Looking back at 50

Cambridge Cycling Campaign was launched eight years ago, in June 1995, and this is the fiftieth issue of our bi-monthly newsletter. Time for some nostalgia, then, we thought.

I had no idea of the scale of the task before sitting down to write this article, though. We have published more than 1200 articles, containing over half a million words, in around 800 pages – with nearly 3 million keyboard presses!

Constant themes

Not surprisingly, certain topics and themes reappear throughout the various issues. Here are a few examples: the list is very far from complete, but it gives a flavour of the wide range of topics we’ve covered.

(Numbers in square brackets are Issue numbers).

  • Cycle parking (The shortage throughout much of central Cambridge; 300 new spaces at Cambridge station [21]; Park Street Cycle Park; Simon Nuttall’s cycle parking experiment [39]; the City Council’s cycle parking standards)
  • Car parking (in cycle lanes – especially outside Brinton’s Garage on Cherry Hinton Road; visibility problems at pedestrian crossings)
  • Speeding (speed cameras; traffic calming; growth in number of local 20mph zones; Home Zones; the Slower Speeds Initiative; our successful objections to use of speed in some car advertising)
  • Pinch points on roads (not much seems to have changed since our first campaign to remove a narrowing at the Jesus Lock pedestrian crossing)
  • Pinch points on cycle routes (Problems posed for child trailers and bikes with baskets). The installation of cattle grids solves the problem on some routes, but there are new chicanes on brand new cycle routes too.
  • Cycling bans (in Burleigh Street and Fitzroy Street, and in the city centre)
  • Cycle theft (annual statistics; local partnership project to reduce theft)
  • Bikes and trains (Carriage of bikes on trains; cycle parking at stations; WAGN’s peak hour cycle ban [30]; redevelopment plans for Cambridge station)
  • Bikes and buses (bus priority schemes; visibility problems at bus shelters on shared-use pavements; guided bus proposals; the removal of road space for cyclists to provide bus lanes)
  • The behaviour of some cyclists giving others a bad name. (The report of our launch meeting, in Issue 1, said ‘a recurring theme was the behaviour of “rogue” cyclists who pose a danger to pedestrians (and other cyclists) and make life difficult for the rest of us by heightening hostility to cyclists among other road users.’)
  • Cycle training (for adults, children and foreign language students)
  • Cycle maintenance (and lighting)
  • Carrying children by bike
  • Cycling for fun (leisurely rides; charity sponsored rides)
  • Cycling entrepreneurs (local bike shops; Chris’s mobile repair service; the coming – and going – of trishaws in Cambridge; and even a window-cleaning service towing its 6 m ladder by bike [23])

We have of course reported on a wide range of Cycling Campaign activities, including:

  • Our many position papers, reports and consultation responses
  • National Bike Week every year
  • Our fact-finding trips in the UK and overseas
  • Our visits to many cycling conferences and meetings

We’ve reported on local and national policies and strategies (and our involvement in influencing them):

  • Local Transport Plans
  • Two Cambridgeshire Cycling (and Walking) Strategies
  • One Cambridge Cycling and Walking Strategy
  • Our optimism over the Integrated Transport White Paper
  • Our pessimism over the Ten Year Transport Plan [31 & 32]

Much of the coverage has been of local traffic-related schemes, because of their effects on, and often benefits for, cyclists. For example:

  • The Core Scheme (Bridge Street; Emmanuel Road; Silver Street)
  • Barton Road
  • The Jubilee Route
  • Newmarket Road
  • Trumpington Road (and the long saga of appalling conditions during construction)
  • Grange Road
  • Hills Road
  • Mitcham’s Corner
  • New links opened (Rustat Road/Clifton Road; Newmarket Road to Riverside; the Jubilee Route; Cherry Hinton to Fulbourn; and soon the A14 bridge at Milton)
  • And many of our campaigns have been solely about preventing the status quo from getting worse (Hills Road bus lane proposals; Milton Road bus lane proposals)

Some topics have run for longer than others. For example, on Newmarket Road:

  • Our campaign to get green cycle filters installed on traffic lights in bus lanes – started in [18]; resolved in [20]
  • Our campaign to restore a wrongly-removed cycle lane on the Barnwell railway bridge – started in [18] – and it took five years to get that one done
  • The Royal Cambridge Hotel junction (the decision to install traffic lights [11]; installation delayed [13]; more than six years on, this junction is still a serious problem for cyclists)

There are a number of other cases where our initial requests were immediately declined, only for the work to be done eventually. For example, we asked for Regent Terrace to be resurfaced, and for wider gaps between the bollards by Pizza Hut [20]. The resurfacing happened two years later [33] and the gaps were widened three years later [39]. It’s worth persisting.

