Bells for Cambridgeshire?

This article was published in 2004, in Newsletter 52.

The Government body responsible for monitoring cycling nationally says Cambridgeshire

  • Is jeopardising getting more people to cycle
  • Should review City centre cycle ban
  • Road Safety Department seems to have wrong approach
  • Needs to listen to everyday cyclists

Several years ago in National Bike Week, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign awarded ‘Golden Bells’ for local schemes that helped cycling and ‘Chocolate Chains’ for those that were a hindrance.

Last year, as reported in Newsletter 49, the Government’s (English) Regional Cycling Development Team (ERCDT) ‘scored’ each Local Authority on a range of issues. These results were reported to individual Local Authorities and to the National Cycling Strategy Board, but they were not published. However, the summary comments were published, as was the basis on which scores were made. We have heard rumours that many scores were not good, even in places with high levels of cycling. Performance was measured in 10 areas:

  1. Local Transport Plan (LTP) 2000/Cycling Strategy
  2. Annual Progress Report (APR 2002)
  3. Council Commitment
  4. Infrastructure
  5. Cyclist Training
  6. Cycle Promotion
  7. Stakeholder Engagement
  8. Wider Engagement
  9. Planning for Cycling
  10. Targets and Monitoring

Summary:

Travel mode use in Cambridge is the envy of many other towns and cities in the UK. Cycling is about 26%. The Local Authorities are committed to creating a people-friendly environment within the city centre and are prepared to restrict and manage the car. The lack of Cycle Audit procedures should be remedied. …Consequently, getting more people to cycle is being jeopardised.

At about 26%, cycling in Cambridge is the envy of many other towns and cities in the UK.
Image as described adjacent
  1. Local Transport Plan/Cycling Strategy
    [Note: the LTP reviewed has in Cambridgeshire been superseded] Although Cycle Audit and Review are alluded to, there is no commitment to use the techniques.
  2. Annual Progress Report
    The 2001/02 APR reports much on-the-ground project and initiative progress that contributes to a better cycling environment.
  3. Council Commitment
    Commitment to cycling is relatively good. The role of cycling and making changes to the transport network that encourage and provide for the bike is generally consistent. However the existence of a central area cycling ban is an anomaly in the UK’s premier cycle-friendly city. A review may now be appropriate. Some elements of development control also need review. Bad practice is being allowed in the name of new development – this may partly be a problem of staff resources and the lack of a formal Cycle Audit procedure.
  4. Infrastructure
    There is much on-road provision utilising cycle lanes, ASLs, cycle slots and other useful, cost-effective measures. Off-road facilities are of mixed quality – the usual problems of loss of priority at side roads and detailed issues like dropped kerbs persist.
    The local cycling campaign group has concerns about a proposal to remove on-road lanes in favour of off-road provision (Hills Rd Cambridge). This appears, on the face of it, a retrograde step.
  5. Cycle Training
    51% of primary children receive training (mostly on-road) No training is offered at secondary level.
  6. Cycle Promotion
    Cycle promotion is taken seriously by the Local Authority. Bike week type opportunities are supported. City maps and other guides are available. The appointment of a ‘Cycling Promotions Officer’ is being considered.
  7. Stakeholder Engagement
    Engagement with local cyclists is generally good. There is, however, a concern about how the relationship with the local Cambridge Cycling Campaign and the County is developing. Currently there is a rather negative feeling from the Cycling Campaign which is unhelpful. Wider engagement with ‘every-day’ rather than ‘campaigning’ cyclists would be beneficial.
  8. Wider Engagement
    There is a general coherence about encouragement. Good examples include work with employers, schools etc. The progress with Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the ambitious travel plan is to be commended. The Road Safety side of the Local Authority still however tends to dwell on the negative side of cycling.
  9. Planning for Cyclists
    Recent audits suggest that best practice is not consistently secured or enforced in connection with new development. The existence of a good, well-established cycling culture within the Local Authority no doubt helps to reduce the problem. Cycle Audit is not used – this should be rectified and best practice approach adopted. The production of a cycling specific design guidance combined with awareness training for appropriate staff should be considered.
  10. Targets and Monitoring
    Looking at some extracts from the Cambridgeshire report, how do we think they might have scored?

