Our October and November meetings focused mainly on single topics. This has proved to be a very effective and informative use of time so we will continue the idea. These are the plans for the next few months. (Meetings start at 7:30 for 8:00, at the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge.)
The Core Traffic Scheme, to reduce car-use in the city centre. As mentioned last issue, this is going to be shaping Cambridge for several years to come. How will cyclists be affected?
Safer Routes to Schools. This Sustrans initiative, snatched by the Government in the Transport White Paper, will be one of the main thrusts of future policy. We will hear about what’s been going on locally, and how we can support the work. The guest speaker is Tara Lammas-Daniell, who runs Safer Routes to Schools for the County Council.
Bikes and Trains. Guest speakers: Tom Joyner and John Sarson, of WAGN, will talk about the complexities of life for Train Operating Companies after privatisation, answer questions on cycle provision locally and answer any questions members may care to raise.
Guest speaker: local cycling expert Mike Sharpe, a key author of Cycle Audit and Cycle Review. Mike also sits on the National Cycling Forum, which oversees the implementation of the National Cycling Strategy.
The AGM passed smoothly, with a very impressive turnout. I would like to thank Councillor Shona Johnstone for taking the time to come and speak at our meeting on what was already a very busy day for her.
Unfortunately the post of Press Officer remains vacant.
Two motions were debated, and passed unanimously.
The first one asked that we should place greater emphasis on reducing the causes of danger on the roads. Support for the Slower Speeds Initiative will be just one way of doing this.
Given that a significant disincentive to cycle use in Cambridge is the speed and volume of ill-regulated motor traffic; and given that, in many areas, such as Mill Road, it is neither possible nor appropriate to resolve the problem by segregating cyclists from motor traffic; we resolve to place greater emphasis on cyclists’ safety on the road, especially in respect of traffic speed, traffic volume, cycle-friendly traffic calming, responsibility in the use of the road, enforcement of rules of the road, and cycle-friendly junction changes. Road Danger Reduction is one example of an approach which addresses these issues directly. The Slower Speeds Initiative is another. The hierarchical approach of Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure is a third.
The second one formalised the existence and running of sub-groups, which have perhaps been slightly hindered by the amount of spare time that committee members have been able to offer.
We asked Tim Burford for his personal impressions of the meeting.
It was great to arrive for the AGM and see that there was no doubt that we’d be quorate, after the worries of last year. No sooner had I sat down than the dread finger of Clare pointed at me and I was ‘persuaded’ to take the minutes, meaning that I failed to ask any apposite and penetrating questions, or indeed any questions at all. However I was eventually able to look back at the meeting and at least think of points I might have raised.
The first hour was taken up by Shona Johnstone, chair of the County Council’s Environment and Transport Committee. If nothing else, she seems to be evidence that the Tories have managed to find some presentable media-friendly human politicians from somewhere. In fact she comes across as genuinely cycle-friendly too. However, she comes at things from the viewpoint of a ‘normal’ person rather than a cycling activist, and from the viewpoint of a working politician, aware of constraints and of the complexity of the real world. This being so, I thought she came in for some rather harsh questioning on the notorious Royal Cambridge Hotel junction. Cyclists quite rightly refuse to be forced off the public highway, but I don’t believe any possible scheme for this junction would do this.
One fairly major project which, oddly, Shona Johnstone didn’t mention at all, is a cycleway along the old Bedford railway line. I went the day after the AGM to the exhibition of proposals for a Trumpington Park and Ride, and the council seems to be committed to this no matter whether they put the buses onto the road or the old railway line. I assume this would link to the Sustrans route towards Saffron Walden, and it could also be continued northwards along the railway north of the station. It is true, as David Earl pointed out, that her thinking and that of the council is generally inclined towards providing specific facilities for cyclists and getting them out of the way of cars (and into the way of pedestrians) rather than forcing drivers to give way and behave in a more civilised manner. Cameras would be a help at the Royal Cambridge Hotel junction, although they could be a sop and a way of delaying more effective action.
Shona Johnstone ran through the various funding sources available to the council, and the juggling act needed to make the most of them. She spoke of how strapped for cash the council was, but didn’t mention the fact, which I saw in the papers a day or two later, that Cambridgeshire has by far the lowest Council Tax in Britain. Perhaps people should simply pay more for better services, as opinion polls have shown they are increasingly willing to do – but you’ll never get a Tory to agree to that. It did seem absurd that there was so little money for replacing 40 mph signs with 30 mph signs and so on.
The ceremonial hand-over of the key to the stall. Thank you to Paula (who is undoubtedly fed up of hearing me say so) for all your hard work and cheerfulness over the last three years. Welcome to Sarah Elsegood, who takes over as Stall Officer.
Her idea of moving the coach station from Drummer Street to an edge-of-town site generated perhaps more heat than anything else she said. Personally I didn’t think it was such an appalling idea, particularly if it was near the M11 at the Trumpington Park and Ride (or maybe Addenbrooke’s railway station), and had genuinely secure bike parking (so one could leave a bike for a weekend or longer) and frequent buses to all parts of the city.
A final thought was that she seemed to regard policing as an issue for the police themselves, with no scope for the council, or the broader community, to influence them. Obviously we don’t want a politicised police service, but there must be scope for the paymasters to indicate that a little more enforcement of laws on dangerous driving and anti-social parking would be welcomed. We’d also be happy to see cyclists forced to use lights!
As for the rest of the meeting, we had lots to congratulate ourselves on, and few negatives. It would have been nice to have heard more about the Strategy Day, which will with luck make its way into the newsletter at some point. Our finances are fine, both motions were passed without acrimony, and no officers were deposed. Paula retired from the post of Stall Officer, with sincere thanks from all, and Sarah Elsegood took over, with our best wishes.