Simon Oldridge says:

March 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

As a newcomer to this area, I feel proud to see Totnes building on its reputation as a centre of progressive thinking on sustainability. This reputation encourages people to visit the area, which is both good for business, and is also hopefully beneficial in spreading environmental awareness to other towns. However, it seems to me that the thinking is in danger of running too far ahead of real action.

 I think most of us are just beginning to appreciate the magnitude of the cuts in carbon emissions needed for us to avoid the worst that climate change could bring. We will all need to make profound changes to the way we live over the coming years. So I’m quite dismayed to read that even in a forward thinking community like Totnes, one of the most basic measures required to cut transport CO2 emissions is floundering. If we are going to tackle the far greater challenges that lie ahead, we surely must be able to deal with the locally important yet relatively small issue of how to share a foot bridge.

My focus is from a climate change perspective, but there are of course also arguments on health and social inclusivity grounds – the latter because as fuel prices continue to climb (and there’s a lot further to go), less affluent families will find it increasingly difficult to visit their local town. The lanes in South Hams are also so much more dangerous for cyclists than roads elsewhere in the country.

I can appreciate the concerns that Mr Taylor (of the South Devon Railway) holds about the risk of vandalism, and these clearly do need to be addressed. But Mr Taylor’s suggestion that another bridge be built is clearly unrealistic given the financial mess this country finds itself in – let alone the waste involved in duplicating an underused asset. And I think that given the significant public funding involved in the construction of the existing footbridge, there must be a heavy onus on the South Devon Railway to find a solution that allows shared access and to be prepared for a degree of compromise.

Having read the concerns raised by Mr Taylor, it seems that there might be some scope for optimism:

1)      Vandalism: Why can’t a couple of CCTV cameras be installed to limit the risk? I notice that the Police support the project. I’m sure that the relatively minor capital and operational costs involved would be far less than the occasional yet very high cost (both human and economic) of a road accident involving a cyclist.

2)     High volumes of people: I’ve made use of cycle paths in many parts of the country and except for in central London, I’ve never encountered large crowds of people along the way. Anyway I’d be very surprised if it were possible to exceed the design tolerances, given that the steam railway station at Totnes is the terminus, and so the bridge must surely have been designed to cope with a full train load of people disembarking and heading into town. Perhaps the South Devon Railway could seek clarification from the design engineer or revisit the original specification documents?

3)     Bikes mixing with families with young children: Could we not just have a requirement for people to dismount and wheel their bikes across the bridge? This could be supported by some staggered barriers at either end of the bridge. I have young children and this would be fine for us.

A town aiming to project the type of image that Totnes’ does, really ought to have an excellent network of cycle paths. This is bread and butter stuff. If progress on such fundamental aspects of the response to climate change isn’t made more rapidly, Totnes will lose credibility. It’s no good talking the talk without action – others will move ahead. The South Devon Railway appears to hold the key to unlocking this excellent project and I urge Mr Taylor to reconsider his position.

Felix Vowles says:

April 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I’d like to add my support to this cycle path. Its important that we find a way to bring this to a conclusion that satisfies the majority of local people, including of course those with concerns.

Totnes and its surroundings form a wonderful environment in which to live, work and visit. Opportunities to improve the connectivity of those outlying areas which are harder to reach by non-vehicular means should be grasped. I think everyone agrees with this.

What we can be sure of is that implementing this cyclepath we will improve the lives of a number of local residents and add opportunities for locals and visitors to further access and explore the wider area. We don’t know if the concerns that have been expressed will be realised, but we can manage the risk – with signage to make cyclists dismount over the bridge and CCTV to deter illegal activity.

I urge the South Devon Railway & The Rare Breeds Farm to support the cyclepath, roll the dice and see what happens. If your concerns are ultimately realised then its not “too late” – you have done the right thing for the community in which you live and work and as a result you will have the full support of that community to assist dealing with any issues.

nic harrison says:

May 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I cycle to and from work each day because, despite the longer journey time, I believe this is what more people in our country need to do. I live in Staverton and work in Newton Abbot so the train from Totnes is ideal. However my work is moving to Exeter which makes the “workaround” current cycling options less ideal. I will now have to do car sometimes and cycle sometimes, a shame for my wellbeing, the environment and other road users. A Littlehempston to Totnes cycle path would mean going back to 100% bike – so please do make it work!



K A M says:

June 13, 2011 at 3:06 pm

As a young adult of the local community I feel the cycle path would in fact be a fantastic way of travelling between the surrounding beautiful villages and our local historic town of Totnes. Having grown up all my life in the countryside it has always been a problem trying to get anywhere at all without the good old fashion Mum and Dad Taxi company as the lanes are not safe to travel along either on foot or on cycle. I don’t think it is right that a child is left to face the full force of grumpy drivers just trying to get home that little bit quicker today because they have had a bad day at the office; I, many times have slung myself into the nearest hedge to escape an oncoming vehicle. By opposing this cycle path I believe in some ways you are opposing the safety of our children- the future of our villages.

I can understand the concern when crossing the private land- however do you not feel that if these vandals ( and by vandals I can only assume you are referring to the “youth of today”) really wanted to destroy the bridge that they would not already have found a way to do so- or perhaps if these youths had something more constructive at the their fingertips like for example a push bike and somewhere to ride it that perhaps their focus would divert. The cycle path would also become a haven for local commuters avoiding the rush hour traffic.

I now turn my attention to the benefits the cycle path will bring for local businesses, I cannot understand why any business would oppose the cycle path even if it just boosted trade throughout the season surely this is a positive for us all. A bike ride is a great way to start a family day out and locking their bikes up somewhere and hopping on the train to either Totnes or perhaps the other way to Buckfastleigh to see the otters and the butterflies if a fantastic way to spend school holidays.

I doubt very much that a surge of people will descend upon the villages all in one hit. How many of you have ever told a story when “back in my day we had no car we walked we ran we cycled”- think…… perhaps the cycle path is giving the opportunity to boost a healthy & active lifestyle, in a safe environment in nothing less than a perfect setting.

Female 22 years old.

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