#ExeterBoard discusses cycling in the city

In the absence of Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, I chaired last night’s meeting of Exeter Board.

The focus of the meeting was Cycling in the City and it was gratifying to see a full public gallery for the meeting .

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Starting off the discussion was a preamble and question from Graham Heysett.

Preamble: I note from the DCC Cabinet meeting of 8th June 2016 that Councillors resolved that Officers be authorised to continue working on the development of the Exeter Cycle Network, giving priority to Routes E3 (between Redhayes Bridge and the City Centre)and E4 (between Redhayes Bridge and the University of Exeter Streatham Campus). I also note from items 12 and 5 of the report of the Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment to Cabinet (PTE/16/27) that ‘Progression of scheme development throughout financial year 2016/17 is required to ensure construction plans are available when funding becomes available for delivery. The final E3

and E4 cycle routes will be presented to Cabinet prior to construction.’ and ‘A Growth Deal 3 Expression of Interest has been submitted to the LEP for £3.4M of funding for implementation of the cycle routes, available over the period 2017/18 to 2019/20. £1.65M S106 developer contributions have been secured for walking and cycling improvements and are expected to provide the required match funding.’

Question: Can we be confident that development is taking place for the whole length of the routes E3 and E4, that Progression of scheme development through financial year 2016/17 was on track to ensure construction plans are available when funding becomes available, and that Growth Deal 3 funding available for the period 2017/18 to 2019/20 has been secured from the LEP for implementation of the cycle routes?

The response to the question  was given as part of the wider discussion on cycling provision as set out below.

Speaking on the above theme were: Jamie Hulland : Transportation, Planning and Road Safety Manager, Devon County Council

Mike Walton : Exeter Cycling Campaign

Jemma Hodgins : Exeter City Futures

Devon County Council Cycling Strategy : Jamie Hulland

Jamie Hulland outlined the County Council’s current and future proposals for cycling in the City and its ambitions for creating a primary and secondary network of high quality routes and shared cycle/pedestrian paths, subject to available funds. Although not having benefited from Government funding through the Cycling Ambitions Cities Programme such as Oxford and Cambridge, nor through the recent National Parks “Granite and Gears” programme for rural strategic cycle routes serving Dartmoor, Exeter compared well in national terms in its commitment to improved cycle provision across the City.

Funding for future initiatives would come from Growth Deal 3 of £3.4 million topped up to £5.4 million from other County Council funding streams for the period to 2019/20 and the Department of Transport’s Access Fund provision of £1.5 million funding over the next three years towards Devon’s Walking and Cycling Strategy to Prosperity scheme which would also be backed by £60,000 from the County Council. The latter focused on key areas of housing and employment growth in Exeter to change behaviour and promote more creative travel to work and places of education. The project would also support a further extension to the electric bike hire scheme from on-street docking stations in Exeter and deliver annual walking and cycling challenges.

He thanked the Exeter Cycling Campaign for their commitment to and ideas for the network and, referring to the question of Graham Heysett in respect of routes E3 and E4, advised that part of the rationale for the latter was to improve access to the City for cyclists from the growth areas of Newcourt and Monkerton from the Redhayes Bridge/M5 area. Much of the £100,000 commitment in this financial year would focus on the eastern part of the route with subsequent work to occur along Prince Charles Road and Union Road. The E3 route was not as high a priority and would focus on improving linkages from Heavitree and Whipton Barton into the City Centre. He also reported that, both the County Council and City Council, were signatories to the Exeter Cycling Charter.

He responded as follows to Members’ queries:-

  • other than the London Design Guide, there were no official sanctioned Department of Transport planning guidance and use was therefore made of best practise. The City Council’c Principal Project Manager (Infrastructure Delivery) advised that the City Council’s Sustainable Transport Supplementary Planning Guidance assisted the planning process;
  • although demand on CIL contributions was oversubscribed, significant sums were being identified for cycle schemes;
  • shared cycle/pedestrian paths could offer low cost solutions in areas such as Whipton and Heavitree, for example linking Hanover Road and Ladysmith Road through Higher Cemetery could be a possible scheme; and
  • 80%/90% of the road network was gritted but logistics and funding considerations prevented extending this to cycle paths.

