Council warning after attacks on Exeter bus gates

The bus gate in Whipton Lane when the signs were turned around earlier this week
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)

Swift action to fix vandalised signs at a bus gate within Exeter's still active low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial scheme area has prompted Devon County Council (DCC) to warn any further damage will be repaired before it officially comes to an end. This week, blue both bus gate signs in Whipton Lane were turned around sideways so that they were no longer visible to motorists when approaching the road in both directions.

Reports of the vandalism were first shared on social media on Tuesday, June 18. By the following morning, DCC has restored the signs back to the correct position. A decision to scrap the Active Streets Heavitree and Whipton Trial Scheme was made by members of Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) on June 3.

It was agreed to suspend some of the restrictions stopping traffic getting through parts of the city straight away, while other measures will stay in place until the school summer holidays. However, the removal of the scheme cannot take place until the council completes a road safety audit.

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Today, June 21, DCC has confirmed that the audit is now being finalised but has still provided any indication of when the roadblocks and bus gates will be removed allowing drivers to use the roads once again. The council previously stated it was aiming to complete the road safety audit by early this week.

A Devon County Council spokesperson said: “Following a site visit this week, the road safety audit is currently being finalised. This involves completing a 'swept path' analysis which looks at the amount of space large vehicles such as bin lorries would need to manoeuvre through any planters that may remain in place as traffic calming measures, as well as ensuring pedestrians are not impeded in areas where signs may need to be located.”

In response to vandalism to the bus gate in Whipton Lane this week, it added: “We will ensure that signs remain in the correct position while the trial measures are in place.”

In a letter sent to LTN campaigner Ian Frankhum on June 18, after he questioned why the removal of the LTN was taking so long, Cllr Carol Whitton, chair of Exeter HATOC assured a review is being carried out to consider the 'most appropriate way' to accommodate two-way traffic movements through the narrowed space available between the planters as currently positioned.

She said: "I am hopeful that we will have sorted out any necessary white lining and give way signage that may be required by the end of the week. Contractors are poised to carry out the actual removal of the signs and lining as soon as these road layouts for two-way traffic are finalised.

"We are all mindful that the HATOC decision was to remove the existing restrictions as soon as practicable and are working to achieve that as soon as we can. As you know, however, HATOC also voted to retain the current width restrictions subject to a road safety audit.

"This is what is taking a little time to sort out as this is not as simple as returning two-way traffic movements to what was there before. I hope this explains why it is taking a little while to remove the signage and restore full two-way access."

Bus gate on Ladysmith Road, Exeter -Credit:DevonLive
Bus gate on Ladysmith Road, Exeter -Credit:DevonLive

A consultation on the LTN, which ended in May, resulted in more than 80 per cent of the 24,000 respondents saying they were against the scheme. Its aim was to remove through traffic from Heavitree and Whipton’s key residential areas to create a safer and more attractive environment for people walking, wheeling and cycling.

Objectors said the scheme merely moved congestion and pollution elsewhere with roads on the fringes of the trial experiencing jams and delays, and cited how it was having a detrimental impact on peoples' lives.

When the scheme formally ends, the bus gate and signs in Whipton Lane will be removed, whereas the one in Ladysmith Road will remain in place until after the end of the school summer term. Roads blocked by bollards, such as in Hamlin Lane, will also have them removed 'as soon as practicable'.

DCC has previously warned that it remains an offence for anyone to drive through the bus gates unless they are exempt under the Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) which are still in place. It added it will 'continue enforcement activity' until the ETRO is revoked.