Cycling for all: are local authorities moving fast enough for active travel?

Our ‘Cycling for All’ campaign calls for a commitment from local decision-makers to invest in and deliver cycling for all ages and abilities. This has become even more important in response to the global pandemic. All our local authorities have been encouraging people to cycle and walk where possible as we emerge from lockdown – to the shops, to work and to school. But what have they been doing to make this happen?

Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP)

With the second tranche of funding worth up to £400m approved by central government, it was good to see several cycling schemes gain approval at the GCP Executive Board meeting on 25 June.

Our preferred ‘option 2’ Madingley Road walking and cycling scheme proceeded to the detailed design stage and scheme proposals and budgets were agreed for the Melbourn, Comberton and St Ives Greenways.

A decision on the Cambridge to Cambourne public transport route was deferred, but work continues on another big project in the south-east of the city. As part of this, a new signalised Toucan crossing is currently being built at the Babraham Research Campus roundabout to help pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians to cross the A1307 safely. In the north of the city, there is progress on the Chisholm Trail with a new jetty link for National Cycle Network 51 expected to reopen later in the autumn. The installation of the Abbey-Chesterton bridge should take place soon with the Newmarket Road underpass by the Leper Chapel scheduled for spring 2021. The full Phase 1 section of the Trail is expected to open later next year.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA)

‘Active travel like cycling and walking is win-win: good for health, good for the community, and good for the environment’, wrote James Palmer on the CPCA Mayor’s blog. The Combined Authority’s latest announcement is a 12-month trial of e-bikes and e-scooters. The e-scooter trial will begin in central Cambridge, while the bikes are likely to be placed at rail stations across the county, Park & Ride sites and stops along the Busway. Camcycle will be closely observing the new trial with the expectation that lessons have been learnt from previous dockless schemes, particularly around pavement obstruction. Helping people to minimise driving during the pandemic will be vital to keep everyone safe and healthy over the coming months, so having these vehicles available to hire at low cost should allow more people to choose sustainable travel for short journeys and for the first or last mile of longer journeys.

Read our full response at camcycle.org.uk/escooterblog

Cambridge City Council

At the beginning of July, the city council were advising residents and visitors to ‘walk or cycle to the city centre if possible’, but this message was lost by the end of the month when a three-month cut-price parking deal of £1 an hour was launched. The scheme takes a sledgehammer to efforts to boost active travel and revive use of public transport and contributes to the mixed messaging already coming out of central government.

Another trial begins on 1 September which should benefit cyclists, pedestrians shoppers and diners in the Peas Hill area: drivers leaving the Grand Arcade car park will no longer be able to turn right down Corn Exchange Street. However, motor vehicle access will remain for those turning into the road from Downing Street.

Cambridgeshire County Council

The work of the county council’s cycling project team hit the headlines when the first Dutch roundabout in the UK opened in July. Despite issues around cost, which we believe should be investigated, this truly was a groundbreaking project.

However, work on the experimental schemes to deliver more space for cycling and walking during the pandemic have been less impressive, with the county falling behind many other areas of the country in its response.

At the latest meeting of the Highways and Transport Committee, county cycling champion Cllr Noel Kavanagh questioned whether walking and cycling was being taken seriously as part of the Wisbech Access highway schemes. The response was that officers had made ‘suitable provision for the level of need and demand that was currently envisaged, plus some additional capacity’. In light of new guidelines from government, more work is likely to be needed in future to guarantee central funding for transport schemes like this.

In the same meeting, members approved by a majority to adopt a Vision Zero strategy, working towards no deaths or severe injuries on the region’s roads by 2040 (see more below).

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Vision Zero launch coincides with deadly period for cyclists on county roads

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safety Partnership has been renamed the ‘Vision Zero Partnership’ for the next stage in its strategy, spanning 2020-2030. The new strategy adopts the internationally-recommended ‘Safe System’ approach – safer roads, safer speeds, safer vehicles and safer road use – with a vision that the county council will work towards a vision of zero people killed on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s roads by 2040, because zero is the only acceptable number of road deaths. The accompanying target is to reduce annual reported killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties by at least 50% to 234 in 2030 compared to an average of 469 between 2014 and 2018. Adding in less severe casualties, each year just over 2,500 people are killed or injured on the region’s roads. In 2017, County Councillor Noel Kavanagh called for every cycling collision to be investigated thoroughly, specifying that any investigation of a death should look closely at the effect of road layouts in order to make things safer for road users, especially at ‘notorious’ junctions such as the double roundabout at Lensfield Road or the junction of Brooklands Avenue and Trumpington Road.

2020 is already the most deadly year for cyclists in a long time, with over 70 cyclist deaths nationwide in the first seven months, compared with 98 in 2019. There have been three deaths in Cambridge since March, with two of them resulting from motor vehicle collisions at roundabouts.

If the county council are serious about working towards ‘Vision Zero’, it’s time to start taking action.

Camcycle urges supporters to keep writing in support of safe and healthy spaces to breathe

On 16 June, the county council unanimously approved a countywide initiative to test experimental schemes that create more space for walking and cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the ambition of their ‘Tranche 1’ schemes, the Department for Transport allocated them a larger budget than expected and they submitted an application for ‘Tranche 2’ on 7 August. Action on the streets continues to be slow and disappointing though, with many proposals cancelled or postponed. The CPCA reports that average levels of daily car use in some parts of the region, such as South Cambridgeshire, were already as much as 24% higher than pre-lockdown levels before schools returned in September. New safe routes for walking and cycling are long overdue.

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Mill Road Bus Gate

Mill Road bus gate is now fully operational with many local residents welcoming the cleaner air and more social streets. We’d like to see more improvements to support traders and increase access, particularly for those with disabilities. Clear signage at each end of the road and higher-quality pavement widening are the most urgent measures needed.

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GCP Modal Filters

New modal filters which will stop rat-running and open up safe space for walking and cycling were installed by the GCP from late August. These include a bus gate on Silver Street and modal filters in residential roads including Bateman Street, Nightingale Avenue, Storey’s Way and Luard Road (right).

Other Schemes

There are various other schemes across the region. A pop-up cycle lane on Crescent Bridge in Peterborough was welcomed by local campaigners but other interventions in the town centre were dropped. A one-way system on Bell Hill and Winders Lane in Histon may not deliver the expected level of benefit for local cyclists. Campaigners in Huntingdonshire and Milton village have been frustrated by the lack of action and local support in their areas.

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Please write in support of these schemes

  • Local councillors via writetothem.com
  • Official emails: policyandregulation@cambridgeshire.gov.uk,
    CovidTransportSchemes@cambridgeshire.gov.uk,
    contactus@greatercambridge.org.uk
  • Newspapers and social media