Cambridgeshire County Council has recently published an ‘experimental traffic regulation order’ (ETRO) that allows electric cars to use the Elizabeth Way bridge bus lane. While that, by itself, is not much, it has been proposed as a test case before implementing the change in all the county’s bus lanes. This should be extremely alarming to anyone who cares about cycling safety and public transport.
Electric cars are still cars. They take up a lot of space on the road, may endanger people who are cycling and will surely congest a facility that is meant to help public transport function more smoothly. This is a dreadful precedent to set, which will lead to the destruction of public transport priority and will further deteriorate already poor conditions for cycling. Along many streets in Cambridge, such as parts of Hills Road, Milton Road, Trumpington Road and Newmarket Road, people currently have nowhere reasonable to cycle but the bus lane and, under these proposals, would lose that space too.
One of the terrible ironies of this ETRO is that we have been waiting over six months for the county to implement the DfT-sponsored Covid-19 active travel project that would create a temporary pop-up cycleway using one of the lanes on the other side of the Elizabeth Way bridge to help people during the pandemic. With cases rising sharply in the city, measures like these are now even more important. However, instead of complying with the mandate from central government, the county has regressively chosen to use the ETRO process to create more space for cars at the expense of buses and people cycling. Such a backward form of road space reallocation is a disgrace.
Electric cars are still relatively expensive, so this ETRO is effectively granting the owners of high-end cars, such as the Tesla, the privilege to degrade the bus service and intimidate people on cycles, for now. As electric cars become widespread (in 2020, sales doubled in the UK and made up more than half of cars sold in Norway) the bus lanes will quickly become jammed up just like any other car lane.
While we would much prefer that cycle infrastructure be provided separately from bus lanes, until that goal is reached we must deal with the situation as it is on the ground. Bus lanes are currently heavily used by people cycling in Cambridge. Furthermore, we are strongly supportive of public transport as an important pillar of the sustainable transport ecosystem and, even if every bus lane had a protected cycleway alongside it, we would not want to see bus service degraded by the incursion of private cars into their space.
We urge you to write a strong email of objection to the Policy and Regulation team at the county council (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as you can. Please be sure to cite the name of the order ‘PR0667’ in the subject of the email and to also send a copy to your local county councillor.