Elections

Local elections (County), June 2009: West Chesterton

Summary: Elections to Cambridgeshire County Council in June 2009.
Polling date: Thursday 4th June 2009
Division:
Candidates
(by surname):
  • Alexandra L J COLLIS  (Green Party)
  • Michael J MORLEY  (Conservative Party)
  • Michael G SARGEANT  (Labour Party)
  • Kevin WILKINS  (Liberal Democrat)

Questions for West Chesterton division candidates (6 questions)

Jump to question:  1   2   3   4   5   6 

# Question 1

There is a major shortage of cycle parking all around the city. Cycle theft is over 10% of all reported crime in the County. Do you have any suggestions for locations for cycle parking? Would you be willing to see a very small proportion of on-street car parking being replaced by on-street cycle parking in your ward? How will you progress towards a situation where every resident and every worker in each ward can keep a bike safe?

Alexandra L J COLLIS
(Green Party)

Reducing cycle theft is a key Green priority, and I believe that it is time to stop accepting this problem as an occupational hazard of living in Cambridge - and time to formulate a coherent and realistic response. Like many of us, I know several people who have had bikes damaged or stolen over the past year, even when they have been locked up securely. So, I would actively push for cycle parking to be given priority over car parking. It is vital that every shop, cafe, pub - any social amenity - has a secure bicycle parking area for users/customers. Awareness of security could be raised on cycling proficiency courses, and the county could also subsidise locks (which would need to be of a high quality, rather than the easily removed type) for families on low incomes and children/young people, who may be unable to afford such measures - and are disproportionately affected by cycle thefts. Finally, while I understand that the police have many conflicting demands upon their time, I believe that they still have an important role to play in tackling the organised bike thefts that are a particular problem in the city. I have accompanied police patrols as an observer, and know that they do perform stop checks, but I feel these are too inconsistently applied. A more consistent approach to tackling this problem - involving police, the local authority, local businesses AND local people - can only improve the situation.

Michael J MORLEY
(Conservative Party)

For many in Cambridge, cycling is the predominant method of transport; whilst West Chesterton is - perhaps - not a major destination for cyclists it is a major starting point.

Whilst it is important to consider all road users, cycle parking is important and often over looked. It should not be the case that bikes are left insecurely or - as is happening more and more - individuals and familes are installing looking points in their gardens.

Transport provisions, including secure locking facilities for cyclists, are - and should be - a matter for the Council. I believe that the Council should be looking to increase and improve current provision and would push to make secure cycle parking provision a condition for new developments, even if that means a reduction in parking for cars in some areas.

Michael G SARGEANT
(Labour Party)

I am not sure that parking on the street would be a good idea as it would stop the flow of traffic including cycles.
There certainly ought to be more provision in the Mitcham's Corner area of West Chesterton. I would also be pleased to see a lot more parking provision for cycles in the city centre where there appears to be more than 50% shortfall in parking places.

Kevin WILKINS
(Liberal Democrat)

Cycle theft is a real problem and I would welcome more secure cycle parking.

In the south of the ward especially, car parking is in very short supply for residents but it should be possible to accommodate better cycle facilities. Similarly, I am keen to see the existing car club extended to more of the city so that more residents can use a car only when they need to, without owning one, thus encouraging them to use alternative transport more often.

# Question 2

Do you support our view that traffic policing (including fining of cyclists without lights or using pedestrian-only pavements) should become a greater police priority?

Alexandra L J COLLIS
(Green Party)

I believe that the main priority for police should be tackling the problem of cycle thefts. However, cyclists also have a responsibility to cycle safely and should abide by the law, for the benefit of pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. Where people are cycling without lights after dark, they should expect to be stopped and to receive a fine. The revenue raised through fines could be better used by putting it towards subsidising locks - lights - for those on low incomes, as discussed above. Local educational providers also have a part to play in ensuring that seasonal visitors are fully aware of - and comply with - their responsibilities as cyclists.

Michael J MORLEY
(Conservative Party)

My pet peeve is cyclists who, on narrow bridges, ignore "Cyclists Dismount" signs. It is ignorant and inconsiderate behaviour, showing little respect for the safety of others.

Enforcing the law is, by definition, the role of the police. Ensuring that roads and pavements are safe for all users should be a high priority. Cycling without lights at night, or the wrong way down one-way streets, or on pavements is a danger both to the cyclist and to other road users.

