For many years there has been a large amount of traffic using Balls Farm Road, Little John’s Cross Hill and Doctors Walk illegally as a rat run causing problems on Balls Farm Road which is very narrow with poor visibility, and Little John’s Cross where there are steep banks, no footpaths and high traffic speeds.
In 2013 this was already a problem which had involved Police and Council action, including the introduction of the timed restriction on Doctors Walk. For the avoidance of doubt, before 2013 it was already illegal to use Doctors Walk to drive between Ide and routes into the western side of the city in either direction. It was a common misconception that it was OK to drive into Doctors Walk after 10:30 am. The second sign midway along Doctors Walk was routinely ignored, but had always made this illegal except for access.
Local councillors have had many reports of people who walk and cycle experiencing difficulty with the continuous stream of illegal vehicles, encountering verbal abuse and threatening behaviour from drivers and being forced off the road into the hedges and bank. This includes children from Ide walking and cycling to West Exe and other schools.
In 2013 members of Ide community started doing traffic surveys. By December 2017 surveys showed 158 vehicles per hour on Little John’s Cross Hill and 102 on Balls Farm Road, almost double the rates (76 and 70) recorded in 2013. Around 2015 there was a serious incident on Balls Farm Road where a dog walker was struck by a vehicle and hospitalised. About the same time a West Exe school child was hit by a car, the driver then told them they were not supposed to be walking there.
In 2018 a team of volunteers from Ide carried out a survey of all residents and businesses on the restricted area with 94 responses. 98% said they were concerned about the traffic on these roads, and 95% thought action should be taken. 80% had experienced problems on these roads from other road users.
By November 2019 there were a series of well attended community walks along Balls Farm Road to highlight the problem. Coverage on ITV West Country can still be viewed here. https://youtu.be/NNZFNj4IjIQ
Over the years Councillors have worked with Police and Devon Highways looking for ways to improve the situation. Police resources continue to be cut so they could not carry out frequent enforcement. Traffic continued to increase, and Ide residents and others continued to report problems. A permanent solution was needed but there are many considerations to balance, including the needs of businesses and residents, turning space for the bin lorry and safety considerations.
In September 2020, after consultation with local businesses, Devon Highways introduced a temporary closure of Doctors Walk to address these issues. Drivers can use Balls Farm Road and Little John’s Cross Hill, to access the Twisted Oak pub and the Ide primary school walking bus. Residents and visitors can still drive to and from the houses. There is new signage directing customers to the Twisted Oak.
Traffic surveys show the number of vehicles reduced, as expected, but they also show that the closure has successfully protected both Balls Farm Road and Little John’s Cross Hill. Active travellers (pedestrians and cyclists) have increased. Cyclists have historically been around 10 per hour and after the closure there were 25 per hour. Pedestrian numbers were once in the 20s, had declined by 2018 but have now bounced back. A number of residents of the roads have said they were unsure about the closure, but are now pleased with the outcome.
Consultation continues and you can contribute your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org