This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 102.
Last month about thirty car drivers reported the loss of their vehicles which had been parked at the station. Drivers incurred considerable hardship and costs to find alternative transportation. They lost the good part of a working day trying to locate and then to retrieve their vehicle the next day. The public was outraged. Two managers lost their jobs because the removal of the vehicles was not properly advertised. Politicians had to apologise ‘in the Japanese style’. Financial compensation was offered to those who temporarily lost their cars.
Well, not quite. To be precise, on 1 May about thirty bicycles were forcibly removed from station bike parking when new two-tier racks were placed for the public to offer their feedback (see next article). Locks were cut, cyclists left without transportation, on their own to retrieve their bikes, and to replace their locks. But no resignations, no apologies, no compensation, no lessons learnt. The local newspaper reported that our MP was among those affected by this outrageous act of institutional bike-theft, but presented it somehow as a funny story. Are we all having a good laugh?
The station manager is not the only one who has not yet been told clearly enough that bicycles are not some kind of road trash which can be removed at will. Sometimes it seems that we are dealing with an institutional bicycle-blindness syndrome. Instead of throwing planning manpower at the challenge of making a fast-growing Cambridge increasingly bicycle perfect, the city council thinks half a Cycling and Walking Officer is sufficient. A recent FOI request has revealed that this leads to serious problems. Today’s wrong planning decisions will stay with us for many decades. Cambridge is a national leader in the percentage of bike trips, but the unique opportunities this involves are just not being realised. Martin Curtis, the county council’s new bike Czar, has been supportive of completing the Chisholm Trail after a guided tour by our own Jim Chisholm who identified the route (see later in this Newsletter). But who will make sure that traffic to and through the massive new developments is configured such that our mode-share will indeed reach the high levels suggested by the developers? The official bike-abduction at the station surely does not bode well for Northstowe, North-West Cambridge, Trumpington Meadows and the rest.
On a more positive note, our annual Reach Ride was again a great success, but not without meteorological challenges. (Great images on our website.) The mayor gave an inspirational speech, donned his ceremonial bike chain and led the group to Reach. His leadership has established a new tradition. It is an important step in the institutional recognition which was lacking at the station. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had also been invited, but gracefully declined. Perhaps next year we shall have sunshine and royalty on two wheels.
Sharing the road with cars is sometimes challenging. Many of our members have complained that professional drivers sometimes display aggressive, intimidating behaviour: squeezing past with only a foot of distance, overtaking at high speeds, forcing cyclists to yield, driving and stopping in bike lanes. Should it be a taxi driver who behaves in this manner, please note the taxi license number and submit a report. A better educated pool of drivers will reduce intimidating encounters and encourage more people to ride their bikes on the street rather than on the pavement. Educating professional drivers to obey the three-feet passing distance will make cycling through the city centre much more pleasant. We are optimistic that the taxi consultation currently under way (see later in this Newsletter) will point a way in this direction.
Michael Cahn, Co-ordinator