A NEW safer roads initiative was launched in the Pewsey Vale on Friday urging all road users to "share with care".

The Pewsey Quiet Lanes project is one of only a handful of similar schemes in the country funded by the Government to try to make rural roads safer.

The scheme was officially launched on Friday with a cavalcade including a horse drawn caravan, vintage tractor and trailer, horse riders and cyclists.

The launch took place on the village green in Wilcot before the procession made its way to Pewsey where people were asked to sign a register of support for the project.

Quiet Lanes is a joint scheme involving Wiltshire County Council and Kennet District Council working closely with the local communities.

There was an extensive programme of research and public consultation over the last year with a major exhibition in Pewsey in May setting out the objectives of the scheme. Its aims are:

To encourage considerate driving on the network of lanes in the Quiet lanes area

To encourage walking, cycling and horse riding in the area

To preserve the character and tranquillity of the area

To encourage less car use

To maintain essential access.

District councillor Tony Molland, who represents the All Cannings ward, said the larger than expected turn-out for Friday's launch could be seen as a measure of public support for the scheme.

Coun Molland said: "We have done an awful lot of consultation with thousands of people and I cannot think there is anyone in the Vale of Pewsey who has not had the opportunity to make their observations.

"It has been very well received by everyone, whether it's the horse fraternity or the driving fraternity.

"Obviously it's very restricted what we can do but every little helps."

But Coun Molland added: "It will be three years before the whole of the Pewsey Vale is fully covered by this scheme."

A county council spokesman said that during the consultation, local people expressed concern over the increased traffic using the lanes in the Pewsey Vale and also over the speed and the impact on the environment.

Quiet Lanes is a national initiative that aims to protect the character and tranquillity of designated countryside areas.

Part of its aim is to make the environment safer not only for the people who use the lanes to get to and from their homes and work and for the tourists who visit in ever increasing numbers but also for the wildlife that frequents the hedgerows, fields and verges.

The council spokesman said: "The aim is to allow all road users to enjoy the full beauty of these areas whilst maintaining essential vehicular access for residents, businesses and services."

The designated Pewsey Vale Quiet Lanes area has signs to let motorists know they are entering and leaving.

Drivers are asked to support the initiative by not only slowing down which they are encouraged to do by a variety of traffic calming measures but also being aware of the environment and the wildlife. Drivers are asked to take special care for other rural users including cyclists, walkers, children making their way to school or the elderly out for a stroll.

Martin Aldam, a senior assistant in the county council's transportation section, said: "It is a reflection of the beauty of the Pewsey Vale that the area has been selected as a Quiet Lanes area, but also a reflection of the community's concerns over increasing traffic levels, the growing risk of accidents and the damage to the environment.

"The aim of the project is not to ban cars from the area but to encourage less car use and more alternative methods of travel such as walking and cycling which actually enable people to enjoy the lanes to the full."