It should, of course, be a greater policing priority - acting on cyclists breaking the law should be a matter of routine for the police. I do not believe that the current methodology is sufficient: as I cycle around Cambridge, for most of the year, the policing attitude to cyclists is relaxed. However, at some points - for a couple of nights - 'spot checks' happen. I recally this recently happening on Trinity Street: police stopped a great many cyclists to fine on-the-spot for not having lights, or for cycling the street the wrong way. Not only did this create resentment amongst cyclists (as, the nights before and after things went back to 'normal') but merely encouraged them to take alternative routes and tip others off to the police presence.

Only by continual enforcement of the law would the behaviour of cyclists be changed.

Michael G SARGEANT
(Labour Party)

I believe there should be increased training of cyclists combined with publicity campaigns. This should be combined with periodic campaigns to tie in with clock changes.
Priority for the police should be decided on the basis of the level of accidents in particular areas and the risk of specific behaviour. I think it would be wrong to discourage children from riding on the pavements and pushing them on to the roads which might cause more accidents.

Kevin WILKINS
(Liberal Democrat)

Yes. The project whereby cyclists without lights were given lights on paying their fine on getting caught seemed a pragmatic, helpful way to encourage better cycling and I would be keen to see this continue.

I have also argued at the Cambridge Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership that dealing with cycle theft should also be a greater police priority.

# Question 3

We believe that 20mph should be the norm for local streets in residential areas (as distinct from main connecting roads). 20mph would: greatly encourage walking and cycling; improve the quality of life in an area for residents; and would not delay car journeys significantly (because only the start/end of a journey would be affected). Do you agree that 20mph should become the norm for local streets in Cambridge and surrounding villages?

Alexandra L J COLLIS
(Green Party)

A 20 mph restriction should certainly be the norm fro local streets in residential areas; in Norwich the Green Party has pushed successfully for this (showing that the party has a proven track record of acting on campaign promises), and I would like to see this extended across the region. The introduction of these speed limits in central Cambridge is a welcome development; now it is time to see them extended to the outer areas of the city as a matter of urgency. Speeding can be a particular problem in these areas, discouraging more people from cycling. Clearly displayed and consistently enforced 20 mph limits across the city can only encourage more of the city's population to take up walking or cycling, with beneficial health and environmental consequences.

Michael J MORLEY
(Conservative Party)

I'm learning to drive at the moment, and my lessons take me through many areas of Cambridge - in West Chesterton and beyond. I'm puzzled by speed limits, though.

In some areas, with so many parked cars, one must crawl along at 20mph regardless of the speed limit as to go faster would not be safe. On other residential roads - long straight ones with off-street parking for every house - a 20mph limit is in place when a greater speed would not affect safety.

The question, however, is why we want a 20mph limit: is it to increase safety, or is it to encourage cycling and walking? If the latter is the case then, as a method for social engineering, I cannot support it.

If it is to increase safety, we have to ask if a mandatory speed limit is the correct approach. How do we define a residential area, or would we put a 20mph limit on any road with house on it? Is a 20mph limit going to change the behaviour of the minority of drivers who drive far to fast on built-up roads, or will it merely frustrate law-abiding drivers?

Yes, 20mph limits should be encouraged where the road conditions warrant them, but no, they should not be the norm as every area, and every road, is different.

Michael G SARGEANT
(Labour Party)

I support 20mph speed limits not only in residential areas but also on connecting roads such as Carlton Way, Gilbert Road and Milton Road from the Elizabeth Way roundabout to Mitcham's Corner. This would make it a lot safer for children going to and from school.

Kevin WILKINS
(Liberal Democrat)

Yes very strongly. The injury-reduction arguments are obviously very strong, but we should press this further to change the culture such that people (esp those learning to drive) believe that 20mph is the norm in a residential area.

The County Council's hostility to 20mph has been daft.

# Question 4

If the County Council's proposed Congestion Charge goes ahead, it is likely that the associated up-front money that would be received from the government to support prior improvements to public transport and cycling would be of the order of some £500m spread over five years. This is roughly ten times the amount the County currently receives for transport. If the scheme goes ahead, what would be your priorities for use of this up-front money?

