Ending the City Centre Cycling Ban

This article was published in 2001, in Newsletter 39.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign Presentation to Cambridge Environment and Transport Area Joint Committee, Monday 29 October 2001

Thank you for the opportunity to present Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s petition to lift the City Centre daytime cycling ban in St Mary’s/Market Street, and in Sidney Street.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign seeks to represent the whole range of Cambridge cyclists – old and young, experienced and inexperienced, fast and slow. We have about 700 subscribing members drawn from a wide range of age groups and social backgrounds. The campaign argues that the ban is outmoded and unnecessary and that it should now be brought to an end.

Cycle ban road sign

Contrary to the view expressed in paragraph 2.12 of the papers for this meeting, considerable concern was expressed about the cycling ban during the recent series of Pedestrian Zone review workshops.

The report also neglects to mention that at the Public Inquiry, the City Council supported the lifting of the ban in Sidney Street. The Inspector’s recommendations agreed with this, but the County Council overrode both the City Council and the Public Inquiry recommendations and confirmed the ban in both streets.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign asks you to support the ending of the ban in both streets. Here are some of the reasons why we make this request.

  • Since 1992 it has been consistently shown that a reasonable accommodation can be reached between cyclists and pedestrians in those city centre streets with high pedestrian flows – notably Trinity Street and King’s Parade – in which cycling has always been permitted. There is no reason to suppose that difficulties would be significantly greater in St Mary’s/Market Street and Sidney Street.
  • Cyclists are seriously inconvenienced by the ban, especially the many thousands of people resident in the city centre. The prohibition on Sidney Street is particularly onerous because the alternative northbound route via Hobson Street, Malcolm Street and Jesus Lane is lengthy and is perceived as dangerous and intimidating, especially for child cyclists, the elderly and other less confident cyclists.
  • The government’s Traffic Advisory Leaflet ‘Cycling in Pedestrian Areas’, in summarising a study by the Transport Research Laboratory, concludes that there are ‘no real factors to justify excluding cyclists from pedestrianised areas, suggesting that cycling could be more widely permitted without detriment to pedestrians’.
  • Since the ban was first introduced in 1992 attitudes to cycling have been changing. All the major political parties are now increasingly promoting cycling as a healthy and sustainable form of transport. We believe that it is important that these changes should lead to careful reconsideration of policies that are no longer compatible with current thinking.
  • Since 1992 much evidence has accumulated that cycling in pedestrian areas is much less dangerous for pedestrians than it might appear. Injuries to pedestrians caused by cyclists are everywhere very rare indeed. Many pedestrians do, however, fear injury and it is important to stress that there are pavements along both the streets in question on which cycling would, of course, continue to be prohibited and where the elderly, the disabled and parents with young children would not be intimidated by cyclists. During the hours of motor vehicle exclusion we favour shared use of the carriageway by cyclists and pedestrians but strict reservation of pavements for pedestrians only.
  • We recognise that a small minority of Cambridge cyclists are disorderly. They should, of course, be brought under control by the normal processes of the law. We strongly reject any suggestion that the cycling ban is justifiable because of the unacceptable behaviour of this minority. The responsible majority of Cambridge cyclists should not be stereotyped or penalised.
  • Cambridge is the premier cycle city in the United Kingdom. Cycle usage here is higher than anywhere else and the City is an important example for the rest of the UK. Cambridge should, we believe, be celebrating its success as a cycling city and promoting cycling as part of its culture and environment. The emphasis should, we believe, be on welcoming and encouraging cycling, and not on banning it.

It is important to stress the obvious point that in Cambridge a high proportion of people cycle and that every day a very high percentage of those arriving in central Cambridge do so by bicycle. Every additional person encouraged to come by bicycle eases the very great pressures on public transport and on the overburdened city road system and every person discouraged from cycling increases those pressures. It is not just in the interests of cyclists that cycling should be encouraged: it is, we believe, in everyone’s interests.

Cycling in Cambridge should be actively encouraged. Current city centre rules, especially the cycling ban, tend to discourage cycling and to make cyclists feel unwelcome. Nationally attitudes to cycling have become much more positive during the last decade and we think that the time is ripe to adopt a more cycle-friendly policy in Cambridge city centre and to signal this by ending the ban.