Health, education and business professionals say ‘now is the time’ for safer cycling and walking

Over 400 people have signed a letter to local decision-makers urging them to work together to ensure safe cycling and walking in Cambridgeshire during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

An example of the type of quick intervention that would deliver safer space for walking and cycling

The open letter is part of Camcycle’s ‘Spaces To Breathe’ campaign, inspired by temporary measures installed in cities around the world from Bogotá to Berlin and Budapest to Brighton. Measures such as pop-up cycle lanes, temporary bollards, widened pavements and ‘school streets’ have been implemented to ensure people walking, cycling and using mobility aids can maintain safe distances from others during the pandemic while avoiding fast motor traffic. The UK government recently announced a £250 million package to help local councils roll out schemes as quickly as possible but, as yet, none have been installed in Cambridgeshire or Peterborough despite support from regional mayor James Palmer.

Signatories to the letter include politicians from across the region – from Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner and St Neots Mayor Stephen Ferguson to district, county and parish councillors from all the main parties. There is support from the business, healthcare and education communities, residents’ associations, community organisations, parents of young children, key workers and transport professionals. The letter has gained approval across Cambridgeshire with signatories from areas including Cambridge, Peterborough, Huntingdon, Littleport, Ely, Brampton, Buckden, Huntingdon and Melbourn.

Tim Gent, a governor at Waterbeach Community Primary School, said “Pre Covid-19, Waterbeach was over-run with traffic at school pick-up and drop-off times. We were despairing of how to protect children and promote more active travel. Though we are eager to return to ‘normal’, we must take every opportunity to improve on the previous situation. Changing priorities is a measure I believe would be widely supported within the village.” Henry Gomersall, Director of SmartAcoustics, emphasised the need to improve air quality as we emerge from lockdown. He said: “With its crucial role in the nation’s economy and knowledge sector, it’s critically important that Cambridge leads the way in maintaining clean air. With evidence emerging that Covid-19 hits regions of high pollution most hard, now is the time to ask some serious questions about how we make sure we don’t build up more problems for the future.”

Vikki Beale, a local Breeze representative for British Cycling, who helps local women to start riding, said: “The environment and general health of the nation would be greatly helped by cycling. This would also positively impact the NHS. Yet people are often scared to cycle due to lack of safety and lack of cycling lanes. More needs to be done.”

Camcycle’s Executive Director, Roxanne De Beaux, welcomed support for the letter and urged local authorities to take action. She said:

“In the UK’s leading cycling region, we know that many of those currently cycling for essential journeys and exercise are already facing difficulties on some of our busiest routes, so it is essential that we urgently roll out temporary schemes to provide more space for safe cycling and walking. We urge local decision-makers to listen to their communities by delivering school streets, residential zones, safer junctions and the other measures needed to ensure walking and cycling are safe, convenient and attractive choices for people of all ages and abilities. These new active travel networks are vital to keep local people safe, protect the NHS and rebuild thriving and sustainable communities for the future.”

Camcycle is building a list of suggestions for places where temporary measures could be quickly implemented across the region in collaboration with residents, community organisations, active travel groups and other stakeholders. It aims to work closely with local authorities to help them create plans for implementation.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough residents can add their ideas and sign the open letter at camcycle.org.uk/spacestobreathe.

The Spaces to Breathe campaign is a collaboration between Camcycle and other local groups working for safer active travel in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough including Waterbeach Cycling Campaign, Ely Cycling Campaign, the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign, Eddington and Girton Safer Cycling and Walking, Huntingdonshire Cycling and Walking Campaign Group, St Ives Cycling Club, CTC Cambridge and Sustrans East.