As well as much constructive criticism, there have of course been very many ‘thank yous’ over the years. Perhaps most significantly in response to a complete U-turn by the local councils over plans to ‘force’ (as we described it) cyclists off Grange Road southbound; we awarded the final scheme a ‘Golden Bell.’

There have been some lighter notes, too, of course, including:

  • The Hills of Cambridge [22]
  • Girton College Bicycle Club [28]
  • A mountainous invitation from Belgium [34] (see box below)

The Credits

I think we can be forgiven for being proud of this publication. It truly would not have been possible without contributions past and present from many who care about the cause of cycling in the Cambridge area:

  • The editors: Jonathan Whiteland, Philip Morley and Mark Irving
  • The copy editors: Debby Banham, David Green, Beth Morgan and Lisa Clatworthy
  • Page layout: Mike Smith
  • The authors: Too numerous to mention them all, but Dave Earl, Nigel Deakin, Jim Chisholm and Lisa and James Woodburn deserve particular credit.
  • Photography: Dave Earl
  • Cartoons: Mick, and Dave Earl
  • Online conversion: Mike Smith, Martin Lucas-Smith, Mike Causer.

In the early days, I spent many long hours at Staples waiting for photocopying of newsletters – so there was probably no-one happier than me when Victoire Press in Bar Hill took over the printing process for Newsletter 16.

Behind the scenes, our teams of envelope-stuffers and deliverers, ably organised by Lisa Woodburn, then complete the process.

We are grateful, too, to Cambridge City Council for a Sustainable City Grant which has enabled us to distribute the Newsletter more widely, in particular to schools, libraries, councillors and council officers.

One of our oddest non-events, reproduced from Newsletter 34:

Mountainous invitation from Belgium

The Campaign gets a lot of peculiar mail. Some of it is deeply junk, like the frequent invitations to buy Viagra by mail (is there something about cycling we don’t know?), or how to become millionaires overnight (err – is there something else about cycling we don’t know?). But of the cycling related messages, a recent one from Belgium lightened the mood.

‘First,’ the writer said, ‘I have to tell you that we work all together only with friendship and the share of the same passion.’ Great, another cyclist! Just friendly? No, there’s more. ‘Are you eventually interested on becoming our Lincoln, Norfolk and Cambridge’s newsletter and website correspondent?’

Ah, he wants something. Correspondent for what? ‘This website presents you more than 2,000 of splendid climbs in Europe. We already have 49 correspondents in Europe (but none in Lincoln, Norfolk and Cambridge).’

Geography starts to kick in. ‘Our guide Passacol describes those climbs reaching 1,000 tops with all the following data: height of the foot, height of the top, …, maximum gradient, description of how to reach the foot, what’s at the top (nothing or restaurant, TV tower, viewpoint, orienteering table, …). It’s important to know if the pass or the mount can be reached with road-bike or only with MTB.’

‘You’ll become the manager and real chief of the regional guide of Lincoln, Norfolk and Cambridge, if you desire. All the good climbs (very steep ones, or very touristic ones, or very mediatic ones) will be included by you in this guide.’

I don’t suppose we’ll get many more invitations to be correspondent for East Anglian mountain climbing by bike. But one can but be optimistic.

David Earl

Looking ahead

So what does the future hold for the Cambridge Cycling Campaign Newsletter?

Well, we would like eventually to include colour photos in the printed version of the newsletter, as we’ve always done in the web version, but this is just too expensive at the moment.

In recent years, we’ve broadened the scope of the Newsletter, with series like ‘My Way‘. We meet to review every issue, and consider ways it could be improved. Please tell us if you have any suggestions – or if you would like to contribute to a future issue.

Clare Macrae