Alexandra L J COLLIS
(Green Party)

The main priority is to alter the current transport system from one where cars are still prioritised, to one where they are seen as the mode of travel of last resort. This up-front money could completely transform cycling facilities and public transport services across the city. I know from residents I have talked to that many would be happy to use public transport in place of their car if they could only rely on it. In terms of cycling, improvements could include;
Hybrid cylce lanes on ALL major roads
Cycle routes which do not stop abruptly
Claerly marked, separate routes for pedestrians and cyclists on all the city's commons, and all on-path cycle routes
New cycle paths to all outlying villages (which would reduce congestion considerably)
At least £50 million would need to be allocated for these purposes.
Regarding public transport, I would support the following improvements;
Improvements to infrastructure, such as new stations at Chesterton, Addenbrookes and Cherry Hinton
All electric or bio-fuel buses, which would reduce pollution - especially for cyclists and pedestrians
A new interchange for buses in Cambridge, as well as upgrades to the interchange at the Rail Station (and implementation of plans for a new coach station there)

Michael J MORLEY
(Conservative Party)

I oppose the congestion charge for a great many reasons. It is a regressive tax, hitting the poorest hardest, and pricing them off the roads and increases the bureaucracy for all road users.

A key point to remember is that it's not free: the charge itself would not be able to fund the scheme. Over the lifetime of the grant, a significant amount would need to be diverted to support the infrastructure needed to implement the congestion charge. This is even more true when the charge per car is low - it doesn't affect the price of enforcing it!

Funding to improve public transport and cycling provision should not be linked to imposing a congestion charge, and Conservatives locally and nationally are fighting to break such links.

That aside, priorities for use of any money available for transportation provision should be to:
- improve secure cycle parking facilities
- develop better commuter-route cycle lanes that make life safer for all road users and encourage cycling without disadvantaging drivers
- improve public transport services
- increase provision of 'leisure' transport routes to encourage more people to get on their bikes

Michael G SARGEANT
(Labour Party)

The County Council already has powers given to it by the Labour Government to control public transport which it is not using. This would be a good start to improving local provision. If increased funding is forthcoming, then I would see it being used for both public transport and cycling. In both cases, there must be better provision of routes to encourage the use of public transport and cycling so that they are seen as the easiest way to get around Cambridge.

Kevin WILKINS
(Liberal Democrat)

£500 million must be used as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change travel in the city. Although I am a regular bus user and would dearly like to see services improved, such a capital sum should achieve more than simply lay on a few extra buses, move a few kerbs or improve cycle lanes here or there, even though all are obviously desirable.

That means we must look properly at tunnels for public transport. I cannot say whether they are affordable but I have no faith in the County Council's failure to consider them properly.

If such a radical improvement in public transport were possible, then it should be much easier to give a higher priority to cycling improvements on those arterial roads where some road space has been cleared.

# Question 5

Gilbert Road currently includes cycle lanes that motorists can legally park in. This means that cyclists, including some of the many hundreds of children in nearby schools, have to dodge in and out of the traffic stream, which is dangerous and unpleasant. Given that Huntingdon Road has cyclist-only cycle lanes yet is a similar situation in terms of parking in front gardens, do you support the removal of on-street parking on Gilbert Road?

Alexandra L J COLLIS
(Green Party)

This area of the city is notorious for its poor cycling facilities, and I believe it is time that the council gave it the priority it clearly demands. I regularly travel down Gilbert Road, both on public transport and cycling, and have been absolutely appalled at the number or near misses I have seen involving cyclists who are forced to weave in and out of blocked cycle lanes (full of cars taking advantage of the free parking), and having to avoid vehicles travelling at dangerously high speeds. I am also concerned that this advisory cycle route is used by local schoolchildren, who are being put at unnecessary risk. The amount of recent new building in the area, such as the new Milton Road Primary School site, and the convalescent home being built on the old site, have only increased the need for action even further. The existing advisory cycle lanes should become mandatory cycle lanes, and should extend the whole length of Gilbert Road (rather than just in the lower end which is part of West Chesterton ward). It is also vital that these are of sufficient width - at least the 1.5 metres specified by Government guidelines.

Michael J MORLEY
(Conservative Party)

To compare Huntingdon Road and Gilbert Road as similar, in that they are both roads with houses that have gardens, is ludicrous: in no other way are they simillar roads, with Huntingdon Road being a major artery of the city's transport infrastructure, and GIlbert Road a residential street.

