National News

This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 143.

Government report on urban mobility recognises key role of walking and cycling

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On 19 March, the Department for Transport published a report entitled ‘Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy’. The document sets out an approach to transport which makes the most of new transport technology while addressing the challenges caused by the huge growth in motor transport since the 1950s.

One of the principles of the government’s approach is that walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys. In England 45% of all journeys taken by urban residents are under two miles. As well as discussing the benefits that cycling brings in terms of health, air quality and reduced congestion, the report mentions use of bike-share schemes, e-bikes and cargo bike delivery.

Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, welcomed the report saying: ‘Over the next decade technology is going to drive a revolution in transport … that could result in greener and more convenient travel for everyone. But we need to start with the end in mind. What type of places do we want to live in? What type of lives do we want to lead? And nothing is better at creating healthier places and happier lives for everyone than investing in solutions that make it easier to walk and cycle.’

Scotland bans pavement parking as UK government calls for evidence in England

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Amid growing concern from charities such as Guide Dogs for the Blind and Living Streets, in April the government announced a call for evidence on pavement parking in England. At present, pavement parking is banned only in London but, on 4 April, the Scottish Government agreed in principle to implement a nationwide ban on pavement parking and double parking.

Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland, said the move would ‘help to create safer and more welcoming streets for all’ and encouraged the relevant powers in England and Wales to take a lead from the Scottish ruling.

Teachers call for urgent action on air pollution outside schools

A Sustrans survey has found that 63% of teachers would support a ban on cars and buses outside schools. One in three teachers told the walking and cycling charity that they were worried about air pollution and 59% want the government to take ‘urgent action’.

When asked what they thought would reduce levels of air pollution outside schools, over a third of respondents (34%) believed that encouraging more people to walk, scoot and cycle would help reduce toxic fumes, followed by educating the school community about the causes and effects of air pollution (28%) and school road closures (26%).

Public Health England’s air quality review, published in March, also made suggestions to reduce levels of pollution, including anti-idling measures outside schools and hospitals, provision of dedicated cycle infrastructure and introduction of road pricing schemes such as London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, launched on 8 April.

Join air pollution campaign Clean Air Day on 20 June: cleanairday.org.uk

New optical fibres will enable digital information to travel along Cambridge cycleways at the speed of light

At the County Council Economy and Environment Committee in March it was agreed to install ducting and access chambers for optical fibres on county infrastucture. The officer report specifically mentions the Busway, the Chisholm Trail and the Linton Greenway.

This is part of a larger plan and joint venture to utilise the assets of Cambridge University’s existing ‘Granta Backbone Network’ – a high-quality, high-capacity network, established 25 years ago (see map) together with ducting on county assets. Installing ducting and access chambers during the construction of such things as the Chisholm Trail or Greenways adds next to nothing to the overall costs, yet adds extra benefits for decades. It’s a good example of groups getting out of their ‘silos’ (underground ducts) and working together for the good of us all.

Installing ducting must be a no-brainer, but the positioning and quality of access chambers on the cycle network will be crucial. Distorted or badly positioned ironwork is a hazard for those cycling, although neither is as bad as tram lines or poor quality reinstatement following trench works by utility companies.

I gather the intention is that, where practical, ducting will be installed on all new Greenways.

So although you, on your bike, may be speeding along much faster than the motor traffic stuck in queues, there may soon be photons travelling below you at close to the speed of light.

Jim Chisholm

Have your say on Cherry Hinton Road improvements

Cambridgeshire County Council is consulting on plans for Cherry Hinton Road, following a 2015 survey which found that 73% of respondents were in favour of segregated cycle lanes, even if on-road parking bays had to be removed.

We’re pleased to see the options presented in the survey that will make cycling safer and easier including removal of on-street car parking and shared-use pavements, cyclist priority over side roads and installation of bus stop bypasses. It is disappointing that the scheme will include some sections of 1.5m advisory cycle lanes. However, given the limited width of the road, it is unlikely we will see improvements to this unless compulsory land purchases, dramatic road redesigns and/or rerouting of traffic become palatable to the county council.

It is also disappointing that the Hills Road junction will still not have an official way for cyclists from the Cambridge Leisure Park to join the road, an issue we previously raised with the council.

Please complete the online survey by 18 June to show support for the options that will improve safety for cycling including:

  • the new bus stop design
  • the removal of on-street car parking
  • the continuation of cycle lanes all the way to junctions
  • the priority for cyclists and pedestrians over side roads
  • the provision of 2m-wide segregated cycle lanes

Find out more and join the discussion on Cyclescape thread 4741

Complete the online survey at tinyurl.com/cherryhintonroad

Issues for cyclists persist on Fen Road

Cyclists are forced either side of the speed cushions (right) and, when cars are parked next to the cushions, roadspace is even more constrained.
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Fen Road is the most tricky and dangerous road I use in Cambridge. I am a confident cyclist and my route takes me across the city from CB1 (Beaumont Road) up to the Science Park. Since Cambridge North station opened I’ve used Fen Road, from the Green Dragon bridge up to the level crossing. My commute means that I use the road around 8.30am and 5.15pm.

The main problems I’ve noticed are as follows:

  1. The speed cushions are quite aggressive, particularly for heavier bikes or for those using cargos or trailers, so riding over is hard. As a result, they channel motor traffic and cyclists into a narrow space in the middle of the road. Although the cushions have small gaps to both kerb sides where cyclists naturally want to ride at normal commuting speed, people park cars adjacent to the cushions, which means the only feasible way from one side of a cushion to the other is over it or through the one-metre gap between the cushions at the crown of the road. There are solid white lines along the kerb beside each cushion, but they are worn and often ignored by residents.
  2. Even away from the speed cushions, parked vehicles on this narrow road force cyclists into conflict with motor vehicles.
  3. There’s a proliferation of transit-style vans and larger vehicles using the road, sometimes with disregard to cyclists.
  4. The many 4×4-type vehicles using Fen Road can travel at speed even over the speed cushions – again introducing danger to cyclists.
  5. A poor-quality road surface forces cyclists to ride erratically to avoid potholes.
  6. Poor lighting and lack of paint makes the speed cushions very hard to see in the dark. Cyclists who do not spot them in time, and aim for the gaps, could easily fall off.

David Green

Share your ideas for small cycling improvements

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Do you have an idea for a small change that could make a big difference for cycling in and around Cambridge? The summer Local Highways Improvement (LHI) project deadline is coming up. We will be preparing a list of small projects that could be candidates for funding. In the past we’ve worked on changes to enable inclusive cycling (and walking), such as removing a difficult barrier or getting a dropped kerb where needed. We are open to many different kinds of ideas, however. Please send us an email at contact@camcycle.org.uk and let us know.

Matthew Danish