Inaugural meeting of City Joint Area Committee

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 117.

In September, the Cambridge City Joint Area Committee had its inaugural meeting. It is a new committee with members (i.e. councillors) representing both city and county councils. It is in many ways a reincarnation of the similarly-named Cambridge Area Joint Traffic Management Committee. It got off to a bitter start. It was conference season so three members of one party were absent at a national conference. The other party took full advantage of this temporary numerical dominance and voted in their own chair and voted to keep her there for the whole municipal year. The other side grumbled that this would be fixed at the next meeting when the tables would be turned!

The Campaign was there to speak on two issues.

Thoday Street cycle parking

We’ve covered this topic thoroughly in Newsletters 111 and 112. The report presented to the committee was in favour of going ahead with the conversion of two car parking bays to secure cycle parking. The eight official objections to the final consultation hurdle had to be resolved.

I spoke as a resident in support of the proposals and was followed by Martin Lucas-Smith, representing the Campaign, Councillor Bourke, and finally Councillor Baigent, all speaking in favour.

In the end the objections from a small number of residents, outlined in the report, didn’t amount to much and were easily dismissed by the officer’s report. All local councillors from both political parties represented spoke in favour of the scheme. When it came to a vote it was unanimous in favour of going ahead. During the debate at least two councillors suggested that more of the same could be expected elsewhere, e.g. in Petersfield.

Two-way cycling in one-way streets

Also on the agenda were proposals for conversion of seven streets to two-way cycling. This is the result of a three-year- long process which whittled a long list of candidate streets down to a short list that should be converted. It all follows on from the loosening of rules by the DfT (national government’s Department for Transport) in 2010 to allow a simple ‘Except Cycles’ panel underneath a no-entry sign. That in itself was the result of a thirty-year campaign by CTC to change the mind of one civil servant – in the end he retired and the rule was changed!

Four other streets had received no objections and would be converted anyway.

Martin Lucas-Smith spoke on behalf of the Campaign, pointing out that many streets in Cambridge and London had already been converted to two-way cycling without any major problems. He criticised the glacial pace of progress on this issue, and proposed a way of making changes and monitoring that could be much more efficient, namely issuing Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders for 12 months to try out a change in each case.

A representative of North Newtown Residents also addressed the committee regarding Panton Street. She appeared to be against the proposals because they didn’t go far enough, but admitted that people cycle the wrong way in that street already.

The committee decided to work through and vote on each of the seven streets in turn. All the recommendations in the officers report had gone through a safety audit process, but despite this councillors kept raising safety as a reason to defer a decision. It was frustrating to hear that, as nobody there disputed that widespread illegal contra-flow cycling was already happening. This was their chance to legitimise that activity but it seemed that conservatism held them back.

Having said that, it was agreed to convert all but one of the streets to two-way cycling. Only Panton Street was deferred. On the other hand it was also decided to convert Albert Street, which the officer did not support. The curious reasoning for that was that councillors seemed to think that street was full of serial objectors!

Street Decision of the seven voters
Belgrave Road Unanimous yes
Mercer’s Row Unanimous yes, but calls for monitoring
Panton Street No – two in favour, five against
Ross Street Unanimous yes, with suggestion it should be extended
SpringfieldRoad Yes – one abstention
Trafalgar Street Yes – one abstention
Albert Street Yes – three in favour, one against, three abstentions

No vote was required on converting Fitzwilliam Street, Fairfax Road, Cockburn Street and Vinery Road to two-way.

In Garden Walk it was agreed more signage was needed as well as road markings to indicate the presence of contraflow cyclists.

It was agreed to change signs to ‘No entry except cycles’ in Sidney Street, Adam & Eve Street, Hope Street and King Street to make the existing situation clearer.

Panton Street is deferred for six months, but that could soon turn into ten years. We’ve made connections with the North Newtown Residents and look forward to working with them on transport improvements for the area on a more strategic level, recognising that there are many issues in the area that need tackling.

Simon Nuttall