Improving the safety of Gilbert Road, especially for children, is important. However, to remove whole-sale the provision for on-street parking is an untenable position: where, then, would residents park their cars? All over their gardens, which are much smaller than those of Huntingdon Road? No, I do ab-intio support the removal of on-street parking. However, in consultation with local residents I do believe the situation can be improved: improving lighting and introducing traffic-calming measures would slow traffic on this long straight road and improve night-time conditions.

Perhaps, much as we would like to maintain the verges, it is time consider which is a greater priority: safety on this busy road, or small patches of grass?

Michael G SARGEANT
(Labour Party)

It is not a valid comparison between Huntingdon Road which is a major route into Cambridge and Gilbert Road which is a residential street with provision of bus routes and travel within that area of Cambridge. Huntingdon Road has much larger gardens than Gilbert Road and I am not in favour of paving over all the gardens in Gilbert Road with its potential impact on flooding. The drains can not always cope as it is.
I am, however, in favour of the provision of improved cycling in Gilbert Road which the sitting Liberal Democrat Councillor and Tory County Council have failed to provide. This should be provided in consultation with the residents of Gilbert Road and perhaps include a more imaginative approach including limited parking within the current verge space.

Kevin WILKINS
(Liberal Democrat)

Yes. The new hybrid lanes proposed for Gilbert Road strike me as very good news and will I hope be welcomed by the many people who use Gilbert Road especially to get to and from the numerous schools in the area.

I had spent much time trying to find a good compromise between the interests of Gilbert Road residents and the cyclists who use the road. Unfortunately, none of those compromises meant the sort of significant improvement in cycling facility which I think these new lanes bring.

# Question 6

Do you have any other general cycling-related comments or points? And what support have you given for cycling and walking, or sustainable transport more generally, in the past?

Alexandra L J COLLIS
(Green Party)

The Green Party is committed to a transport hierarchy, in which pedestrians are at the top, then cyclists, followed by public transport - and finally, cars on the lowest rung. Investment in transport should follow this hierarchy of priorities, where reasonable. Cambridge is unusual in having comparatively high rates of cycling. However, becoming complacent about this will have disastrous consequences, and it is important that the council continues to improve facilities for cyclists (particularly by working to tackle the problem of cycle thefts, and by improving cycle routes and parking facilities) - otherwise, rates of cylcing could dwindle away. New cyclists will be reluctant to cycle regularly on dangerous roads, and could easily opt to stay in their cars. Cycling will be seen as too dangerous, and not worth the risk. The council has presented itself as cycle-friendly - but in reality, cycling facilities have been consistently undermined by a lack of proper investment and political will and commitment. The Green party offers a different perspective, and I would be fully committed as your Green councillor to fighting for increased investment in cycling across the city, as well as in West Chesterton.

Michael J MORLEY
(Conservative Party)

The cycling demonstration town money is a welcome resource for Cambridge and should be used widely.

Cycling facilities should not merely 'tick the boxes' laid out by the government but meet the genuine needs of cyclists. Inadequate provision can make things worse rather than no provision, and well-thought-out schemes are a key aspect of the demonstration town.

New routes beyond the city, including along the guided busway, will hopefully encourage morpe people to use their bikes, but to get more cyclists on the roads we need to increase confidence. Training schemes, for which Cambridge is well-placed to provide, will lead to more confident cyclists who are more respectful of other road users.

Michael G SARGEANT
(Labour Party)

I very much welcome the Labour Government's designation of Cambridge as a National ‘Cycling Demonstration Town' and the provision of £7 million of funding. Although Cambridge has a very high level of cycle usage, I believe it still does not have good provision for cycling especially for children. There are many examples where you have to navigate from off road cycling provision onto major roads to continue your journey. We need to make sure that the balance of expenditure is moved towards cycling and public transport.

Kevin WILKINS
(Liberal Democrat)

The provision of really first-class cycling and walking facilities in the new developments around the fringes of the city is of great importance. We only have one chance to get these things right before the new developments are built and doing so from the start is so much cheaper and affects behaviours as soon as people move in. None of the relevant councils must be allowed to get away with less than high marks.

I choose not to own a car (I live and work in the city and don't have kids, so it's relatively easy for me) so my own experience enables me to stand up for bus users and pedestrians. And delving back into the dim and distant past, I was the first student to speak out against the County Council's crazy (and thankfully defunct) bike ban in the central streets.

Camcycle is a non-partisan body. All candidates are given an equal opportunity to submit their views. Information published by Camcycle (Cambridge Cycling Campaign), The Bike Depot, 140 Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0DL.