I have recently been commenting on blogs and forums about the need for better separated cycle paths. I am totally committed to the cycling strategies that have actually worked in Holland and Denmark. I want to live in a quiet, clean and safe town and removing a large proportion of cars is the only way to achieve this. Blogs from Copenhaganize and David Hembrow show how high quality separated cycle paths and other traffic calming measures can increase cycle use by massive amounts and so actually make the difference. Most people I talk to including cyclists think this is a crazy idea and “Can’t see it working over here”.
So here goes, let’s see if it might be possible to change Taunton from a car nightmare to a cycling heaven.
- Taunton is flat. There are a few bumps but nothing to worry about. So we can get people on their bikes a for around town journeys without any worry about hills.
- Taunton is compact. Half all journeys by car are less than 5 miles and a quarter less than 2 miles. Anyone who lives in Taunton will travel less than 5 miles to shop or work within the town. This means they could easily replace the car with the bike.
- Taunton has good weather. As Taunton is located in the south west of the UK the weather here is good. It is certainly milder than in Denmark!
- Taunton nearly has a good network of cycle paths. The town is compact and so a few paths can make a huge difference. There are some good paths, that, with some resurfacing and a little care to join them up would provide the basis for a great network. There are some dangerous paths, but these could be removed and some of the worst offenders would go if the whole town centre was made car free. This could easily be done and would allow the safe linking of all the major separated paths currently in use. There is much to be done but the problems are not insurmountable and the network could be transformed in a very short time if only the will was there to do it.
- Changing priorities is simple. It would not be difficult to give bikes on bike paths the right of way at all junctions. Adopting the Dutch system for paths would require some redesign but the roads are big enough and we could lay the curbs and paint the lines IF WE WANTED TOO.
- 20 MPH works. Some parts of Taunton already have 20mph limits and a town wide scheme would calm traffic down, saving life and limb, and making walking and cycling more attractive. It would not change journey times much as the town is compact and journeys are short.
- Much less on street parking is possible. Many streets could be improved if on street parking was totally banned. There needs to be a commitment to reducing on street parking and if we make a start, even small reductions, could make a huge difference.
Taunton could with relatively little cost become the best cycling town in the UK. If spending was moved from car infrastructure to bicycle we could make many of the changes in a very short time, maybe just a year or two. Will this happen? Probably not, because the council lacks vision, and most people are selfish when it comes to their car use. The main thing is it would not be impossible or a far distant dream, all we need is the will from people to stop driving the short, flat journeys they make around town and to get on two wheels.