Responding to Members’ queries, Joel Smith, the University of Exeter’s Sustainable Travel Co-ordinator, confirmed that the University worked closely with the County and City Councils to improve cycling facilities and, through its Sustainable Transport Plan, was looking at a range of measures to improve cycling provision, both into and on the University campus, with a current estimate of 14% of students and 14% of staff cycling to the campus. Measures being taken included:-

  • work place support scheme;
  • adult confidence cycling sessions;
  • participation in Ride to Work week;
  • keen to extend the CoBike/Electric bike usage across the City and looking at use of land at St David’s Station and on the St Luke’s campus for this purpose as well as introducing electric bikes on the main campus;
  • external consultants to report back on cycle parking provision on the Streatham Campus to feed into the University’s Campus Environment Management Group with Streatham Road seen as a potential area for cycle parking as part of a two tier plan for staff and students to park along this road and access the main site by foot; and
  • student-led project on understanding car use by students.

He confirmed that the University was seeking to action a number of recommendations arising from the presentation of its Sustainable Transport Plan 2016-20 at the November meeting of the County Council’s Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee and undertook to pursue the request for the wider circulation of the above mentioned reports. Referring to a Member’s suggestion that the University should commit to requiring all students to sign up to a no car policy, he acknowledged that student use of cars in the City was a significant issue and referred to a forthcoming meeting on 3 February with local Members on student issues. He noted the comments of a Member in respect of the recent planning applications for purpose built student accommodation in the City, the significant number of cycle parking provision associated with some of these and the apparent lack of communication between the individual developers and the University on the availability of parking spaces on campus and possible developer contribution to such provision.

Jamie Hulland responded further to issues raised:-

  • the 2021 census would further update car usage in Exeter, the current estimate being that some 50% of those working in the City came from outside Exeter but that the City was performing well in comparison with some cities, benefitting in particular from a comprehensive rail network;
  • reducing bus lanes, as was being trialled in Liverpool, to help increase cycle paths, was a radical but unsuitable solution with significant numbers using buses and with the Exeter and District Bus Users Group being a strong pressure group/advocate;
  • responding to the suggestion of advance public alerts to increases in pollution levels, he advised that air quality had improved with better vehicle technology and certain traffic management measures; and
  • opportunities to investigate the potential for additional cycle parking provision on ad hoc, vacant plots of land, both in the City Centre and in residential areas, should be pursued.

Graham Hysett, as a Sustrans Board Member and cycling instructor, responded to the issues raised. He stated that Exeter had been the First Cycle Demonstration City and that it was important to build on the impetus this status had brought, not to slip behind other Cities and to be ambitious with future plans, taking Danish and Dutch Cities as exemplars of imaginative solutions. He suggested that further road improvements such as the Bridge Road scheme, whilst initially reducing travel time, would ultimately witness similar, if not increased, congestion. This scheme, whilst seeking to improve links between the north and south west of the City would feel the impact of the new housing developments to be brought forward for the latter area. He briefly spoke on the relationship between cyclists and pedestrians, particularly on shared routes and the associated psychology of cyclists in the use of these routes.

Members made reference to the wider, holistic approach to infrastructure provision and the specific cycling issues raised, noting that many road schemes had already come forward through CIL contributions and that, whilst much could be done through implementing low cost schemes, such as cycle parking in the City Centre, the Quay area and residential areas, access to other funding streams was important. In this context, reference was made to the need to put further pressure on the LEP to ensure that Exeter, as the lead area in economic growth, should benefit further from investment. Members therefore supported the proposal that the Board urge the LEP to give full recognition to Exeter’s role in the regional economy for it to receive the appropriate funding support for transport and other infrastructure improvements.

Exeter Cycling Campaign : Mike Walton

Mike Walton, spoke at the invitation of the Board on behalf of the Exeter Cycling

Campaign, presenting its vison for a better city. He stated that Exeter faced significant challenges of congestion, pollution, unhealthy lifestyles and the degradation of the public realm. Other cities were finding solutions to these challenges by making cycling the safe and natural choice for people of all ages, for everyday journeys.

Cycling was good for business increasing employee health and wellbeing and reducing absenteeism. The city’s increasing congestion stifled business and made it a less attractive place to invest in. Businesses across the city recognised the important role cycling had to play and had pledged support through the Exeter Cycling Charter.

There was a need for real ambition to deliver the modal shift away from car-driving.

