Shropshire Star

Time for a reasonable debate on cycling and walking proposals in Ludlow, says campaigner

An action group is appealing for the heat to be taken out of a debate on proposals to help walkers and cyclists.

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File picture from 2017 David Currant launches the 20's Plenty drive in Ludlow .

Proposals made in Shropshire Council's draft Local Cycling and Walking Implementation Plan (LCWIP) have stirred up a hornets' nest, especially in Ludlow, where a local councillor has received more than 1,000 comments.

And an online webinar on Thursday also attracted strong comments from people fearing that trade would be hit in the south Shropshire market town.

David Currant, of South Shropshire Climate Action, stresses that plans to create a better environment for walkers and cyclists does not mean blocking off streets entirely and forcing people out of their cars.

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"I think there needs to be a reasonable debate and the heat taken out of the issue," said Mr Currant.

"It is about improving things for walkers and cyclists, not forcing people out of their cars.

"The evidence is that if more people can be encouraged to walk and cycle, and where traffic is reduced is that footfall increases. People walk and notice what is in the butcher's and pop in to buy something which they wouldn't do while driving past in a car."

He says an improvement in Ludlow's park and ride facility could help persuade drivers to take the bus into town.

"At the moment there are no toilets and no cafe at the park and ride, but if the facilities were improved, more people would use it.

"Drivers would then park at the park and ride, paying less than they would for parking in the town centre," he added.

He said it also needed to be made clear that proposals don't mean shutting the town centre off from all traffic, and they aren't set in stone. He encouraged people to get involved in the consultation exercise.

Mr Currant is also a major player in the movement to introduce 20mph speed limits across Shropshire. He spoke to a meeting of Stretton Climate Care, in Church Stretton, on Thursday.

He said a lot of individual proposals in Shropshire Council's draft plan mention the possibility of 20mph limits.

Mr Currant said the possibility of 20mph limits was well received at the meeting, attended by around 10 people. He said he was hoping for a culture change in driver behaviour rather than one where 20mph is enforced by tickets and drivers being taken to court.

"Anything that changes driving behaviour to get people to drive more steadily and slowly and more thoughtful for other people is good," he said.

"We want drivers to be more thoughtful for other people, to share the space with other users and appreciate that roads are not just for cars and that other people use them."

But he says that there is a "national health crisis of obesity, diabetes, asthma, coronary and related conditions due to lack of exercise and unhealthy lifestyles.

"Towns and cities are suffocating because of our reliance on motorised transport which is clogging our streets and polluting the air we breathe," he said.

"The current mix of travel options favours those who can afford their own personal transport and the LCWIP proposals mean that our streets are shared more equitably."

Mike Hymas, the secretary of Stretton Climate Care, hosted the meeting in Church Stretton on Thursday evening. He is a former highways chief at Shropshire Council and joked that he was used to defending "unpopular proposals".

But he said introducing 20mph speed limits is all about getting "people accustomed to that driving culture".

He said: "Once one or two people drive at 22 or 23 miles an hour it becomes self enforcing.

"We don't expect that everyone would drive at 20mph overnight but each reduction in speed is an improvement."

He added that if driving at 30mph, he could get across Church Stretton in one-and-a-half minutes, while doing it at 20mph would only add 30 seconds to the journey.