The town council wants Shrewsbury to be one of 12 ‘Mini Hollands’ set to be created across the UK, saying the scheme could enable a major shift towards active travel.
Meeting on Monday evening, councillors backed a motion tabled by Councillor Rob Wilson to call on Shropshire Council to draw up a bid for the town when the Department for Transport invites expressions of interest.
If a bid is successful, the money would fund new infrastructure like segregated cycleways, the implementation of ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’, and more highways space given over to pedestrians.
The roll-out of the scheme comes after the success of the first Mini Hollands created in three outer-London boroughs, which have reported a huge uptake in cycling, reduced levels of vacant shops and increased high street footfall.
Councillor Wilson said the initiative “aligns almost perfectly with the Big Town Plan”, which includes a movement strategy aimed at reducing congestion and improving the town centre environment by promoting walking, cycling and public transport.
Councillor Wilson said: “We have to address the current level of short car journeys in our town – 40 per cent of them are less than two miles long.
“Everywhere in our town is 15 minutes by cycle from the centre, but many don’t feel safe to cycle or walk.
“This proposal isn’t about the people who already cycle, it’s about the much larger number who would if there was the right infrastructure in place to enable them to make that journey.
“With lower numbers of cars on the roads, this would improve for those who need to drive. The Netherlands topped a recent poll of the best country to drive in in Europe.
“The need to shift how we travel is recognised by the Government. Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) has stated he wishes to see 50 per cent of urban journeys walked or cycled by 2030.”
Councillors voted unanimously in support of the motion.
Councillor Rosemary Dartnall said: “We have an urgent need to reduce the number of short car journeys within our town, and in Shropshire, and the way to do this is through active travel.
“With proper infrastructure for cyclists and walkers we will induce demand for those far better methods of transport.”
Councillor Alex Wagner said: “We will look back in 10 or 20 years and wonder how we got on without it.”
Mayor Julian Dean added that improved cycling and walking facilities should be complemented by better public transport and other schemes like a blanket 20mph limit within the town.
He suggested the town council form a working party to look in more depth at travel and transport issues.