This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 113.
The UK is currently 41 years behind the Netherlands for cycling. Despite years of campaigning along the lines of ‘What do we want? “Gradual change”; When do we want it? “In due course” ‘ the gap is widening. I think Cambridge Cycling Campaign should not have supported this scheme because it is just the sort of incremental improvement that is not getting us anywhere fast.
David Hembrow notes that in the time Cambridge Cycling Campaign has existed the Dutch have managed to transform their streetscape and build showcase-quality facilities. He suggests that time is not the barrier to transforming the UK, low ambition is.¹
The consultation on the Cambridgeshire Transport Strategy showed that 75% of those responding wanted more road space given to buses and to people walking and cycling. Meanwhile, the Cycle City Ambition Fund has provided more than a million pounds to rebuild Hills Road as three networks – walk, cycle, drive – where people on cycles are segregated from motor traffic and from those walking. The Hills Road scheme is intended to be a model for other cities to follow and a model for future schemes in Cambridgeshire.
Cycling is a normal thing to do in Cambridge despite the infrastructure and not because of it. Furthermore, it may be that the modal share for cycles has levelled off. We need to do something different to increase it, and this is the aim of the Cycle City Ambition projects in Cambridge.
So if segregated cycle tracks are the model, large pots of money can be made available and there is public support for reallocating road space, why is the Campaign supporting such a low-ambition scheme for the Gilbert Road/Milton Road junction that does not have segregated cycle tracks or traffic signal phases for cycles?
Yes, but the county is only offering £20,000 to build this scheme, yet £100,000 has been offered towards the A14 work. Meanwhile the city has found £1,000,000 to improve three shopping areas. If £20,000 is not enough to do this properly then come back when the politicians will fund the work needed.
The proposals for the Gilbert Road/Milton Road junction are basically paint and advanced stop lines that will not change the perception of safety, will not prevent cars turning left across cycles going straight on, nor will it stop cars cutting in at the lights as they travel south. Schemes like this were ripped out in the Netherlands decades ago because they are ineffective or dangerous. We are wasting campaigning and volunteer time researching and discussing schemes like this when we should be campaigning for schemes we can be proud of.
Where is the ambition in removing some railings and putting paint on the road? Where has this approach actually increased cycling, reduced congestion, improved air quality and transformed the streetscape to a place for people rather than a conduit for motor traffic? The best so-called cycle schemes can do all these things; that’s the exciting thing about cycle campaigning: it is not about getting ASLs and cycle stands outside shops, it is about changing our towns, cities and streets into liveable places.
No more low-ambition gradual change, it is time to demand more.