City centre pedestrian zone review

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 33.

The County Council has started a review of the pedestrian zone streets in Cambridge city centre. Three consultation meetings are planned. The first was held on November 7 and considered King’s Parade. The remaining two are in the new year and will consider the triangle and St Andrew’s Street areas.

These meetings are ‘workshops’: attitude and information gathering exercises by the County Council. They do not aim to decide anything, but they will feed into a process of formal proposals, if any, later on. However, our fear is, of course, that moves will be made by some of the people consulted to widen restrictions on cycling in the City Centre. As this was one of the factors motivating us to form a Cycling Campaign in the first place, we will vigorously oppose any such moves.

To reinforce this stance, the recent Campaign Annual General Meeting unanimously passed the following motion:

Cambridge Cycling Campaign reaffirms its opposition to the restrictions on cycling in Cambridge city.
The Campaign will resist attempts to extend bans and restrictions, especially in view of the lack of alternatives to St Andrew’s Street and Trinity Street for northbound and southbound cyclists.
The Campaign will take any opportunities to have existing bans reduced, especially during the week, when pedestrian flows are light.

Despite identifying pedestrian-cyclist conflict as the one substantive issue to mention as an example in the letter inviting people to the consultation meetings, it works both ways. Saturdays are extremely busy in the City, and Sundays are also becoming crowded too: the second most popular shopping day. It would not be surprising if some Sunday cycling restrictions were eventually proposed. However, there is also the opportunity to lift some of the weekday bans when there really isn’t a problem.

We were delighted to hear David Howarth, leader of Cambridge City Council, confirm, in his speech at our AGM, that the Liberal Democrats (who are now in control of the city) opposed the original ban and would not support further bans. Those of you who have been in Cambridge long enough will know that the inspector at the public inquiry into the city centre restrictions largely found against the cycle ban.

The meeting about King’s Parade arose from the Council committee’s decision that the scheme should be reviewed after it was completed (though actually, lighting still has to be finished). The meeting was pretty uncontroversial both from a cycling point of view and generally. In fact, two of the Council’s originally stated aims were to maintain access for cyclists and to improve safety. As well as its attraction for tourists, King’s Parade is arguably the most cycled street in Europe, and the cyclists arrive in ‘pulses’.

Most people at the meeting agreed that the scheme was an improvement, and that many of the criticisms were minor. The main common point was that there was too much unnecessary traffic still in the street: drivers often entering, finding that they couldn’t park and then having to turn round at the end and come back. Several of the working groups proposed better signing at Silver Street and the removal of the small number of remaining parking spaces south of Bene’t Street.

The absence of cycle parking was also a widespread complaint (not just from the Cycling Campaign). Perhaps some of the removed car parking spaces could provide some cycle parking in the road near Ben Hayward’s shop? It was also widely noted that the taxi rank was rarely used and that better use could be made of that space. There wasn’t a consensus on quite how, though.

The other two consultation meetings could possibly be more contentious. There are so many competing uses of what is a very small city centre that it would be surprising if there weren’t a heated debate. But the Councils have become much more willing to seek consensus, co-operate with each other, and listen to what people have to say in recent years.

David Earl