Camcycle calls for one fifth of the Combined Authority’s transport budget to be invested in better walking and cycling

This morning, thousands of young people from Cambridgeshire joined the Global Climate Strike, marching from Shire Hall to King’s Parade calling for climate justice and an end to fossil fuels. Authorities across the region including Cambridge City Council and Peterborough City Council have declared a climate emergency, but there is still lots of work to be done to transform the region into a zero-carbon society.

Tomorrow, Camcycle’s Cargo Carnival, part of the Cambridge Festival of Cycling, will showcase the power of pedals and demonstrate the enormous variety of things that can be carried by bike, from babies and beer to books. It will also present a vision of a future where cycling helps deliver clean air, safer streets and vibrant local communities.

To achieve a sustainable future for the people of Cambridgeshire, it is important that we move from a society that prioritises the private car to one that provides safe, attractive and convenient options for integrated public transport and cycling. The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority are currently consulting on their proposed Local Transport Plan to shape the future of transport in the area. The plan proclaims several laudable goals, such as the importance of walking, cycling and public transport. However, looking more closely at the details reveals that cycling and public transport schemes are vague and general, while the motoring plans are often very specific and concrete. For example, paragraph 2.19 of the draft plan says that on fast-moving roads priority will go to motor traffic, while consideration will also be given to how the infrastructure can facilitate walking and cycling. Camcycle’s view is that this type of wording is too weak. To say ‘consideration will also be given’ may actually mean that nothing will be done. It is not enough to simply ‘give consideration’ to walking and cycling: for fast-moving roads there must be fully-accessible, parallel segregated cycleways and safe and convenient junction crossings, with no exceptions. Otherwise, people will continue to be excluded from affordable and sustainable transport options or possibly be forced to put their lives at risk on dangerous highways.

We are also concerned about references to the need for additional highway capacity at development sites such as Alconbury Weald. This type of language fails to recognise the problem caused by induced demand, where the construction of new road capacity directly causes more car trips to be taken than would otherwise happen. This is especially problematic when it comes at the expense of walking, cycling and public transport mode share. Time and time again, we see examples of new road capacity being filled up right away and causing massive stress on the rest of the existing highway network, as well as pollution and degradation of walking, cycling and public transport options. It also directly contradicts paragraph 2.22 of the plan, which states the strategy to reduce the need to travel, especially by private car.

We note that the only metric identified by the Local Transport Plan is in paragraph 1.97: Residents to be within a 30-minute travel time of a major employment centre. This metric suffers from several problems:

  • It focuses on the concept of a ‘30-minute travel time’ but without specifying that this should be
    using a sustainable transport mode. Therefore, following this metric could lead to very poor outcomes, such as chopping up cities and the countryside with large highways that would increase pollution, congestion and parking problems while harming public health and the natural environment.
  • The metric only specifies ‘a major employment centre’ rather than the actual place of work for each resident. Easy access to an employment centre is not relevant to a person if it is not where
    they work or can find a job. This seems to be a strange way of phrasing a metric since actual
    journey-to-work information is frequently surveyed and readily available.
  • Journeys to work are not the only uses of transportation. Typically, they make up only
    about a fifth of all journeys. This metric excludes consideration of other reasons for travelling,
    such as: going to school, visiting family and friends, seeing a doctor, shopping, meeting caring
    responsibilities, taking holidays and much more. These are all important aspects of the economy
    and people’s daily lives that should be considered.

Camcycle would like to see this metric revised to refer explicitly to ‘30-minute travel time with some combination of public transport, cycling or walking’. If the emphasis on commuting is kept, then the metric should pertain to the actual journey-to-work trips rather than hypothetical ones.

We also recommend the following additional metrics and goals be adopted:

  • Reducing the number of injuries and deaths on the roads.
  • Increasing the proportion of cycling journeys in each district of the region, as well as the proportion of walking journeys, compared to the number of journeys that are made by car but are within reasonable cycling or walking distance.
  • Improving the environment, by reducing levels of pollution, particulate matter, harmful gases, carbon emissions, and by increasing biodiversity.

It’s clear from the documents that the Local Transport Plan makes relatively few concrete recommendations for walking and cycling infrastructure, leaving much of the specifics for the as-yet-undetermined Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan process. In lieu of trying to list out every possible project, we would like to see one very simple commitment made as part of this plan.

We call on the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to pledge that 20% of the transport budget will go towards projects that make walking and cycling both safer and more convenient, with the direct purpose being to increase the mode share of walking and cycling.

This may seem like a substantial amount, however there is an enormous amount of catch-up work to be done all across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Although our remit as an organisation is the Cambridge region, we are fully supportive of walking and cycling investment in all corners of the county and Peterborough. We would like to see all areas benefit from safe, convenient and high-quality walking and cycling infrastructure.

We take much of our inspiration from the Netherlands where sustainable transport investment is pervasive throughout the country, in both the rural and urban areas, and village to village, to the great benefit of all. The same can be achieved here, and with 20% of the budget, the standard can be brought up quite quickly if spent effectively, with substantial returns already occurring within 5 years. In terms of benefit/cost analysis and ease-of-delivery, under the current circumstances, there is no better transport investment than walking and cycling infrastructure. Indeed, this investment is an absolutely essential part of making usable public transport possible, as well as delivering great places to live, work, shop, and visit.

This is a summary of some of the points we have made in our six-page response to the Local Transport Plan consultation. We recommend that you read our letter in full to inform your own views. The consultation closes on Friday 27 September and we strongly encourage you to have your say and play your part in helping to shape this transport plan and deliver real change for active travel in the Cambridge and Peterborough area.