COUNCILLORS and passionate volunteers are investigating ways to encourage more people to walk and cycle in Bridgwater once lockdown is lifted.

When lockdown was limited to all but essential travel, there were very few cars on the roads, and an increase in air quality.

Bridgwater has unfortunately been associated with long queues of traffic in recent years, and Bridgwater Town Council, along with the Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign (BACC) want to do everything they can to make cycling a viable and attractive alternative for getting around town.

At Bridgwater Town Council's first public meeting via Zoom last week, Gary Perrett, BACC chairman spoke about the threat of climate change and why it was vital to seize this opportunity to change our transportation habits.

Mr Perrett said: “The Bridgwater Area Cycling Campaign group is in a unique position to support the rollout of both temporary and permanent walking and cycling routes within Bridgwater.

"This crisis has shown us that where there’s political will things can change."

Mr Perrett explained that the BACC had been working with Somerset County Council on the development of a Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan strategy document for Bridgwater.

"These plans will identify priorities for investment to create effective networks," Mr Perrett said.

"To this end we have extensively audited all the streets of Bridgwater and the surrounding areas.

"Phase one of this project to map the ‘existing – as is’ routes is complete, and we are currently working on phase two, which will confirm the ‘ideal – should be’ routes.

"We are in a strong position to make recommendations on all of the ‘ideal’ routes in town, the priorities for investment, quick win routes and can support the creation of pop-up lanes."

Cllr Glen Burrows, the town council portfolio holder for Transport said the council was keen to support the BACC manifesto.

Cllr Burrows said there was a need to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists where possible, and that an increase in cycling would help reduce congestion, help the environment and in turn boost resident's physical and mental wellbeing.

Bridgwater Town Council will now be working towards its own Green Bridgwater Climate Change Plan, with work to carried out on a travel plan for walking and cycling, a public transport service development plan and a parking plan.

Town Council leader Cllr Brian Smedley said: "With the new national cycle routes going through the town it’s a common sight to find a different group of national and international cyclists pause for breath at our cafes and bars on West Quay."

The town council has also welcomed the return of On Your Bike to Trinity Hall, which takes old donated bikes and fixes them up and provides them back to the community.

During a visit by councillors to the Trinity Hall facility, deputy leader Cllr Kathy Pearce spontaneously bought a bike, saying: "

“What better, healthier, way is there than getting around from A to B than on a bike?

"It’s a practical way of getting exercise, burning off those calories gained in lockdown and good for the environment too."

Cllr Leigh Redman, another keen cyclist, added: “On Your Bike is a community charity and secured funding to bring their project to Bridgwater.

"They have chosen to base their project at Trinity Hall. Their key aim is to train and employ the socially underprivileged, along with ex-servicemen and women and the long term unemployed, to help recycle and sell bikes.

"So far at their Taunton sites they have recycled or serviced over 3,000 bikes and aided over 300 individuals."