Camcycle welcomes the extension of the experimental bus gate scheme on Mill Road bridge. We believe the scheme has significantly improved public safety in the two ways set out in the experimental objectives. Firstly, it has facilitated social distancing during the pandemic, as in previous conditions it would have been impossible for footway users to step safely into the road to maintain safe distances from others, and, secondly, it has reduced the risks caused by motor traffic to those walking and cycling. This enables more people to choose active travel, a key part of the national government’s strategy on transport and inactivity. The reduction in delays to bus services has been a welcome outcome as has the increase in air quality for those living, working and shopping on the street.
Camcycle believes that the future vision for Mill Road should be built around sustainable transport, community cohesion and thriving local businesses. In the short term, the battle against Covid-19 must continue, with space for distancing prioritised for those travelling along the street and visiting food shops, pharmacies and schools. As more local businesses begin to reopen, they should be supported with space for outdoor dining (as currently planned for locations in the city centre) and initiatives to safely attract visitors such as promotional campaigns and attractive planting along the road. Urgent changes are also needed to the unattractive plastic buildouts – these should be replaced with properly-constructed pavement extensions that are fully accessible to all including those using mobility aids or children’s pushchairs.
It is disappointing to see that there have been irregularities with the county council’s online survey resulting in delays to the analysis of results. We note that both Camcycle and the Mill Road traders raised concerns about the reliability of this survey last year. We wrote to Cambridgeshire County Council on 9 November, the day the survey was launched, raising issues with the methodology and calling for them to be corrected to avoid the introduction of bias. We were concerned that the online consultation did not request any identification of respondents (such as email verification or a postcode) nor browser-signature checks to guard against repeat submissions.
However, it is also important to acknowledge the many other factors influencing the decision which will be made by councillors at the Highways and Transport Committee in June. These include correspondence from local residents, data on sustainable transport and air quality and alignment with local authorities’ plans for transport, climate change and making space for people. National government figures have also reiterated their support for significant changes to road layouts this month with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirming the target of half of urban journeys being walked or cycled by 2030 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that although low-traffic schemes can be controversial, in reality “the majority support them and [councils] should crack on”.
Camcycle will continue to seek the views of the Mill Road community over the coming months to discuss changes needed to the experimental scheme. There is broad consensus for many of the suggestions we have already made, including better pavements, improved access for disabled shoppers and increased cycle parking. We also invite local traders to join us to work on the best ways to continue to open up the street safely as the threat of the virus recedes and to attract more visitors to its unique blend of independent businesses.