Shelford Road leaflet action

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 45.

In Newsletter 43 we said that we hoped to organise a media event over the illegal use of cycle lanes (including bus lanes). We chose the two weeks before half term as University terms would have started, and later it would be too dark and cold.

We had already taken some counts and photographs, and had received advice that we should not deliberately obstruct the lane. Apparently you can even be prosecuted for obstruction if you deliberately prevent a car from driving the wrong way down a one way street!

After some discussion at a monthly meeting and deliberation by the committee, a leaflet and press release were agreed and people coerced into helping. The objective was simply to give to each motorist using the bus and cycle lane a leaflet explaining that their actions were illegal.

On Tuesday 15 October we issued a press release headlined ‘Do Motorists know their Highway Code?’ which informed the media of our proposed action that Thursday. Then I promptly panicked as I mislaid my mobile phone quoted for contact!

Our objective was not really just to give leaflets to some 250 drivers, but much more importantly, to raise awareness through the press of the general principle of abuse of such lanes, and the problems this creates for cyclists throughout Cambridge.

I did find my phone, and the media did seem interested, so leaflets were printed, posters made and fluorescent jackets found. Q103 and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire interviewed me early on the morning.

To be effective we needed a day when queues were long, tempting drivers to abuse the lane. We struck lucky, and a steady stream of motorists were given the leaflet. Both Anglia TV and Cambridge Evening News gave us sympathetic coverage.

What about the motorists? Many pleaded ignorance of the law, some admitted they knew it was illegal but saw others using the lane. A few were aggressive, including someone who said ‘I’m a Doctor, I’ve got to get to work.’ I thought it was aggressive driving that meant some people never got to work?

There have been a number of follow up letters in the Cambridge Evening News, and Cambridgeshire County Council has announced that an island is to be built at the end of the bus lane to reduce the risk of left turners abusing the bus and cycle lanes.

Was it worth the trouble? I think it definitely was, and if we had more active members to support such things, I’d be happy to try and find more such opportunities.

Thanks must go to those members who came and handed out the leaflets.

Jim Chisholm