This was a great opportunity to work with Paula Black, Green Party County councillor and Robert Vint, Lib Dem District Councillor, towards a common goal; the opening up of a safe cycle route from Totnes to Littlehempston.
Whenever cycle routes are proposed there are those who fear that they will lead to vandalism or to overdevelopment. The reality is that cycle routes are used primarily by local people but also by visitors who bring great benefits to the local economy. It would be a shame for Totnes, the home of the Transition Towns Movement, to miss the opportunity to be on the NCN2 cycle route. Some businesses wish to restrict access across the river via a bridge largely funded by public money on the grounds that their properties might be vandalised.
My feeling is that the root of the problem lies with the derelict Dairy Crest site as such sites always tend to attract vandals. Surely the answer is to look at where protection can be added rather than seek to exclude an entire population. With careful hedging, fencing and CCTV much can be done to deter vandalism whilst encouraging walkers and cyclists to stick to the path.
The Rare Breeds Farm and the South Devon Railway declined our offer to meet with a delegation of cyclists. The offer of a private meeting later in the day was taken up by 2 local residents who were able to explain their concerns about increased traffic and the risk of inappropriate parking on the Littlehempston side of the bridge and cyclists' safety. This was a constructive meeting to look at alternative routes and how to address potential difficulties if the route does go ahead.
I would encourage businesses to look at the benefits that comparable cycle routes have brought to their local communities and see how pubs, attractions and village shops benefit from ‘green' tourism. You have only to look at the first Sustrans route from Bristol to Bath or smaller routes such as Malborough to Salcombe, to see how cycle paths open up safe links between communities that can be enjoyed by all.
The cycle surgery was enjoyed by well over 50 cyclists of all ages.