Greens urge councillors to reject plans to suspend Active Streets trial in Heavitree and Whipton

The Green Party have called on councillors to resist the suspension of the Active Streets trial in Heavitree and Whipton. The scheme was due to run for 18 months. However, a report from the Director of Climate Change, Environment and Transport at Devon County Council to the HATOC committee recommends that, if on or after 29 February no “overall positive impact” has been determined, the Director be given powers to suspend the trial

Responding to the possible suspension of the Active Streets trial, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Exeter, Andrew Bell, said: 

“It is too soon to suspend this trial. Evidence from other similar schemes around the country suggest that six months is not a sufficient length of time for such schemes to ‘bed down’ or to assess how successful they have been. 

“The Green Party believes the Active Streets trial should be left in place for 18 months as originally planned. In particular, it needs to run through the summer months when more people are likely to benefit from walking and cycling and traffic levels may be more inclined to decline. 

“Devon County Council has an agreed travel hierarchy, which prioritises pedestrians, cyclists, and those with mobility issues, so the measures by which the scheme is assessed should be ‘weighted’ accordingly, with greater emphasis given to the increased levels of cycling and less importance attached to small increases in traffic on boundary roads.

“Furthermore, the recently agreed Exeter Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) sets the ambition for 50% of work trips originating in the city to be made by cycling or walking by 2030 [2]. If Devon County Council is to abandon the concept of Active Streets or Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, how does it envision this target will be achieved?”

Heavitree councillor, Catherine Rees, said:

“Local residents, who welcome the safer and quieter streets as a result of the Active Streets trial, tell me that they often feel intimidated to speak out in support of the scheme. They talk of better connected neighbourhoods and reduced isolation. Parents are also reporting that they now feel more confident allowing their children to walk and cycle to school. All of this will undoubtedly be having a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health. 

“The report to councillors on HATOC proposes unprecedented powers be given to an Officer to suspend this scheme. This is not democratic. Neither is it desirable. We urge councillors to reject the report, support the many residents who back safer streets for their families and let the scheme run its 18-month trial period.”

Heavitree Councillor, Carol Bennett, added: 

“There was a community outcry about the initial consultation. However, during the trial, Devon County has included an ongoing live feedback opportunity. As a result some changes have been made, allowing taxis through the bus gates for example [1] The full 18-month trial period will allow the scheme to be refined further if required.”

Notes

[1] “The changes to exempt taxis and private hire vehicles displaying approved bus lane user signs from the bus gate restrictions in the Active Streets area came into force on 9 November 2023.” - from report.