Putting climate change at the heart of transport policy

This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 150.

In 2019, the University of Cambridge became the first university in the world to announce a science-based target for carbon reduction. We have committed to reducing our energy-related carbon emissions to absolute zero by 2048, with a steep 75% decrease on 2015 emissions by 2030. The University has also made ambitious commitments in other areas of environmental sustainability, including adopting its first Biodiversity Action Plan in 2020 and its Transport Strategy 2019-2024. In order to achieve these commitments, the University’s Sustainability team, of over 20 environmental professionals, focuses on a wide range of areas of action including biodiversity, construction, carbon and energy, food, procurement, recycling and waste, teaching and research, water, travel, and transport.

The Coton path, which connects the University’s West Cambridge site to the city centre.

There are six staff members tasked with reducing the travel and transport impacts of the University, and implementing the commitments made in the Transport Strategy. In terms of commuting by staff, the target is to achieve 75% of staff regularly travelling by modes other than single-occupancy car, as measured in an annual travel survey.

Active travel is a major area of focus in the transport programme. We have already introduced a significant number of pool bikes including three e-cargo bikes, which are available to staff across the University for travel during their working day. We provide Dr Bike sessions and cycle training for staff and students, and during lockdown we have been providing online cycle maintenance sessions. A ‘borrow-a-bike’ scheme is due to be launched soon, enabling staff to try out different types of bikes for several months.

Active travel is a major area of focus in the transport programme, which has a target to achieve 75% of staff regularly travelling by modes other than single-occupancy car

Focusing our initial efforts where we have control of the space, we have started an extensive programme to improve our cycle parking and cycle routes across the University’s estates. This year we aim to implement significant improvements to the cycle parking on our Downing site, as well as on the Sidgwick site and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. We will roll out up to 20 cycle maintenance stations, and look at removing barriers on cycle paths to allow for better and safer social distancing. We will also install cycle parking spaces for non-standard cycles, and we are considering a trial of a ‘blue badge’ style scheme for non-standard bike users at the Downing site. Through work with regional partners, we are keen to develop this and help deliver improvements across the city as a whole.

During the Easter Term we are running a campaign across the University to raise awareness of all barriers that exist to sustainable and active travel, and of what we are doing to address them. As part of this campaign we will be asking people in the wider community to tell us about the issues they experience, and what they think would be the best way to overcome them. We hope to be able to weave this knowledge into the schemes we implement to ensure they are the best they can be and deliver the greatest reduction in carbon emissions, by supporting more people to travel sustainably. Through our Transport Advisor and links with organisations like Camcycle, our findings will be fed back to the wider community across Cambridge and the region including local authorities and other employers.

For more information about our work please have a look at our website: www.environment.admin.cam.ac.uk

Jo Beale, Transport Coordinator