This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 114.
A little history
We formed Ely Cycling Campaign in March 2012. The local district council had just announced a consultation on how to spend S106 money from the Sainsbury’s development and our initial aim was to ensure some of that money was spent on proper cycling infrastructure. Owing to the slow pace that the council moves at we are still working on that aim.
We now have over 75 members from Ely and the surrounding towns and villages and we are growing all the time.
Ely and East Cambridgeshire
Ely is a compact city of around 20,000 people. It is about a mile and a half across and sits on an outcrop of rock which is generally flat. There is a short but steep hill down to the railway station, which sits on the surrounding fenland. There are two small towns (Littleport and Soham) and several villages within easy cycling distance of Ely and each other.
We currently have very little in the way of cycling infrastructure in or around Ely. What we do have is mostly classic UK stuff where the narrow strips of paint appear and disappear at random and the converted shared-use footpaths have ‘Cyclist Dismount’ signs every few metres. Consequently the current level of cycling is less than 5% of all journeys, although there is a relatively high number of commuters who cycle to the station, despite the lack of infrastructure.
What we are campaigning for
We are campaigning for a network of segregated cycleways. We know it is a big step up from where we are but we think it is better to aim for what we really want and what has been shown to work rather than go for a compromise.
The local council does not have a cycling strategy so we wrote one and asked them to adopt it. So far the council has attached it to the latest Local Plan as a reference document, but we want the council to go further and have its own cycling strategy based on our ideas.
Our strategy describes in detail what we are campaigning for (including a mapped-out network of cycle routes and diagrams of the type of infrastructure we want to see), who will benefit and even how it could be funded. You can read it online here http://elycycle.org.uk/strategy/
What we have achieved so far
So far the only change we have had implemented is to have the ban on cycling along the river removed. This might seem like a small win but the river provides a safe route for commuters heading to the station from the north-eastern side of the city. The alternative route involves a right turn at the most dangerous junction in the city and riding along a narrow, busy road with cars parked down the sides and used by HGVs.
What we are working on
We have several projects we are actively working on, including large projects like the Southern Bypass and smaller ones like removing some nasty cobbled sections from a main commuter route and pushing for more cycle parking in the city centre.
The Southern Bypass is a high-profile project for the county council that will remove through traffic from the area around the station. We are not pushing for a cycle route along the bypass itself because it would not benefit many people. Instead, firstly we are pushing for a two-way segregated cycleway leading up to the station using the by then defunct level crossing approach lane. Secondly, we are pushing for a cycleway from the station out to Stuntney crossing the new bypass. This would form the first leg of a route all the way to Soham.
The longer term
In the longer term there are some very big changes in the pipeline for Ely. Two large residential developments with 3,000 homes and two primary schools are planned for the northern edge of the city. There are plans to redevelop the whole of the station area and for a new leisure development including a cinema on the west side of the city. We have responded to the planning applications for all these developments and we are pushing for an active role in how the plans proceed.
Working with Cambridge Cycling Campaign
For the third year running we led a ‘Bike to Reach ride’ in conjunction with the CamCycle rides. We are looking forward to working together with Cambridge Cycling Campaign on future campaigns especially on improving cycle infrastructure for the whole county.
You can find out more about us (and join the campaign) on our website http://elycycle.org.uk/. We’re elycycle on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.
Andy Shaw, Ely Cycling Campaign