Overturning of the city centre cycling ban: FAQ

What has happened?

In summary, the Cambridge Environment & Transport Area Joint Committee (AJC) decided on Monday 17th January 2005 to support, subject to consultation, an experiment to suspend the part-time cycling restriction.

What is Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s view on this decision?

We warmly welcomes the decision to overturn the ban for the trial period proposed. We have lobbied hard on this issue for several years. The Campaign’s long-standing policy is that the ban should be rescinded. Our policy is reviewed from time-to-time and the next review is likely to take place following analysis of our recently-issued Members’ Survey in conjunction with the recent decision to overturn the ban.

We congratulate the clear majority of Councillors on the Area Joint Committee who voted in favour of suspending the ban, and hope that the experiment will be a success.

Why is this such an important decision for many cyclists?

In a series of recent Committee documents, the Council has recognised that, during the hours of the ban, there is no viable South to North cycle route in this area, an area through which many journeys pass. It is for this reason that the Campaign has worked for several years to pressure Councillors into overturning the ban.

Very many cyclists continue to find the existing ban a considerable inconvenience, particularly during weekdays when there is relatively little pedestrian traffic. There are few viable alternative routes, the main ones being Queen’s Road (which is part of the ring road and considered dangerous by many cyclists) and the rather torturous route the other way round of Downing Street – Hobson Street – Malcolm Street – Jesus Lane – Bridge Street.

What is the current status of the city centre ‘pedestrian’ zone?

Cycling is currently banned between the hours of 10am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday, in St Mary’s Street, Market Hill, Market Street and Sidney Street.

Cycling is permitted one-way in St John’s Street, Trinity Street and Green Street, at all times and always has been.

What about pedestrians?

We believe strongly in the right of pedestrians to be able to use the city centre without hindrance or danger from cyclists. We support, and will be writing to Council officers in favour of a Pedestrian Priority Zone, to make clear that cyclists should take care to respect the needs of pedestrians.

Cycling is currently allowed on Sundays, despite this now being the second-busiest shopping day of the week. The absence of major problems here indicates that pedestrians and cyclists can co-exist. Many cyclists adjust to this by regulating their speed and/or voluntarily dismounting in the busiest areas. Designation as a Pedestrian Priority Zone would further encourage this.

What about cyclists who break the law?

We feel that current levels of enforcement against illegal cycling are poor. The Campaign’s own Position Paper on Responsible, Legal Cycling, which we issued almost two years ago, makes clear our full support for responsible and considerate cycling and argues for increased levels of enforcement. We recognise that the current actions of an inconsiderate minority are a significant barrier to public perceptions of the desirability of revoking the cycling restriction in Sidney Street and Market Street.

We believe that responsible, legal cycling is in the best interests of cyclists themselves and of the wider community. We support enforcement of all traffic regulations, for all categories of road user, to reduce conflict and road danger.

What is government policy on pedestrianised areas?

The government’s policy, recently re-issued, states that “that there are no real factors to justify excluding cyclists from pedestrianised areas – accidents between pedestrians and cyclists in these circumstances are very rare”. We agree.

Will the scheme simplify the current array of restrictions?

We think and hope so. Many cyclists (and other road users, pedestrians included) simply do not understand what can be a complex range of restrictions, for newcomers to the city and existing residents alike.

Even the Police at times have been found not to understand the current restrictions, and we have worked with their employees on the production of a map (downloadable from our website) summarising the current restrictions so that the existing restrictions can be enforced correctly.

Is the decision undemocratic?

We do not believe so. There have always been views for and against the existing ban, and the continuing existence of this debate some 13 years on, shows that it has never been settled. Councillors determined that an experiment to see whether lifting the restriction is workable, is now the best way forward, and we agree.

The matter of reconsideration of the ban was clearly stated on the Area Joint Committee’s agenda, under the item ‘Historic Centre Pedestrian Zone Cycling Restriction’, which remains available on the County Council’s website. Councillors have thus had an opportunity to consult with their constituents.

What have surveys shown in the past?

Surveys in the past decade have generally found two-thirds support for retaining the cycling restriction. However, there have been concerns on the way that the most recent survey was conducted. In the most recent survey which took place in 2001/2, which found three-quarters support for retaining the ban, cyclists were not stopped and asked their views. Some took the view that this meant many cyclists who would have a view were not asked for it, skewing the results.

We believe that the current actions of an inconsiderate minority are a significant barrier to public perceptions of the desirability of revoking the cycling restriction in Sidney Street and Market Street and that support for lifting the ban will be higher once it is shown to be workable.

What about the Fitzroy Street / Burleigh Street daytime cycling ban?

The existing Fitzroy Street / Burleigh Street daytime cycling ban remains unaffected by this change. Although the Campaign has long campaigned to have this overturned, it remains and so should be respected by cyclists and enforced by the Police.

Why plan for cyclists?

Cycling makes efficient use of space, contributes to energy conservation, keeps people fit and healthy, is a quick and reliable form of transport and can cut death and injury on the road. We believe that cycling is an important mode of transport which should be invested in. Cyclists pay their way: schemes which benefit cyclists are primarily local transport schemes, which are predominantly funded by Council tax. Motorists, too, should support law-abiding cyclists: every cyclist is potentially one less car in a traffic jam.