Calls made to spend more of walking and cycling projects and less on roads

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. Picture: Terry Ife

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Calls have been made to ‘rip-up’ the budget for road maintenance in Devon so more money can be put towards walking and cycling projects.

Devon County Council is being asked to approve more than £48million of spending on maintaining Devon’s roads as part of its £75million highway maintenance program when the cabinet meets on Wednesday.

But Cllr Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat group leader, has said that either by choice of necessity, in the short term it is likely more people will be walking or cycling and it calling on the county council to set out a priority list of ‘quick wins’ that will help encourage people to walk and cycle and make it safer for them.

Cllr Connet said: “While we all recognise that Devon’s roads need to be fixed, the potholes filled and road drainage problems sorted out, now is the time to be looking right across all the County Council’s highways budgets and plans so we can put more into public transport, cycling and walking. The urgency is now, not in the next year’s budget round.

“We need to involve local cycle groups wherever possible and identify the problem areas that if they were sorted quickly, perhaps even on a temporary basis, we could make it safer for people to cycle and walk and also have time to see how the changes work. If successful they could perhaps be made permanent, and if they don’t work or are not used, they could be quickly taken away.

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“As important as links across a town or city are the cycle and walking links from nearby communities as this could also help with the capacity issues there may be on public transport. It’s also the case that if more children are now likely to cycle to school, especially across town, for example, that the county council will need to consider how it adapts roads to make it safer for them.”

Last week, the Government launched a £2billion package to create new era for cycling and walking.

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Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “While we await details on how much local authorities will be allocated, we have begun to look at the pressure points and how we can help people practice social distancing, particularly in urban centres where narrow footways could restrict pedestrian movement.

“We are also looking at how we can use any additional funding to fill gaps in our existing urban walking and cycling network plans.”

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