This article was published in 2020, in Magazine 147.
Last year, our ‘Cycling for All’ campaign called for a commitment to investment in cycling for all ages and abilities. In mid-2020, the campaign has become more about political will. New sources of funding are opening up for active travel, but are local authorities ready and willing to use them?
Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP): City Deal Tranche 2
On 19 May, the GCP shared the news that a second tranche of funding, worth up to £400m, had been gained from central government. This will allow the partnership to make further progress on several schemes for sustainable transport including the rural Greenways and Chisholm Trail walking and cycling route.
However, with so many projects underway, it’s a big job scrutinising current plans and making sure cycling and walking improvements are prioritised and designed to a specification that works for all types of rider and cycle. We raised several questions at the meeting of the GCP Joint Assembly on 4 June and received the following updates:
Although work has continued on site during the pandemic, the pace has slowed and Phase 1 of the Trail, linking the city’s two rail stations, will not now open until 2021. The jetty link under the railway bridge between Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows is due to reopen in the autumn of this year.
CITY ACCESS PROJECT
In February, the City Access project proposed some experimental roadspace reallocation schemes to support the recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly last autumn. These measures could also support the city’s emergence from lockdown and the greater need for more safe space for cycling and walking. Modal filters in streets including Luard Road, Storey’s Way and Nightingale Avenue and bus gates on Maid’s Causeway and Hobson Street are proposed to be trialled from mid-July.
There was broad support amongst members of the Joint Assembly for temporary walking and cycling schemes, with comments raised on prioritising safety for new cyclists, including rural as well as urban projects, resurfacing cycleways and considering the impact of the uptake in e-bikes (e.g. their role in enabling greater distances to be travelled and the need for secure overnight parking).
PUBLIC TRANSPORT ROUTES
Despite opposition, the GCP continues to forge ahead with plans for public transport corridors in the west and south-east of the city. We are pleased that buses are no longer proposed to share Adams Road and continue to press for high-quality improvements along these routes, many of which could be put in place quickly to deliver immediate impacts.
Following public consultation, the GCP plan to proceed with the ‘option 2’ walking and cycling scheme which will involve land negotiations with the University and colleges to provide more space at junctions.
Consultation on all 12 routes has revealed high levels of public support. Budgets for the delivery of the Melbourn, Comberton and St Ives Greenways will be decided by the Executive Board at the end of June.
Cambridgeshire County Council
As the local highways authority, the county council holds most of the funding for transport in the Greater Cambridge area. In recent months, its officers have also been preparing a comprehensive Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy which should allow it to identify the routes which would most benefit from investment.
It was disappointing, therefore, to see the county’s slow response to the government’s call for emergency measures to prioritise walking and cycling after lockdown. We were also extremely dismayed to see the county abolish the Cambridge Joint Area Committee (CJAC) on 19 May. We believe this is a terrible loss to transport democracy in the city and had campaigned hard against the proposal.
Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA)
The Coldhams Lane/Brooks Road/Barnwell Road roundabout has long been a cycle safety blackspot and, as a result, the Combined Authority (CA) had earmarked it for improvements. On 29 April we spoke at the CA Transport Committee to ask why safety for cyclists and pedestrians was not being prioritised at this location and urged them to return to the drawing board rather than proceeding with unsatisfactory designs that harked back to the 1960s and gave highest priority to motor traffic flow.
In response to our questions, Camcycle was told by CA Mayor James Palmer: ‘In the case of the Coldhams Lane roundabout, which is identified as a Key Corridor, the Local Transport Plan hierarchy places cycling in third position after public transport and other motorised users.’ However, he did agree to send the scheme back to local authorities so they could look at funding opportunities for a better design.
We were therefore surprised to see active travel suddenly jump to the forefront of the Mayor’s views when just days later he declared on Twitter that ‘now is the time to encourage more cycling in Cambridgeshire.’ This followed a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was starting to compile plans for a ‘new golden age of cycling’. Mayor Palmer has since been responsible for lobbying central government for funding for emergency cycle lanes in the county, but there has been little action on the ground and major road-building plans remain prominent in the CA’s transport strategy.
Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council
The shared planning service for the two councils has published early proposals for a new low-carbon city district near Cambridge North station, including 8,000 new homes and 20,000 new jobs along with shops, restaurants, and community and cultural facilities. It includes proposals to relocate Anglian Water’s Cambridge waste water treatment plant. The draft proposals are being considered by councillors ahead of full public consultation which is scheduled to start in late July.
The vision is for the area to be ‘a socially and economically inclusive, thriving, and low-carbon place for innovative living and working; inherently walkable where everything is on your doorstep’. Camcycle has been attending Community Forum meetings on the project to help ensure excellent facilities for cycling are built in from the outset and to encourage the planning team to consult in a way that results in strong engagement with the surrounding communities.
We urge all our members to respond to the public consultation and encourage those who have time to do so to help us scrutinise the documents released so far which include studies on climate change, transport evidence, Smart Infrastructure for Future Mobility, options for a new Milton Road crossing and many more.