Cyclists have raised fears over changes to the roads around a £52million new leisure centre and bus station in Exeter City centre.
A raft of new traffic restrictions around the site have been proposed to provide safer and more convenient access – with both developments due to open in spring 2021.
Councillors this week agreed to put the mooted changes out for consultation.
Responses will be collated and brought back to a meeting of the Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee in April next year – when a final decision on what will be implemented will be agreed.
However, a meeting on Monday heard concerns that cyclists could be put in conflict with buses.
The projects are being funded by Exeter City Council, which says “All works will be carried out at appropriate time to minimise the impact on the city centre and local businesses.”
But Chris Dent, from the Exeter Cycling Campaign, said that proper change to the area was required, not just ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’.
He added: “We need proper provision for cyclists, but this is a recipe for conflict.
“This doesn’t work and we need separated routes and more radical change.
“We need cycle lanes where the cyclists are protected, not just white paint on the road.
“This is not up to standard for going out to consultation.”
What is proposed and where?
To reduce the traffic around the entrance and exit of the new bus station, it is proposed that the section of Cheeke Street, between Belgrave Road and Bampfylde Street, is restricted to buses, cycles, taxis and private hire vehicles in both directions.
To make the crossing at the Paris Street roundabout safer, it is proposed that only buses, cycles, taxis and private hire vehicles be allowed to travel from Paris Street roundabout up to Belgrave Road.
All traffic would be allowed to turn left out of Belgrave Road and travel down to Paris Street roundabout.
It is proposed that no traffic (except cycles) is allowed to enter Belgrave Road from Cheeke Street.
All vehicles must enter Belgrave Road from Summerland Street.
All traffic leaving Belgrave Road may do so onto Summerland Street or by turning left onto Cheeke Street towards Paris Street roundabout.
To ensure that pedestrians retain safe crossing points, it is proposed to amend the kerbline at the junction and it is proposed to shorten the existing loading bay.
It is proposed that a prohibition is introduced between the entrance of Stover Court and Cheeke Street.
All traffic would be allowed to travel north-eastbound from Cheeke Street towards Summerland Street.
However, only buses, cycles, taxis and private hire vehicles would be allowed to travel towards Cheeke Street.
It is also proposed to introduce additional bus stands and bus layover parking on Bampfylde Street to provide parking for the long-distance coach stops that are to be relocated from Sidwell Street.
As part of the new leisure centre, it is proposed to construct a new loading bay on the footway on Paris Street.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour Group, said that, without knowing what Mr Dent was about to say, he had written down the same point.
He added that he held concerns about cyclists in Belgrave Road given the constant churn and the extremely busy nature of the post office collection point.
Cllr Hannaford said: “I do think there needs to be a dedicated way of protecting cyclists as it is so busy and we have to be careful.
“It would be very dangerous to funnel cyclists down there with the way the road operates.”
Cllr Percy Prowse said: “I despair at most of these proposals.
“I cannot believe there has been no concerted effort for a proper cycle path. This is not a proper answer.”
But Cllr Carol Whitton said that, while this was a complicated set of proposals, what had been put forward ‘makes sense and is broadly correct’.
She did not have major concerns with the Belgrave Road proposals, but felt the changes to Cheeke Street were a worry.
Cllr Whitton said: “We will be mixing cyclists with buses coming and going out of the station, and buses stopping on the road and pulling out, so to me, that could create a problem.
“I don’t know what the solution is, but maybe we need to tweak it a bit to protect the cyclists.
“Our roads are narrow and we cannot do all we would like to, but I don’t want to see our cyclists in conflict with buses, as cyclists will come off worse.”
A Devon County Council highways officer told the committee that a full road safety audit of the proposals had been carried out.
A report to the meeting recommended that the proposals be advertised to the public, saying: “The introduction of a new bus station and leisure centre is seen as positive to encourage continued bus usage which will help with congestion and air quality in the city and keep the public active.
“The proposals also include measures that improve access to the city centre for cyclists, including contraflow lanes and access where general traffic is not permitted.”
Councillors voted by seven votes to none – with abstentions from the three Conservative members on the committee – to put the scheme out for consultation.
This is subject to councillors being satisfied with the contents of the road safety audit.