Reports, policies and plans

The day-to-day decisions made by local councillors and council officers are constrained by a policy framework. This is a busy time of year for policy makers. Here is an update on the action.

County Council annual reports

Every March the County Council’s Environment and Transport Department produces four annual reports. Two reports look back over traffic and ‘accidents’ for the last year, and the other two look forward to the next year, setting out the department’s aims and objectives.

Traffic Monitoring Report 1999

This is a report on the traffic surveys carried out throughout the County in 1999. Two different surveys are done each year for Cambridge City.

The River Cam Screenline survey, carried out each spring (out of university term time), counts vehicles, pedestrians and cycles crossing all bridges in the city centre. In a 12 hour period, 18,480 bikes crossed the river, representing 17% of vehicle movements and 13% of people movements. This is down from 20,746 the previous year. However, it is hard to compare figures between years because of factors such as the weather. The River Cam count was repeated in May 1999, during university term time, and the number of cycle trips rose by 30% to 24,008.

The Cambridge Radial Cordon survey, carried out every October, counts vehicles and people entering and leaving Cambridge on the radial routes. Over 12 hours in October 1999, 5,567 cyclists were counted, representing 3% of vehicle movements and 2% of people movements. Judging by the map of monitoring points, however, some routes for cyclists and pedestrians into the City are not counted. These include:

  • Fulbourn Old Drift and the Tins
  • The River Cam from Milton to the north
  • The River Cam from Grantchester to the south
  • High Ditch Road/Ditton Lane
  • Coton footpath

So it is possible that rather more than 5,567 cycle journeys into and out of Cambridge actually took place.

Joint Accident Data Report 1999

This report represents a shift from previous years. It is now jointly produced by the County Council, Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire Health Authority and Cambridgeshire Constabulary. It also includes hospital casualty figures for the first time, as a separate chapter (not yet integrated with the police statistics), and the analysis of casualties is somewhat more detailed than in previous years.

There were 569 cycle casualties in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in 1999, of which 7 were fatalities, and 77 were serious injuries. This is a 6% drop in casualties since the previous year (although it says nothing about changes in levels of cycling).

The most welcome change in the report, from our perspective, is that it no longer says ‘cycling in Cambridge is twice as dangerous as the national average – per head of population.’ I am very pleased that this misleading statement, which discouraged cycling, has been removed.

The report says that a study of cycle ‘accidents’ in Cambridgeshire between 1996 and 1998 found that:

  • Cyclists were mainly at fault in 32% of them
  • 75% involved cars
  • 10% involved no other person or vehicle
  • 10% were at roundabouts and 58% at other types of junction
  • 5% involved pedal cyclists hitting open doors of vehicles, or doors being opened into the path of cyclists

Network Management Plan 2000

This document reports on the condition of the County’s roads and ‘footways’, and reviews the previous year’s targets and plans. It sets the maintenance standards, and sets targets and plans for the coming year.

One change of note for cyclists is that the definition of a ‘dangerous’ pothole has been made more stringent. The definition now states:

Potholes are considered dangerous when they are vertically sided, and more than 20 mm deep, with an area of greater than 0.1 m² in principal road carriageways and 50 mm deep in non-principal road carriageways and more than 20 mm deep and have an area of 0.1 m². in any footway, cycleway and marked cycle lane and are sufficiently far from the edge of the carriageway or footway to be surrounded by bituminous material. Other conditions which occur should be judged in accordance with the good practice and specification requirements, and dealt with accordingly. Dangerous potholes complying with the dimensions specified are to be repaired within 24 hours.

Road Safety Plan Annual Review 2000

As in previous versions, this document contains the ominous statement:

Although, in the long term, promoting public transport, cycling and walking may have safety benefits, the Council must balance the environmental and other benefits of this approach, with the possible risks to vulnerable road users who, for the foreseeable future, must share roads with heavy levels of traffic.

Happily, the Health for Cambridgeshire initiative (to reduce cycle casualties) is placing great emphasis on simultaneously promoting cycling for its health and environmental benefits.

Local Transport Plan

In April I represented Cambridge Cycling Campaign at a meeting of the Cambridgeshire Transport Forum in Ely. This was the second such meeting organised by Cambridgeshire County Council, held to get input for the Full Local Transport Plan (LTP) from interest groups.

There were representatives from many transport user groups, local authorities (both councillors and officers), and public transport providers, amongst others. Notably absent was the road lobby. There was some speculation from environmental groups upon whether this was because councils were not consulting the motoring-interest groups, or whether there were other meetings going on behind the scenes!

From a cycling perspective, one very interesting comment was that one of the few negative aspects of Government feedback on Cambridgeshire’s Provisional LTP had been that more work was needed on cycling and walking. Our response to the most recent LTP consultation also reviewed the government’s guidance for cycling aspects of an LTP and pointed out quite a number of areas where we felt Cambridgeshire fell somewhat short. We have been told that we will be able to have a copy of the government feedback on the Provisional LTP.

