Trial to ‘treat’ Exeter cycle routes during cold snap

Devon County Council, with the support of Exeter City Council, is trialling a new piece of equipment that will keep the city’s busiest cycle routes moving during cold and adverse weather.

This week, as part of Devon County Council’s (DCC) cold weather service, cyclists and pedestrians may see a small ‘ranger’ vehicle treating many of the city’s main cycle routes.

DCC’s Winter Service Treatments often continue up until May and, despite the recent warm weather, colder weather is expected over the next couple of days and this week is a good opportunity to trial the equipment.

The Council uses a combination of forecasts and data from our roadside weather stations to determine when treatment is needed and the latest data has been used to map the most frequently used cycleways in the City. This will form the basis of the trial treatment route.

This includes sections in Countess Wear, Marsh Barton, the City Centre, Stoke Hill, Whipton and Pinhoe.

Treatment route starting and finishing at the Avocet Road Depot. Thicker black line denotes sections to be treated with highest cycle counts, thinner green line denotes travelling / aspirational treatment sections. 

The route also includes a number of bridges around the river and canal – they will be treated separately by hand.

The trial is being carried out now to better understand its feasibility and how it could work in practice.

DCC will also undertake ‘dry’ runs on some of the area’s other popular cycling routes to test the equipment’s ability to operate on the network. This will help determine what kind of equipment would be the most effective in the future.

Councillor Stuart Hughes with the equipment being trialled

The findings of the trial will be monitored and will help influence future policy decisions.

The scheme is part of DCC’s ongoing commitment to improve the health and wellbeing of residents through increased activity and in reducing emissions as set out in its Strategic Plan 2021-2025.

It’s also in recognition of concerns by cyclists that routes can become slippery, and it’s hoped that the trial will encourage more people to walk and cycle over shorter distances in colder weather.

Each route has been chosen because it carries around 1,000 cycle journeys every day.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management said:

“We are committed to promoting active travel as it will improve people’s health and reduce carbon emissions, but we also recognise that when the temperature drops routes can become slippery and of concern to cyclists. We’ve decided to treat the cycle and footways with a special quick drying liquid rather than grit because it is more suitable for a bicycle’s traction. This trial will help us better understand how it could work in practice, how effective this could be and the equipment choices on offer. If you use the cycle routes in Exeter please keep an eye out for the vehicle – it will have flashing lights but will be travelling comparatively slowly. We will monitor the outcome of this trial and it will help us making future policy decisions.”

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