Campaigning Update

Cambridgeshire Cycling and Walking Strategy

Early in June the County Council consulted cycling and walking groups on a draft of the proposed county Cycling and Walking Strategy. The document was in outline form, as a list of bullet points. This proved to be a rather efficient process, as there was a smaller volume of text to read and we could respond at an earlier stage.

We welcomed much of the document. It contains an excellent list of Cycling Actions which brought together many issues that have not been addressed in County policy previously.

For example, the draft section entitled ‘Route Improvements’ says the County will:

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Coldham’s Lane Bridge is certainly one kind of barrier to cycling
  • establish a programme of route improvements prioritised by reference to the route hierarchy, the local area strategies, the existing prioritisation scoring system and District cycling strategies such as the Huntingdonshire Cycling Strategy (years 1-5)
  • establish the key physical barriers to cyclists within the County (e.g. large roundabouts, rivers or railways) and develop a long-term programme for overcoming them (years 3-5)
  • identify the traffic signals which do not have facilities for cyclists and develop a strategy for introducing them (year 1)

On cycle parking, the document proposes to establish a ‘match funding’ budget to encourage employers to provide appropriate facilities.

Our main criticism was that it still tends to focus on specific facilities, rather neglecting cycle-friendly road design and traffic restraint. Facilities are valuable (when constructed adequately), but there are many places where facilities could never be provided, and there will never be enough money for comprehensive coverage.

So there is a need for much greater emphasis on the general road environment. Ordinary roads need to be cycle friendly, safe and convenient – as many already are.

We were at pains to emphasise that we were not saying ‘we are fast cyclists and therefore don’t want to consider anything but roads’, but we did say that every cyclist has to use the road network for much of the time, and that policies for safe, convenient cycling cannot ignore this.

In this we echoed section 4.2 of the National Cycling Strategy, ‘Objective – A Cycle Friendly Road Network’:

Most cycling takes place on the road and this will continue to be the case. So it is essential that the road network is made suitable for cycling. Segregated cycle routes and networks will play an important role in some areas, but they will be of limited use if cyclists are unable to use ordinary roads freely.

The proposed ‘vision’ of the strategy is:

To encourage cycling and walking as attractive alternatives to the private car and as enjoyable and healthy activities in their own right.

We supported the vision to encourage cycling, but we asked that it should also recognise existing cycling and that the vision be changed to begin ‘To maintain and encourage…’

The document we saw is a draft proposal and not yet Council policy, so we eagerly await the next version. Quite a number of the good statements in the previous Cambridgeshire Cycling Strategy were never implemented. However, the climate has changed in recent years and we hope we can look forward to increases in funding and staffing levels to bring about real progress in the implementation of this strategy.

Regent Terrace

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We have recently formally objected to extended parking in Regent Terrace, and produced some postcards to hand to regular users for them to object too. As a major cycle route, but otherwise a dead-end street, morning peak congestion like this is unacceptable

Grand Arcade

At the end of May we met with the developers of the Grand Arcade scheme to swap ideas about the design and management of the underground cycle park (see Newsletter 29). We covered issues such as cycle stand design (and the need to lock frames to immovable objects), opening hours (the longer, the better), swipe-card access for regular users, charges, and lessons from European cycle centres. The start of construction is still a long way off, but we were pleased to be consulted at such an early stage.

The Tins

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There is a proposal to build a sports centre and some warehousing on land at the disused quarry site between Cambridge and Cherry Hinton – otherwise known as The Tins.

As part of the works, the developers would improve the quality of the path across the quarry. This is a major cycle route providing a valuable short cut, so improvements to this are welcome. There are two blind corners on this route – at the approaches to the railway bridge (see Newsletter 20, When is a collision not a collision?) – which the developers would pay to have removed.

In May we responded to the developer’s request for feedback. They were particularly looking for ideas on how to minimise the impact of construction on cyclists without adversely affecting the environmentally valuable area nearest to the railway line.

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The Tins path

We broadly supported the proposals for the improvement in the quality of cycle provision they would bring, but we had some detailed objections, such as the loss of continuity on the cycle route, and the proposed introduction of a left-turn lane on Coldham’s Lane.

We suggested that the alternative route during construction could be built as a boardwalk. This would reduce the environmental impact, and could even be left as a permanent feature of the site. It would need to be surfaced with a material that would not become slippery when wet.

Cycle parking and Park and Ride journeys

In June 1999 we reported on cycle parking provision at various Park and Ride sites, mainly lockers and the need for management.

We revisited the issue recently when a local councillor reported that a family from Cherry Hinton had cycled to the Newmarket Road Park and Ride site, only to find that there were no cycle stands. We also heard from a Great Shelford family who cycle to the Babraham Road site to get the bus in to town. They report that the Babraham Road cycle stands are often full at weekends.

For households with young children who cannot cycle all the way into Cambridge, this mixing of cycle and bus journeys offers valuable flexibility.

A more secure solution must be found for commuters needing overnight bicycle parking. The next Park and Ride site will be in Trumpington (assuming it gets planning permission), and the County Council tells us:

a large enclosed cycle hut with rings will now be built adjoining the end of the building at Trumpington. It is planned that the hut will have some type of swipe card entrance with a camera and automatic light which will alert the site attendant as people go in and out of the hut; there will also be a camera covering that area.

This certainly looks like a cost-effective way of reducing theft and vandalism – though it does require trust between users. We are currently trying to find similar examples elsewhere in the UK, and also to find out whether cycle insurance schemes would cover such arrangements.

If any readers have experience of similar solutions elsewhere, we’d be very pleased to hear from them.

And finally, although there is scope for improvement, at least the need for cycle parking at Park and Ride sites is recognised. There is also a need to improve cycle parking at other key bus stops – of which Drummer Street station is surely a prime candidate.

Clare Macrae