Locals split on whether it's good or bad
A decision on a permanent ban for vehicles travelling on a ‘rat run’ in Exeter has been delayed.
To help improve travel during the covid-19 pandemic an ‘quiet corridor’ was created in June 2020 with temporary changes on Wonford Road, Dryden Road, Ludwell Lane and Magdalen Road. On Wonford Road, through-traffic was restricted except for buses and cycles between Victoria Park Road and Deepdene Park,. An Exeter City Council traffic committee were being advised by officers to make it permanent.
But following concerns from local residents, particularly from Deepdene Park, about access to their properties and whether any ‘access only’ arrangement could be introduced, councillors put off making a decision.
They had called for an alternative and longer length of road closure 180 metres from Victoria Park Road to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but to allow all properties access. Highway officers thought enforcing that would be difficult.
Will Pratt, principal transport planning officer, said that the traffic volumes along Wonford Road had dropped from 6,000 vehicles a day to 270 since the pop-up changes were made, with around 170 vehicles illegally using the road since. That's about one a day.
He said that following consultation in the autumn, 37 replies were in favour of the changes, but 34 were against. Reduced traffic and quality of environment, a safer cycle route, and reliability of the bus services were given as positives for the restrictions, but longer car journeys, the impact of diverted traffic on other routes, and a desire for residents to be exempted from the restrictions were the reasons why people were against making them permanent.
Resident Matthew Macan said that they were seeking the same outcome – a quieter and safer route with reduced through traffic – but that don’t want to be cut off from their own community. He added: “There is a better and safer alternative, so don’t accept this but consider and trial the alternative scheme. The short scheme means illegal vehicles as they can see the other side and their sanctuary, but if it was longer, then they cannot see the other side.”
Anna Haw added that this was taking a complete disregard to those who actually live in the area, while Mark Ferriers called for further analysis to be done as it would be a detrimental action to put in permanent scheme at this time.
Explaining why highways officers had discounted the ‘access only’ option, Mr Pratt said that the current 'no entry except for buses and cycles' was easily enforced as anyone going through is disobeying it.
But he added: “The alternative suggestion to allow residents exemptions, while it does enable access, it is very difficult to enforce and it is difficult to distinguish between legitimate vehicles using it and those that are not.
“This is further complicated as legitimate ones could stop somewhere within the zone which is much more onerous to enforce. Camera enforcement would not be practical as it would require the details of every vehicle that would need to pass through – not just the residents but also visitors – and as a result, there is likely to be more traffic contravening the restriction which will result in complaints to the authorities about these offences.”
Cllr Carol Whitton said that the road is only restricted access by car and still fully accessible by walking and cycling, but she appreciated what the residents are wishing to progress. She asked for the decision to be delayed to see how access to residents could be permitted and if enforcement of that kind of restriction was actually feasible.
Cllr Andrew Leadbetter also called for the delay, saying that as there was already the temporary restrictions, there was no point rushing forward when they can take the time to get it ‘totally right’ and sort out any issues, while Cllr Percy Prowse said that before rushing to vote, they need to give it more time to get the data required and also because there hasn’t been an increase in cyclists using the route.
Cllr Hilary Ackland added: “I don’t think it has been long enough to make a final decision. We have to find a balance between the strategic way the city is going and what the residents feel, and I am uncomfortable about voting for this scheme when an alternative option may work.”
Councillors voted by six votes to one, with five abstentions, to defer the decision until a future meeting to enable officers to look at the issues around enforcement of the ‘no entry’ on Wonford Road and if there was a way to allow access for residents.