Cities fit for cycling

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 101.

Rhoda Buchanan from The Times (left) talks with Cllr Shona Johnstone and members of Cambridge Cycling Campaign regarding CycleSafe in Cambridge
Image as described adjacent

Unless you’ve been deep in a salt mine in Poland, you are likely to have seen that The Times has recently been running an excellent campaign supporting cycling. On day one there was a piece about cycling in Copenhagen.

I’ve long thought that one of the troubles with visits to the Netherlands and Denmark is that many say: ‘That would be impossible in the UK’. So, for many people in the UK a better comparison would be with…Cambridge. Of course we have problems in Cambridge, where some things are far from perfect, but detailed explorations abroad can show that even exemplary cities have their faults. Have you tried to understand the ‘turn left’ rule at traffic lights in Denmark, or seen the cycle parking at Odense railway station?

So we invited the same Times journalist, Rhoda Buchanan, to cycle with a small group of us in Cambridge. Our intention was to show just what could be attained in an UK city with UK rules. We wouldn’t hide the warts, but would emphasise the positive. By chance we had fine weather, and it was the day the full city council was due to vote in support of the ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ objectives. On our route we were able to meet with councillors from both the city and county, as well as have excellent tea and scones courtesy of Outspoken. We looked at the station. We visited recent changes on Hills Road bridge, cycle lanes, the Grand Arcade cycle park, medieval streets shared with pedestrians, the wonderful green spaces, and busy bridges across the Cam. We had media coverage the following day, but hope for more coverage in the future.

The city council overwhelmingly supported the Cities fit for Cycling motion and another one calling for 20mph limits throughout the city’s residential areas. Three members of the Campaign committee spoke in support. We have much to gain by selling Cambridge as the UK’s best cycling city, not least encouraging those in power to ensure that those warts are removed.

By the time you read this we hope that the county council will also have, in full council, supported a motion similar to that passed by the city council.

Central government should then have the confidence to allocate funds to Cambridge, and permit experimental traffic orders, so that we can clearly become an example to all cities and towns in the UK. I’m told that cycling around Cambridge increased by 21% last year. By getting rid of the warts, better enforcement of existing laws, and the implementation of some proposed changes, I’m sure we could soon double that increase.

Coun. Johnstone’s motion to county council on 27 March

This council recognises Cambridge’s role as the cycling capital of the United Kingdom and the importance of cycling for the economic prosperity of the area. The Council therefore welcomes Cambridgeshire’s bid for improved cycle routes in the Local Sustainable Transport Fund for further investment to improve cycling to the new Enterprise Zone at Alconbury, Cambridge Science Park station and A10 corridor. The Council also acknowledges the role that cycling can play in meeting other objectives, notably improved mobility and better health outcomes.

However, the Council also recognises that cyclists can be vulnerable and therefore welcomes and supports the campaign by The Times to improve safety for cyclists. The Council therefore requests Cabinet to:

  • Sign up to The Times campaign and take opportunities to promote its message within and outside Cambridgeshire;
  • Consider the call by the Minister for Transport, Norman Baker, to appoint a cycling champion for Cambridgeshire; and
  • Continue to work with District Councils in Cambridgeshire to use future s106 funding for improved cycle routes along key development corridors.

Jim Chisholm