Devon County Council pledge millions for cycling schemes
By This is SouthDevon | Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 11:51
DEVON County Council is to spend millions of pounds to reinforce the county's credentials as one of Britain's leading cycling destinations.
Cllr Stuart Hughes, the county's highways and transportation spokesman, told members of the Cabinet this morning that cycling was crucial to strengthen the local economy, to promote health and wellbeing, and to protect the environment.
The Sidmouth Sidford member said the council had spent £13million on cycling schemes in the last three years, and planned investment over the next five years to increase cycle use across the county by another 20 per cent.
The council's Cycling Strategy document outlined a further £14million in infrastructure investments between now and 2015, with further funding coming from other sources.
He said: "Our aim is for Devon to be recognised as a prime destination for cycling holidays and breaks, helped by promotions like the Tour of Britain."
The professional cycle race will return to Devon in September with a stage starting in Barnstaple and finishing in Dartmouth.
However, Newton Abbot councillor Gordon Hook warned members that opportunities were being missed.
He said: "Leisure cycling is all good and proper, but the urban population are keen to be using safe cycleways in their urban areas, and that isn't always available.
"Opportunities are being missed. In Newton Abbot the Ashburton Road development links a big residential area with the town. I pleaded for cycleway provision to be built in. It wasn't. Missed opportunity.
"Asda has come to the town. A cyclist in the vicinity of Asda is taking their life in their hands.
"Opportunities are being missed."
Cllr Brian Greenslade (Barnstaple North) welcomed the proposal and said that spending £50,000 on the disused railway line that went on to become the Tarka Trail had been one of the best investments the council had ever made.
He added: "It's amazing to see the number of vehicles coming into North Devon with cycles on the back.
"It's good for the health of the community and for the economy."
Cllr Saxon Spence (Pinhoe and Mincinglake) said while it was encouraging to see more families cycling for leisure, it was important to concentrate on facilities for urban and commuting cyclists too.
Overgrown cycle paths were off-putting, she said, and Richard Westlake (Newton and Polsloe) also stressed the need to develop safe routes for urban cyclists and minimise conflict with pedestrians.
Cllr Des Hannon (Tiverton East) added: "There is nothing in this report that I don't welcome.
"But regular commuting is at least as important as leisure cycling, if not more so."