He enlarged on the four areas of challenge:-

  • Pollution – there were 42 deaths per year in Exeter from pollution with other Cities taking this issue seriously by introducing low emission zones and investing in cycling infrastructure and building safe cycle routes as the only way of enabling a significant ‘modal shift’ away from the car to the bicycle to reduce pollution;
  • Congestion – Exeter is congested and planned population growth over the next decade would see the daily commute volume increase by 40%. Rather than dedicating most road space to the most inefficient way of transporting people – the private motor vehicle – some of that space must be used to prioritise the flow of modes of transport that are more efficient, that is, clear corridors for public transport and the creation of dense cycle networks;
  • Unhealthy lifestyles – Cities are “obesogenic” making it difficult for people, especially children to lead healthy lives. Active living should be promoted through encouraging walking and cycling; and
  • Degradation of the public realm – Quality open space and City Centres that are people focused will attract more tourist, residents and businesses.

Specific proposals for increasing cycling included:-

(a)           segregated cycling infrastructure on busy roads;

(b)           separate people walking from people cycling;

(c)           reduce traffic volumes in residential areas; and

(d)           prioritise people who walk and cycle in residential areas and when crossing side roads.

He concluded his presentation with a number of recommendations for the Board seeking vision and leadership and the empowerment of Council officers to respond to the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). He also sought a commitment from both the County and City Councils to work on a Transport Plan for the Greater Exeter Area which focussed on moving people not cars. He asked that all submissions from the County Council to the HotSW LEP included urban.

Members were in support of the suggestions, recognising that a co-ordinated, cross Council approach was necessary because of the differing responsibilities of the County and City Councils in service delivery and that engagement at County Council Cabinet level would be important to help ensure the requisite level of resource commitment. There was also a suggestion that a start could be made by identifying two or three pilot areas involving local communities to achieve “quick wins”. The Transportation, Planning and Road Safety Manager advised that any such ideas would need to have regard to existing commitments and the identification of funding.

Similarly, the development of a Transport Plan for the Greater Exeter area would be progressed through the Greater Exeter Strategic Partnership involving the County, the City and Teignbridge, Mid Devon and East Devon Councils.

Exeter City Futures

Jemma Hodgins stated that the aims of the cycling campaign accorded with those of Exeter City Futures which was similarly concerned that an increasing population and an expanding travel to work region were attracting more commuters from across Devon and putting a significant strain on Exeter’s roads, energy resources and wellbeing of the population. Its ambitious goal was to make the City congestion free and energy independent by 2025. She advised that City Futures welcomed ideas from Board Members on ways of changing travel behaviour patterns.

The meeting RESOLVED that:-

(1)         the Board support the following recommendations put forward by the Exeter Cycling Campaign;

(a)           commit to the vision and work to deliver it;

(b)           empower Council officers;

(c)           audit the delivery of existing Council cycling strategies and task Council officers to prepare to respond to the imminent Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) guidance;

(d)           develop a Greater Exeter Transport Plan which prioritizes movement of people; and

(e)           include urban Exeter cycle network proposals in all submissions to the Heart of the South West LEP; and

(2)         the Board urge the LEP to give full recognition to Exeter’s role in the regional economy for it to receive the appropriate funding support for transport and other infrastructure improvements.

TWEET | Chris Dent

Futher reading:

Exeter Cycling Campaign: Building a better city [Exeter Board, 02 February 2017]

Exeter Cycling Campaign: Slides presented to Exeter Board, 2 February 2017

My Storify feed on the issue: 02/02/17 |#ExeterBoard discusses cycling in Exeter

 

 

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Portfolio priorities for 2016/17

At the Annual Council meeting held on 17 May 2016 , I was appointed Lead Councillor for Communities and Neighbourhoods.

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Since then, I have been working on the priorities for the portfolio which I presented tonight at People Scrutiny Committee.

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At the meeting, I highlighted the following areas:-

  • further development of the Exeter Community Forum, with the Grants Panel to be operational by Autumn. The City Council Executive maintained ultimate authority on awarding grants;
  • work in conjunction with ICE and Exeter City Futures to utilise the talents that can be found in Exeter’s communities;
  • exploration of how Asset Based Community Development could be introduced across the Council following on from seminars for Senior Councillors and Officers and partners facilitated by Cormac Russell;
  • implementation of the Council’s Equality and Diversity policy
  • renewal of Exeter’s Fairtrade City Status
  • increasing the profile for dementia awareness

I also advised that the first meeting on developing Youth Strategy for Exeter had been held in response to an Exeter Board’s recommendation , and that I would meet with the Portfolio Holder for Customer Access to agree on further progressing the ICE project.

These priorities would be published in the Council’s Corporate Plan 2016/17.