as the Transport Authority – promoting the Town Council’s Transport Strategy through regular liaison via a re-established County Transport Forum; and
-Bridgwater Town Council will actively promote walking, cycling and bus travel in a variety of ways.
The Plans Required to take this strategy forward include
Active inclusive travel plan for walking and cycling;
Public Transport Services Development Plan including both buses and rail;
Parking Plan; and
Each plan will feed into the Greener Bridgwater Climate Change Plan
On Your Bike
Council Leader Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said “Key to encouraging a green recovery is a focus on walking and cycling. Bridgwater has long been a cycle friendly town and the area around us is perfect cycling country. With the new national cycle routes going through the town it’s a common sight to find a different group of national and international cyclists pause for breath at our cafes and bars on West Quay. So we very much welcome the contribution to the town made by ‘On Your Bike’ where their enthusiasm for cycling provides the encouragement that people might need to take that step back onto a set of pedals. Right now they are looking for people to donate old bikes they may not want so that they can do them up and provide them back into the community. “
Deputy Leader and Community Portfolio Holder Kathy Pearce (Labour Westover) not only joined the Council team on a visit to ‘On Your Bike’ she spontaneously bought one while she was there saying “What better, healthier, way is there than getting around from A to B, than on a bike? It’s a practical way of getting exercise, burning off those calories gained in lockdown and good for the environment too. Cycling is a good opportunity to explore those quieter routes round and about – as an alternative way of getting into work or just out for pleasure”.
Councillor Leigh Redman (Labour Hamp) , the Town Councils Properties Portfolio holder, and another keen cyclist, was instrumental in getting ‘On your Bike’ to move to Bridgwater, adds “I have to admit I am really pleased that Bridgwater On Your Bike (OYB) is open again, Bridgwater can really benefit in so many ways from the store in Trinity Hall, from giving your old bike, the one that has been gathering dust for years, a new lease of life, for you or provide an opportunity for someone not as well off as you, the store will recycle or repair any bike.”
Leigh continued “On Your Bike is a community charity and secured funding to bring their project to Bridgwater. They have chosen to base their project at Trinity Hall. Their key aim is to train and employ the socially underprivileged, along with ex-servicepeople and the long term unemployed, to help themselves, help us and help other volunteers recycle and sell bikes. So far at their Taunton sites they have recycled or serviced over 3,000 bikes and aided over 300 individuals. Coming to Bridgwater, On Your Bike hopes to build on its reputation as a great bike shop and to continue to offer varied and interesting work placements for Bridgwater. Their vision is to support their volunteers to improve their lives and gain in employability skills. Get into the shed or garage and give your old bike a new lease of life, call OYB Bridgwater and they will even collect your bike to give it a new lease of life.”