So tell us what you want, what you really, really want

This article was published in 2001, in Newsletter 34.

Last summer the County Council commissioned a survey to get feedback on cycling provision in Cambridge. As we’d been asking for some time for cycle surveys to be done, we were very pleased to hear about this project. Furthermore, we were given a welcome opportunity to comment on the survey whilst it was being designed. (For example, we suggested including ‘What do you like about cycling in Cambridge, alongside the question ‘What do you dislike about cycling in Cambridge?’)

Around 150 forms were handed out at the Cyclists’ Breakfast on Parker’s Piece last June, of which 66 were returned. The consultants, WS Atkins, have since written a summary of the results. Although a bigger sample would be needed to draw firmer conclusions, I’ve picked out a few points of interest from this report.

Cycling Behaviour

  • How frequently do you travel by bike in Cambridge? 84.8% said ‘Most days’
  • What do you most use your bike for? 53% said ‘Commuting only’ – either to work or an educational establishment – another 25.8% mixed their commuting with some recreational cycling
  • Do you hold a UK driving licence? 84.9% did
  • Do you have regular use of a car? 68.2% did
  • Do you cycle in wet weather? 81.8% did

Facilities and Policies

People were asked to rate a list of fifteen facilities and policies. With the sample size, care is needed, but the most popular were:

  • Cycle lanes
  • Exemptions to street closures for cyclists
  • Secure parking in the city centre
  • Off road shared use cycle paths

Least popular were:

  • Secure cycle parking at Park and Ride sites
  • Safer routes to schools
  • Traffic calmed streets

Open Questions

We were pleased that the survey included the questions ‘What do you like about cycling in Cambridge?, ‘What do you dislike about cycling in Cambridge?’, and ‘What would you like to see implemented in the Cambridge area that would improve your experience of cycling?’. Although open questions are harder to analyse, they tend to provide useful insights, as they are not biased by the choice of options included by the question-writers.

Image as described adjacent
21.2% said they liked being able to use off road paths through parks

The report’s authors said the most common ‘likes‘ about cycling in Cambridge were:

  • Low cost, convenient and faster than other modes (53.0%)
  • Various positive comments on cycling in Cambridge (36.4%)
  • Off road routes through parks and near the river (21.2%)
  • Flatness (21.2%)
  • Drivers more aware of cyclists in Cambridge than other places (12.1%)
  • Environmental or health benefits (10.6%)

In contrast, the most common ‘dislikes‘ about cycling in Cambridge were:

  • Traffic volume and speed, sense of danger (48.5%)
  • Attitude of drivers (28.8%)
  • Poor design of various facilities (15.2%)
  • Design of junctions (15.2%)
  • Lack of secure parking (13.6%)
  • Poor maintenance and sweeping of carriageway and cycle facilities (13.6%)
  • Lack of space for cyclists on carriageway (13.6%)

The most requested improvements included:

  • Provide more or better designed cycle lanes (30.3%)
  • General comments on the need to improve facilities for cyclists (26.2%)
  • Provide improvements at specific locations (such as Mill Road, particularly the bridge, and re-opening the city centre to cyclists) (16.9%)
  • Transport policies giving priority to cyclists (15.4%)

A recent draft outline of the forthcoming County Cycling and Walking Strategy includes the action:

establish needs and desires of cyclists (What do they think of facilities provided? Are on-carriageway or off-carriageway routes preferable?) by asking them directly.(year 1)

So, we ought to see larger surveys in years to come – using more statistically meaningful samples – but until then, this survey was a useful and welcome start.

Clare Macrae