Much as I hate to use a cliché like ‘networking’, for me that was probably the most useful aspect of the afternoon.

By the time this meeting took place, work on the Full LTP had presumably progressed quite far. However, all we have been able to see of it is the proposed table of contents, which was presented to the Environment and Transport Committee on 30 March. As an outline, it obviously does not tell us anything about the content of the final document. Much of importance to cycling will be contained in the new Cycling Strategy (see below) but we are keen to ensure that cycling issues are also integrated into the main body of the document.

The Environment and Transport Committee also considered the draft bid for ‘capital funding’. This is jargon for money they will use to pay for ‘things’, as opposed to paying people and running costs (which is known as ‘revenue’ funding). The table shows the items of interest for cycling.

2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05 2005/06
Cycling schemes £964K £300K £300K £300K £300K
Safer Routes to School £150K £150K £150K £150K £150K
Safety schemes £1.7M £1.95M £1.95M £1.95M £1.95M
Jointly funded minor improvements £200K £200K £200K £200K £200K
New bus infrastructure and bus priority measures £750K £250K £550K £550K £550K
Cambridge Core Area £800K £600K £500K 0 0
Traffic management improvements £100K £150K £600K £600K £100K
Road maintenance £3.5M £3.5M £3.5M £3.5M £3.5M

Cambridgeshire Draft Outline Capital Programme

The Council is seeking £954,000 for cycling schemes in the first year, and £300,000 per year for subsequent years. (Presumably the extra money in the first year is for the Fens Cycle Tourism Project.) The City and District councils will also add some money to this £300,000 pot, but to put it into perspective, the Barton Road cycle track cost roughly £200,000. So a few hundred thousand per year for the whole county will not go far if facilities are to be built to an appropriate standard.

Cyclists will also benefit from many of the other measures listed in the table. We are curious about the Cambridge Core Area money stopping in year 2004: we had expected that the Royal Cambridge Hotel junction would be addressed as part of this, after the Grand Arcade scheme was well under way. We will also be asking the Council what traffic management measures are planned for 2003-2005 at £600,000 per year.

Attendees at the Ely meeting were assured that the Full LTP will not be ‘cast in stone’ for five years. There will be an annual review process, which we welcome.

In summarising the meeting, we were told that a ‘staggering range of ideas’ had been put forward. I think the acid test of success for this Forum process will only be clear when we see the extent to which these ideas are adopted in the full LTP this summer.

Cycling and walking strategy

As part of the LTP, the County Council has to produce a cycling and walking strategy. These are lagging a little behind the main planning process. After a consultation meeting last year (see Newsletter 28), we have been told that a draft cycling and walking strategy, largely in ‘bullet point’ form, has been circulated internally in the Council.

As we went to press, mid May, we received our copy of this draft, but have not studied it yet. We have already been told about its key features. Its objectives are to encourage walking and cycling as alternatives to the car and as worthwhile activities in their own right. Desirable outcomes are stated principally as improved safety and health, and a modal shift. The draft sets out positive (attractors) and negative (detractors) to walking and cycling, and the strategy aims to increase attractors and decrease detractors.

Cartoon

The cycling and walking strategy will, we understand, recognise the importance of asking users for their opinions. This is a welcome feature, and one which we had lobbied hard to have included. (The ‘customer care’ devoted to Park & Ride we felt contrasted sharply with the way in which cyclists are considered.)

While the National Cycling Strategy is seeking a doubling of trips over 6 years, it seems unlikely that any local authority has taken or will take this seriously. Cambridgeshire’s target is likely to be a 1% increase in modal share per annum, which is equivalent to a respectable 38% increase in trips over 5 years.

However, it was apparent that, once again, the strategy is focusing heavily on cycling and not on the road environment in which cyclists operate. In particular, traffic speed and perception of road danger are fundamental disincentives to increasing walking and cycling levels, and a cycling strategy really ought to address these head on.

Cycle Review and Cycle Audit

We are likely to see new standards for engineering measures and evaluation of schemes emerging as part of the strategy process.

Among these are Cycle Review and Cycle Audit. These are formal methodologies for deciding what to do and whether it has been done well. They complement the safety audits already done, but focus on ‘level of service’ (or quality, in plain English). We reviewed these in Newsletter 22.

There has been some reluctance to use Cycle Review and Cycle Audit because they take up officers’ time, therefore adding to scheme costs and delays. However, the LTP guidance supports these methodologies, and the County Council is starting to consider newer schemes using them.

Along the way, it has been suggested that interest groups could be involved in Cycle Review and Cycle Audit. Perhaps we should set up a consultancy services group!

Clare Macrae

Stop Press

Great news! The County Council has recently put all its committee agendas and minutes online. They have even included two years’ worth of minutes. We will be asking the City Council to make their committee documents available in the same way.

http://www.camcnty.gov.uk/sub/commins/index.htm