Totnes comes together to call for safe cycle and pedestrian routes

Published: 20th July 2023

Lewis Winks

An inspiring and joyful Critical Mass Cycle took place in Totnes on Saturday 15th July. Over 40 cyclists took part, calling for safe cycle and pedestrian routes across the South Hams.

The ride was hailed by organisers as “highly visible, celebratory and an act of living the future we wish to see.

At different points on their route they were joined by members of the public as well as by Town, Parish and District Councillors to show their support.

Why did we hold a Critical Mass Bike Ride?

The group rode together up the usually busy and dangerous Newton Abbot road to Littlehempston, currently the only practical route for people wanting to head north from Totnes without a car.

Lewis Winks

For years, local people have been campaigning for a safe cycle route from Littlehempston to Totnes which, if created, would be the final missing link to complete Sustrans Route 2 which runs from Dover to St Austell.

However, this last piece of the puzzle has been blocked by South Devon Railway and other obstacles in spite of the very active ‘South Devon Cycle Link’ campaign, due to their concerns about security should a cycle route be created.

Lewis Winks of the Right to Roam campaign, said, 

“We live in a stunning place, yet much of the countryside is off limits – with no public access, or unsafe routes which put people off from actively exploring by foot or wheel. By cycling together we were able to simultaneously claim a pleasant and safe riding space, whilst making an important statement about the desperate need for infrastructure to support active travel in Devon”.

Who was involved in the event?

The group then cycled up Totnes High Street, gathering outside St. Mary’s Church for speeches from locals involved in campaign groups calling for safe cycle and pedestrian routes across the South Hams.

Lewis Winks

Transition movement founder Rob Hopkins talked about a visit he made to Utrecht in Holland where, because ambitious cycling infrastructure has been built, 33,000 now cycle into the city on safe cycle routes everyday. “If you build it, they will come”, he said.

The event finished with a picnic on the grass close to the South Devon Railway, where participants were treated to a specially composed song for the event about safe cycling routes.

A representative from South Devon Railway came and addressed the group, to answer questions, and to invite campaigners to meet with them again in a constructive spirit of trying to find a way forward from the current situation.

Emma Hopkins from Totnes Climate Hub said,

“What we know from countless visitors to the Hub is that far more people would love to cycle and walk if they felt safe to do so. In this time of the climate and ecological emergency we need to be making this safe and easy for everyone, so we look forward to a new and more constructive relationship and to being able to see this vital piece of local cycling infrastructure put in place”.