Wider footways and one-way traffic proposed for Queen Street, Exeter, to boost social distancing

Wider footways and a one-way system for traffic could be introduced in Queen Street, Exeter, in a bid to boost social distancing. 

The proposed temporary measures have been unveiled after concern was raised over insufficient space for pedestrians amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Particular worry was expressed around the number of students attending Exeter College, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

The area attracts more than 6,000 pedestrians daily.

Devon County Council (DCC) is now exploring emergency road layouts to free up space for effective social distancing to take place.

Proposals include reallocating some space from the existing carriageway in Queen Street and/or use of temporary vehicle access restrictions.

Mooted changes are focused on areas where existing footways are narrow, such as between Northernhay Street and Paul Street, and where pedestrian volume is high, like opposite Central Station.

One-way traffic has been proposed in the eastbound direction so as to not impact on fire engines heading out from Danes Castle. But it is also proposed that two-way bus access is maintained.

A public consultation is under way and will close on Thursday, December 10.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highway management, said: “Queen Street is used by many different groups of people including students, businesses, local residents, as well as providing access to a major rail station, and it is clear that we need to look at how we can provide more space for pedestrians while social distancing is required.

“Any potential changes to the road layout could, however, impact other areas and, therefore, it’s important that as many people as possible take this opportunity to have their say. I would urge everyone to provide us with their views.”

Exeter College vice-principal and deputy chief executive Rob Bosworth added: “We fully support the consultation to make Queen Street a safer space for our students, Exeter’s businesses and the wider community.

“We all have a responsibility to protect each other during these challenging times and collaborating across the city is the best way to ensure that Queen Street can be as safe as possible for all users.”

Exeter City Council leader Cllr Phil Bialyk said: “Providing enough space to allow for safe social distancing is vital to protect our citizens, businesses and visitors.

“That’s why we are so pleased to see a joined-up approach across the city in tackling this shared issue.

“We welcome the proposals for emergency road layouts on Queen Street and we encourage local residents and traders in the area to participate with the public consultation and have their say.”

The Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee will meet on December 14 to decide what changes, if any, to approve on a temporary basis.

Proposals for Queen Street

Option A: One–way eastbound from Northernhay Street to Paul Street only. Two-way vehicle access maintained between the Clock Tower roundabout and Northernhay Street.

Option A for Queen Street, Exeter. Image: Devon County Council

Option A for Queen Street, Exeter. Image: Devon County Council

The key features included in this option are:

  • Two-way vehicle traffic maintained between the Clock Tower roundabout and Northernhay Street;
  • A section of Queen Street, from Northernhay Street to Paul Street junction, reduced to one lane of traffic, enabling wider footway on the southern side of Queen Street;
    • Temporary signals on Paul Street/Northernhay Street/Queen Street South to enable two-way bus flow, including the following restrictions:
        No entry restriction on vehicle access from Paul Street to Queen Street /Upper Paul Street for north-bound vehicles;
       – Left turn only except for buses and cycles from Queen Street South;
       – Straight ahead only from Upper Paul Street.
  • Left turn only restriction for vehicles exiting Northernhay Street;
  • An additional area at the top of Paul Street to enable loading
  • The removal of on street parking between Isca Place and railway bridge.

Option B: One-way eastbound from the Clock Tower to Paul Street Only (two-way bus access maintained).

Option B for Queen Street, Exeter. Image: Devon County Council

Option B for Queen Street, Exeter. Image: Devon County Council

This option includes all features of option A noted above as well as:

  • Queen Street made one way eastbound for all vehicles except bus and cycle;
  • Additional widening of the southern footway on sections between the clock tower and Northernhay Street;
  • No entry into Richmond Road from clock tower roundabout, providing a wider pedestrian area to cross side arm of the clock tower.

Light traffic that previously travelled west on Queen Street would divert onto other routes, most likely leading to an increase in traffic on St David’s Hill and Bonhay Road.


Option C: Option B plus the addition of a one-way restriction on Iron Bridge (allowing northbound access only).

Option C for Queen Street, Exeter. Image: Devon County Council

Option C for Queen Street, Exeter. Image: Devon County Council

Option C includes the addition of a one-way restriction on Iron Bridge, allowing northbound access only across the Iron Bridge. This would reduce the level of through traffic and rat running through St Davids.

It would also enable more space for pedestrians and cyclist on Iron Bridge and heading into the city centre.

However, the restriction would mean any vehicle trips by residents in the area would need to exit via St Davids Hill/Hele Road roundabout.

Any changes to vehicle access on Queen Street will lead to some traffic redistributing across the network.

Light traffic that previously travelled west on Queen Street would divert onto other routes, most likely leading to an increase in traffic on St David’s Hill and Bonhay Road.

St David’s Hill, as the parallel route is likely to see the highest increase in traffic as a result of any changes to Queen Street and this option puts forward a way of mitigating the traffic impact on St David’s Hill.

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