CALLS from 48 consultants for measures to encourage more people to cycle have received a positive response.

The Musgrove Park Hospital specialists have signed a petition urging Somerset County Council to improve the standard of cycle paths around Taunton.

They believe better designed cycle paths would cut accidents, persuading more people to get on their bikes.

The petition outlines several health benefits of cycling, including reductions in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and liver disease.

The consultants say it also brings environmental gains such as less traffic congestion, noise and greenhouse and other noxious gases.

The petition says: "Many people are concerned about the perceived risks of cycling, even though health gains are greater than risks.

"Accidents can be prevented by improved standards of design of cycle paths so that they are built to a similar standard as those in Holland and Denmark.

"For example in Taunton, poor design is seen along Trenchard Way and Lisieux Way, where there are repeated breaks in the paths. At such breaks, all safety benefits are lost.

"Roundabouts in Taunton expose cyclists to a 15-fold increased risk of an accident."

Consultant physician and geriatrician Dr Peter Campbell, who signed the petition, said one accident blackspot is under 100 metres from Musgrove's emergency department.

He said: "We could do more to make it easier for people to cycle in the Taunton area.

"We're saying we don't have a good road infrastructure in Taunton and we've got an ever-growing number of cars.

"If we made it easier and safer for more people to cycle to work, the town would be more sustainable.

"There are central funds for cycle paths when there are new developments."

Mike Ginger of Taunton Area Cycling Campaign said the group's Turn the Network Blue initiative is asking the county for more cash towards the cycling infrastructure.

He added: "We are also asking for better design so the road system and cycling infrastructure is more people friendly.

"We are particularly advising against more new roundabouts, such as the one proposed for Cheddon Road/Lyngford Lane.

"Station Road has the highest concentration of injuries to cyclists and is one of the 15 hotspots and this should be a priority."

A County Hall spokesman: "We fully support the aspirations of this group to encourage cycling in Taunton.

"Our transport team is currently developing a Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan for Taunton which will allow us to prioritise areas which would most benefit from improvements.

"This will put us in a good position to bid for any future funding opportunities which may be available."

He added that the authority supports Somerset West and Taunton Council's Taunton Public Space Improvement Project and its long-term plans to develop as a garden town and is keen to work with cycling groups.