This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 26.

Under Your Tyres; Resurfacing

Your article (Newsletter 25), is about re-surfacing roads and streets and two letters also quite rightly draw attention to where bad surfaces have been or should be re-laid. I would like to raise the matter of paths away from roads which serve as dual pedestrian/bike usage (with official blue sign) or without any sign (for example all the paths across the Midsummer/Stourbridge Commons and along the river banks) which are in need of repair – e.g. bone shaking potholes near the Fort St George pub.

I try to plan all my cycling in Cambridge WITHOUT using the roads although where I have to I recognise the great improvement there has been on bike lanes on roads and especially the red colour coding.

So after years of neglect I was very pleased to see work starting last March/April time on the parallel paths of Cutter Ferry Path leading under Elizabeth Way to the wooden slatted footbridge over the river.

But what happened? An excellent surface was laid but the raised path (the one dedicated to bikes) was tarmacked in the same black as the lower pedestrian one. How short-sighted can you get when we are trying to put over to the public at large in Cambridge that red tarmac means bikes? Here was a perfect place to emphasise that message. Then nothing for three to four months when at last five white cycle outlines are painted on the cycle path last month, but still no signs on the empty sign posts.

I witness regularly the near misses or slight bumps which occur at the sharp bend on the bike path near the footbridge as pedestrians walk straight over the cycle outline. I ring my bell like mad when I approach this bend, but I fear a serious accident will happen one day and I want to know to whom and at which council do we contact about this. We need large signs at either end saying ‘Cyclists only this side’ plus an arrow, and ones saying ‘Pedestrians only this side’ plus an arrow and repeated several times along the length of the path.

Some years ago Richard Taylor printed some cards which had a council official’s address on and where you could fill in the location of the pothole or whatever the problem was. I think we should start this again so all members know who they should report to.

Colin Stewart

What’s a ‘Carter Bridge’?

There are good things to be said about Cambridge’s famous Bike Bridge (it exists) and bad things (it cost £2m, it’s a greenhouse in hot weather, it’s steeper than Mill Road and the approaches make it impossible to get a run at it), and they merit some critical discussion. But why does the Cycling Campaign persist in calling it the ‘Carter Bridge’?

While that was the official appellation at its opening, no-one, prior to this Newsletter, had called it anything but the Cycle/Bike Bridge since. There are two good reasons for this.

Brian Oldridge's name on the bridge

One: the project was driven by a County Council desire to improve its ‘road accident’ statistics, specifically regarding Mill Road cyclists. By removing bikes from Mill Road, it was argued, fewer would be run over by cars, and the Council’s ‘road safety’ record would look better, while conditions on mill Road remained, of course, as bad as ever. This fitted well with then County Transport Director Brian Oldridge’s outlook, whose declared admission was to discourage cycling in general, for just the same reason. Oldridge’s name, along with Carter’s, still adorns the bridge. Councillor Carter chaired the Transport Committee at the time, and no-one could think of a more inspiring name.

Two: the City Centre Bike Ban, enacted against widespread popular opposition, against all evidence and in contradiction of the findings of an expensive Public Enquiry, was very much identified with the figure of Tony Carter, whose Labour group on the Council was then allied with the Conservatives in targeting cyclists as the major road safety ‘problem’ against a Liberal-Democrat minority who, with local Friends of the Earth and various disparate elements formed a relatively ill-organised opposition. Carter later resigned under pressure of criticism, but the cause of road safety and cyclists’ rights was seriously set back.

The Bike Bridge is an imperfect but valuable asset. There is no need for the Cycling Campaign to keep invoking the names of those who worked so hard against our interests.

C J Pigott

Four armchairs and a heater

We are writing to raise awareness about the fact that the large majority of teachers at Netherhall School in Cambridge have a unacceptably negative attitude towards the use of bikes. The school is situated on two sites with a path of about 150 metres between them. All pupils are forced to walk and an automatic detention is given if you use a bike (e.g. bad weather, in a hurry or when you have lots of things to carry). Literally all the teachers drive between sites and don’t even take the initiative to share lifts. This angers us as we were brought up to believe that cars should only be used when all other methods of transport are unsuitable. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing is that a teacher who lives no more than 100 metres away from the school drives to work. What makes it even more ironic is that he is a PE teacher and lectures all the pupils about fitness!

We wrote to the head of upper school telling him what we think and gave him a list of realistic alternatives and suggestions, for example

  • a supply of cheap bikes that the teachers could use to get from site to site
  • if necessary to use a car, share lifts
  • better planned timetables to avoid the need for teachers to cross sites.

We were praised for our literacy skills but that was about it: no action was taken. We can understand that some of them do need cars to drive to work because they live far away and the standard of public transport is low, but it’s unacceptable when asked if they would walk between sites and they reply that they would rather die than walk.

Please publish this because we feel strongly about the amount of cars on the road already and we are ashamed that the school we have been to is a contributing factor.

Two frustrated 16 year olds (name supplied)