Vote for healthier streets and a greener future

Bike at a polling stationThis article by Anna Williams, Camcycle’s Communications and Community Officer, first appeared in the Cambridge Independent on Wednesday 24 March, 2021.

In a few weeks’ time, residents of Cambridgeshire will go to the ballot box. There are several local elections taking place including city and county elections in Cambridge, elections for a new Police and Crime Commissioner and elections for Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. The winning candidates on 6 May are important as these will be the people chosen to make the crucial decisions about the local recovery from Covid-19 and the ways that our region chooses to tackle – or perhaps ignore – big issues such as air pollution, congestion, inequality, crime, public health and climate change.

The Mayoral election is of particular interest to those who would like to see streets made safer so that people of all ages and abilities can choose active travel for their daily journeys. The Combined Authority is the strategic transport authority for the region and its Local Transport Plan, published in January 2020, set out a list of projects and policies across all modes of travel. Aims to increase cycling and walking, create ‘healthy streets’ that put people first and deliver a transport network that supports access for all are backed up by warm words but very little in terms of achievable targets. There is a goal to ‘minimise the impact of transport and travel on climate change’ but analysis by Carbon Neutral Cambridge suggests that, under this plan, road transport CO2 emissions would actually continue to rise until 2024 and wouldn’t drop below 2017 levels until 2029.

So how should the person who inherits this plan in a couple of months move forward? Do they plan to proceed with the proposals for a Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro? How would they work with local communities to ensure that all transport schemes are well-prioritised, good value for money, and agreed in a democratically accountable way? How would they work with other local authorities to tackle urban congestion and provide more sustainable options for rural residents? What priorities would they set for reducing carbon emissions from transport in the region?

These are the types of question we’ll be asking candidates at Camcycle’s online Mayoral hustings event. We support the manifesto developed by national charity Sustrans calling for regional candidates to put walking and cycling at the heart of their transport plans, so we’ll be asking candidates about that too. Will they commit to increased funding for ambitious active travel schemes? Will they shape policies around neighbourhoods where most everyday destinations are accessible within a 20-minute walk or cycle ride? Will they ensure that policy and investment in sustainable transport doesn’t ignore people who are disadvantaged or marginalised? Will they take immediate action to make local transport zero-carbon, improve air quality and create low-carbon jobs?

If you have your own questions about transport, we invite you to join us and share them at the hustings. With candidates less able to get and out and about in local communities, it’s even more important this year that voters are offered the chance to evaluate the policies of those standing. Listen carefully and vote wisely. Vote for walking. Vote for cycling. Vote for healthier streets and a greener future.

Camcycle’s Mayoral hustings takes place at 7pm on Tuesday 6 April on our Facebook channel.

We invited the candidates to this event in early February and had prompt confirmations from Labour candidate Nik Johnson and Lib Dem candidate Aidan Van de Weyer. Following extensive communication with the Conservative team over the last few weeks, we were informed last week that James Palmer will not be attending and will not be sending an alternative representative.

All candidates have been invited to answer the questions from our 2021 mayoral election survey – responses will be posted on our website on Thursday 22 April.