Members who came along to our November meeting will have noticed some changes in the format – and also, I feel, in the atmosphere.
Here’s the low-down: we’ve talked amongst ourselves for some time now about the fact that our monthly meetings have probably been rather intimidating for people just getting involved in the Campaign. Certainly, quite a few people have come along to one meeting and then never returned. We’ve felt it was hard to get the right balance, because we always want to hear the views of our members, to be confident that we have a mandate when liaising with City and County Councils, but this means that just a few people then end up contributing most of the reporting and background info. Then the agenda has always been so packed that there has never seemed to be enough time to allow for any extra topics to be discussed.
We’ve made two improvements to make the meetings friendlier: firstly, we’ll be kicking off each meeting at 7.30, with tea, coffee and biscuits for anyone who’d like to come along. This will give us a chance to introduce ourselves to newer members, and to talk a little about the items on the agenda, and their background, before we start. The meeting proper will get under way at 8 pm prompt, as before. Secondly, to make more time for newer members, and those who haven’t come along before, we’ll have a 15 to 20 minute question and answer session during each meeting, designed to allow issues to be raised.
At November’s meeting, three questions were raised:
Question: ‘The bridleway from the American Cemetery to Girton comes to an end at the A14/M11 junction with no path on the other side. Who should complaints be sent to?’
Answer: The Director of Environment and Transportation at Cambridgeshire County Council, Shire Hall, Cambridge, CB3 OAP.
Question: ‘If you ignore a cycle track and use the main carriageway, how does this affect your insurance position in the event of an accident? Would you be considered to be negligent?’
Answer: We’ve looked into it. We haven’t been able to find anyone who’s aware of any test cases, but the consensus is that insurance companies will try almost anything to avoid paying out, even accusing their own customers of negligence. Most claimants are scared off by this, even though the accusations cannot be proved.
When we asked John Franklin, author of the highly respected book Cyclecraft (reviewed, later) he told us:
In law, cyclists have the right to use any road (except motorways and in the few cases where there is a specific prohibition) and can no more be expected to use an adjacent shared path than an alternative road some distance away. Similarly, motorists do not have to use a motorway if there is a parallel lanes route. It is easy to show in litigation that shared paths are more dangerous than the carriageway in the great majority of circumstances, and with the greatly rising injury record of shared paths in general that will become all the easier over time. But you do need to have access to these arguments and facts.
If you hear of any case where contributory negligence by the cyclist is pursued, please let us know, as we might be able to get legal help.
Question: ‘Has the County Council installed any cycle parking in response to the detailed suggestions prepared by the campaign several months ago?’
Answer: No. The council claims to have no money, yet the original newspaper article specifically stated they had money to spend – very frustrating.
Lastly, now that we have six elected officers, we’ll have regular committee meetings to handle some of the more routine and mundane matters ahead of the monthly meetings, and make more time available for general discussion.
So if you’ve never been to a monthly meeting before – or, dare I say, if you’ve been put off before – there’s never been a better time to come along and introduce yourself – and get involved!