Cambridge appears to be under reporting its achievements.

Here are some points from other reports for comparison:

Luton: (C) Documentary evidence suggests that LBC are yet to be convinced of the transport value of cycling. (E) uptake is very low with only 50 children trained.

East Yorkshire: (B) The APR reports…7 new cycle stands, Advanced Stop Lines at 1 junction.

Hull: (A) Cycling is seen as having a major role to play in reducing traffic congestion and improving the environment. (C) The Council spends around £500,000 (on cycling) a year. (D) The high number of 20 mph zones has led to improved cycling conditions in large areas.

Oxford: (A) The LTP states that the Hierarchy of Solutions has been adopted. Policy CS4 seeks to avoid conflict with pedestrians by following the general principle that pavements are for pedestrians and carriageways should be made safe for cyclists. (G) Neither LTP nor Cycling Strategy mention consultation with cycling groups. Nothing has been established to replace the City Cycle Sub-Committee.

York: (A) York’s LTP shows good evidence of encouraging and promoting cycling. (D) York’s infrastructure shows substantial evidence that cyclists are taken seriously. (E) The Authority excels in all areas of practice. (J) Cycles parked in the city centre and station are counted twice a month. Cycle casualties have fallen which when compared to the increases in use is encouraging.

Going back to the Cambridgeshire report, both the County Council and the Cycling Campaign are criticised. They say that we have a rather negative approach. In defence, many active members of the campaign have said how demoralising it is spending so much time preventing conditions getting worse, and this review came at just the time when nearly all our efforts were being spent campaigning against the Hills Road bus lanes.

It suggests wider engagement with ordinary cyclists (rather than ‘campaigners’). We requested that ‘ordinary’ cyclists should be stopped and questioned in the survey on city centre access, but were told it was not legal to stop cyclists. Again we’ve asked that cyclists be treated as ‘customers’ as are car park users, bus passengers and ‘park and ride’ users. We would really like to know what the three thousand people who cycle from ‘necklace’ villages into Cambridge each day think of their trip, and of the lack of parking space in the central shopping area.

On a more positive side the Campaign has done much to support the County’s plans to restrict access of motor vehicles to the City Centre, and Clare, our hard working Liaison Officer, spends much time representing us on a wide range of council and other committees.

What of the criticisms of the County Council?

We have been working over a significant number of years to get Cambridgeshire to produce a ‘Design Guide’ and to formally adopt ‘Cycle Audit and Review’, the guidelines for which were published over five years ago. A draft for a design guide was produced but seems to have disappeared without trace, although it now gets a mention in an appendix to the 2004 LTP.

On ‘Planning and Development’, we are concerned that standards in the Local Plan on cycling are neglected, and that road changes made under section 106 agreements (planning gain) appear without scrutiny by either the Cycling Campaign or even ‘Area Joint Committee’ councillors.

The report describes Cambridge as the UK’s ‘Premier Cycle Friendly City’, but recommendations include:

  • Allocate more staff time to developing and implementing the cycling programme.
  • Allocate resources to apply Cycle Audit.
  • Re-examine central area cycle ban – try to ‘design’ for cyclists.
  • Set targets to increase level of training for both child and adult cyclists.
  • Ensure that new developments contribute to realistic, best practice cycle access and routes – both on-site and off-site.
  • Consider producing good practice cycle design guide to replace standard, out of date guidance.
  • Improve involvement of and relationship with local cycling campaign.

If Cambridge is to remain the ‘Premier’ Cycle City in the UK we must work with the Local Authorities to ensure these recommendations are followed, otherwise we may lose the crown to the other place (Oxford), or, heaven forbid, to a town north of the Trent such as York or even Hull.

We’ll be asking the County if they accept the assessment by ERCDT and if they will make their scores public.

Jim Chisholm

If you want to know more about these reports they are all available, complete with details of the methodology, at:
www.nationalcyclingstrategy.org.uk/local_authority_performance.html .

Cambridgeshire’s report is:
www.nationalcyclingstrategy.org.uk/assets/go/Eastern/Cambridgeshire.pdf .