Is it a better use of Swindon Borough Council’s limited cash to try and build more bike lanes, or to subsidise more and better bus services?

The question put to the council’s leader Councillor Jim Robbins, and other members of the authority’s Build a Better Swindon policy formulation committee by its new deputy chairman - Conservative group leader Councillor Gary Sumner - sparked a lively debate.

Cllr Robbins had spoken to the committee about the reception he had received at a number of consultation events about his administration’s plans for Swindon and he said: ”One of the  themes is getting Swindon moving – and I thought that was mainly about roads and cars and traffic - but a lot of people have wanted to talk about active travel, cycling, walking and public transport, so that has been a pleasant surprise, and something we are taking on board.”

After a discussion about electric buses, Cllr Sumner said: “The council can spend a lot of money on building new cycle lanes and paths – but are they used enough? Might it be a better use of resources to subsidise more bus routes if more people are getting about by bus than by bike, and rates of bus use are rising?”

Labour member Rob Heath thought one should not preclude the other. He said: “Too many of the cycle routes aren’t good and not very extensive. The Haydon Wick loop is often on pavements, there is no secure cycle storage in the town centre, there are no hire schemes, no e-bikes, no cargo bikes.

“There’s a massive space where we could be doing more. Yes, we should support bus travel but not at the expense of cycling.”

Conservative member for Blunsdon & Highworth Nick Gardiner said: “We look at any cycle path with envy in Highworth because we don’t have one. I know people who are willing to brave the roads, but I know of more who would cycle if there were safe routes.

"Some even have bought bike racks to drive to the edge of Swindon and park and cycle into work in the centre.”

Cllr Gardiner also said the bus routes from Highworth were not adequate and said young people from the town were going to college in Cirencester because the bus there was better than the bus route to New College Swindon.

Labour member Tom Butcher was in support of more cycle paths, saying: “Build it and they will come.”

He cited the example of London where he said 50 per cent of all journeys were now made by bicycle.

Conservative members Matthew Vallender who represents South Marston & St Margaret and Matty Courtliff who sits for Lydiard and Freshbrook made pleas that rural and semi-rural areas of the borough should not be left out of the plans.