To note and discuss verbal reports from:
a) A DCC, Exe Estuary Management Partnership and DCAF working group on shared use and codes of conduct; and
b) The Exe Estuary Stakeholder event 2019, held at Powderham Castle.
To consider forming a DCAF working group to explore some of the issues raised in the agenda paper and to make recommendations.
Ros Mills, DCC, had set up a working group meeting, between DCC (Public Rights of Way Manager and the Safer Travel Officer) and two representatives from both the Exe Estuary Trail Partnership and the Devon Countryside Access Forum, with the aim of understanding the user feedback of real/perceived conflict on the Trail. Three meetings are planned with the aim of making recommendations to improve the situation on the Exe Estuary Trail and also to consider its findings in the broader strategic context of the family of Trails county wide. The initial meeting had explored some issues and a further couple of meetings will be held. At the next meeting it was hoped to invite members of the public who had written in to raise problems they had experienced. The final meeting will be to agree the recommendations.
The Exe Estuary Forum Stakeholder meeting, held at Powderham Castle, was attended by Sarah Slade and Jo Hooper. Ros Mills, DCC, had given a presentation on codes of conduct and share this space. Comments on maps were being fed back in. The current perception is that problems are more evident on the Exmouth side. Issues are related to different user groups and not just cyclists.The feedback from this event will inform the working group discussions.
Ros Mills, DCC, confirmed that use is likely to increase on the westward side of the Exe as the trail is extended. The western side was physically less constrained than the east and allowed more scope for design options.
It was noted that the Camel Trail does not suffer from the same sort of issues, despite high usage, possibly due to the softer surfacing. Users had become self-policing with different user groups avoiding certain times of day. Sections of the Drake’s Trail were used at high speed due to downhill stretches and the harder surface. The Strava App promoted ‘personal best’ times.
It was noted the Teign Estuary Trail was going ahead. This was welcomed as the current route through Bishopsteignton to Teignmouth was dangerous for cyclists/walkers.
Discussion took place on a number of issues:
Financing of trails frequently meant more resilient surfaces as little budget was available for long term maintenance.
Route standards could not always be consistent. The E4 route into Exeter from Cranbrook was paid for by developers. Two bridges had been built over the motorway for walkers and cyclists, but once in Exeter it is a mixture of designated on-road space/shared footway and off- road parkland and could be seen as less safe due to existing physical constraints.
Solutions should be sustainable, not just infrastructure but associated facilities and branding. For example, the Tarka Trail had art works but there was insufficient finance to replace or maintain these.
It was agreed ‘share this space’ conveyed a good message but there was a need to consider how best to manage people on the route and slow people down.
On the Grand Western Canal photographic signs had been put in place on a trial basis to ask cyclists to dismount under bridges where visibility lines were poor and dog walkers, the barge horse, children and groups of users might be under the bridge. This was a site-specific solution.
Due to the growth of electric bikes a wider group of people were accessing trails and this was likely to expand further as sales increased.
Electric bikes had a restricted speed of 15 mph but could go faster on downhill sections. Concentrations around towns will increase cycling numbers, with the emphasis on the health dimension.
The growth in number, size and power of tramper buggies is likely to present future issues. Currently electric scooters are not permitted but this use could also grow, subject to legislation.
Future measures to improve the situation were discussed and these were focused around the following matters.
· Different routes serve different functions. More thought could be given to splitting quiet enjoyment from commuting by using a change of surface or widths on certain sections to offer variety for people with different requirements
· Road commuting could be improved to allow cyclists a safer road space. It was noted the road between Exeter and Exmouth provided little room for dedicated cyclists.
· There was a need to identify potential conflict areas. These were likely to be small in number but significant at particular points. Rumble strips and other calming measures might be one solution to reduce speed, subject to health and safety considerations.
· Engineering design elements could reduce speed, such as divided tracks e.g. near Totnes, although this was not always seen as good practice.
· Car parking and the provision of toilet facilities are aspects which should be considered alongside the trail itself.
· Trails should be accessible and multi-use.
Codes of conduct and signage
· Share this Space was regarded as a good message about being considerate. It raised awareness that people need to think more about other users.
· 3D imagery or signs on the ground were an option. Signs needed to have an impact and could be used where people join the route or at identified potential conflict points.
· It was noted that signage is effective initially but can become part of the scenery. Signage could be varied from time to time.
· Too many signs could be intrusive or have implications on the landscape, particularly on more rural routes.
· Collaboration with businesses about signs would be worth exploring.
· An awareness campaign could be funded where there are particular issues. This could include someone to liaise with users.
· Share this Space could be extended to other rights of way, e.g. byways, as people may not know which users they might encounter.
· There was no uniform signage nationally. National Cycle Network (NCN) signs implied use was solely for cyclists and could be supplemented with additional signs.
Evidence base and project solutions
· Solutions needed to be proportionate. The DCC Safer Travel Team seeks evidence and has an online survey form.
Action: Ros Mills, DCC, to provide link. Survey link
· The Changing Lanes project presented the opportunity to downgrade roads, in consultation with the parish council, if a property was not affected. It was noted such roads became the responsibility of the PROW team and maintenance could be onerous due to drainage and deteriorating tarmac.
· It was suggested that different options should be trialled at conflict points with publicity to explain what is happening with a feedback opportunity. This would provide a learning experience and an evidence base to inform future management. Best practice from elsewhere could inform this process.
· The Quiet Lanes project was raised and it was agreed it might be appropriate to revisit this or a similar type of project. Quiet enjoyment remained important.
· It was noted that Sustrans volunteers are out on the trails and engage with users. It was suggested that liaising with Sustrans might help to get messages across to trail users.
· Friends’ groups could sometimes attract funding and it was agreed such trail groups could be useful, not only to raise funds but to raise awareness of local issues.
· Marketing and social media campaigns around soft messaging could assist alongside upfront website information.
Consideration of user groups
· Young people, without access to cars but increasingly independent, were not safe on the roads.
· Some user groups required very low-key access.
· Multi-use trails should consider all user groups.
· Discussions had taken place nationally over extending footpaths to cycle use. (In 1968 cyclists were allowed to ride on bridleways). A landowner could give permission for use of a footpath by cyclists.
· There were a lot of issues with car drivers. In the EU they were legally more accountable.
· The message about giving cyclists sufficient width seems to have been taken on board. There remained an issue about road cyclists disliking stopping at junctions when using designated space alongside roads.
· Management of trails was often complicated by the underlying legal definition and ownership which could impact on potential solutions to issues.
It was agreed the DCAF could consider some management solutions which might assist forward planning. It could not deal with societal problems. It should identify who needs to be drawn in and how the Forum can assist DCC.
It was proposed and agreed that the DCAF should prepare a draft with actions and recommendations. This should endorse multi-use as an explicit statement and include the need for quiet recreation.
Action: Forum Officer to circulate draft.