At a meeting of the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) Joint Assembly on 4 June, members welcomed plans for temporary schemes to improve cycling and walking, but called for a focus on safety for all users in both these and the long-term projects being discussed. The meeting was the first since the GCP announced that it had gained a second tranche of funding, worth up to £400m, from central government. Transport projects on the agenda included the Greenways routes for cyclists, walkers and horse-riders, Madingley Road cycling and walking improvements, and new public transport routes into Cambridge from the west and south-east of the city.
There was broad support from attendees for the temporary improvements needed to help more people walk and cycle during the coronavirus pandemic, which would also be needed to keep pollution and congestion levels down as the region emerges from lockdown. The government is urging local authorities to take swift action to install measures such as ‘modal filters’ to restrict through traffic on local streets, pop-up protected cycle lanes on busier roads and widened pavements. The county council is leading on the scheme, although the GCP may be asked to deliver some elements, especially as aspects of the project overlap with its own City Access plans to improve movement into and around the city. County council officer Richard Preston admitted that despite being pressed to implement the measures as soon as possible, the county was still pulling together its initial thoughts. It had not yet engaged with any local councillors or community groups, although both authorities promised to consult local residents before any temporary measures were made permanent.
Members of the assembly stressed the need for any cycling and walking measures to take into consideration the needs of more vulnerable users and those cycling for the first time. Cllr Mike Sargeant said that “One of the big challenges for any cycle scheme really is that it is attractive to new cyclists and isn’t just providing for existing cyclists.” He said that if there were situations where a good route suddenly ended at an unpleasant junction, local authorities would not achieve the increased usage they were hoping for. Dr Andrew Williams, business representative from Astra-Zeneca, said that combining new cyclists with the increased number of speeding drivers seen during the pandemic was of particular concern and suggested that the recent lanes painted by the county council did nothing to improve safety. He said: “Let’s not call something a cycle lane, unless it is a cycle lane. Unless it’s physically separated from cars, then from my perspective it’s not a cycle lane; it’s just another dangerous bit of white line.”
Members welcomed plans to cut back vegetation on cycleways, but said that resurfacing on many routes was also urgently needed with worn-out paths and potholes posing a significant barrier to increased cycling. Councillor Eileen Wilson called for long-overdue traffic-calming measures to be implemented and said that Cambridgeshire villages should not be overlooked as the list of temporary measures were being finalised. She said: “I’ve had quite a few representations from people about improvements for walking and cycling within the village…because people have really enjoyed being able to walk around without enormous volumes of traffic going through. We’ve seen more people cycling, more people walking and I think we need to seize the moment to make sure this can carry on.”
Large-scale temporary routes such as Cambourne to Cambridge and the increased uptake in electrically-assisted cycles were mentioned as Camcycle’s ideas for a ‘Quick CAM’ network of pop-up routes begin to gain momentum. GCP’s Director of Transport, Peter Blake, said: “Longer-distance cycling becomes far more relevant to more commuters if there is an electric bike option. As part of future-proofing the scheme, trying to accommodate e-bikes is going to be really quite important.” Several members suggested ideas for improvements to cycle routes coming in from the west, which would be enhanced by the modal filter already planned for Grange Road.
Camcycle’s Quick CAM concept for Cambourne to Addenbrooke’s shows that temporary improvements could enable cyclists on e-bikes to travel between Cambourne and Grange Road in less than 30 minutes. Camcycle’s Executive Director, Roxanne De Beaux, said: “Camcycle strongly supports proposals for road space reallocation across Cambridgeshire to provide more space for active travel and help support the region’s economic revival. We call for local authorities to work together to accelerate the delivery of temporary schemes which take into account the many suggestions we’ve received from the public over the past few weeks as part of our Spaces to Breathe campaign. We’d like to invite members and officers of the Greater Cambridge Partnership to speak with us about our Quick CAM proposals and how best to deliver low-cost solutions which quickly deliver safe space for walking and cycling.”