This article was published in 2005, in Newsletter 59.
There have been several developments on the proposed experimental suspension of the daytime City Centre cycling ban following the decision taken on this by the Cambridge Environment and Transport Area Joint Committee on 17 January.
Practical suggestions for implementation
Shortly after the meeting, we wrote a letter outlining some practical suggestions for the proposed suspension. We also put on record that the Campaign strongly welcomes this move. Very many cyclists continue to find the existing ban a considerable inconvenience, one on which we have campaigned for many years. We are delighted that the long-standing lack of an adequate south to north cycling route through the city centre is finally being addressed, and of course hope that the experiment will prove successful.
Our suggestions to the County Council officers who would be charged with implementing the proposed experimental suspension were:
- That the area concerned be re-designated as a ‘Pedestrian Priority Zone’, a term which is in reasonably common use by other local authorities around the country. We felt that such a term, whilst not perfect, gives cyclists and drivers the clear message that they should at all times take full account of the needs of pedestrians.
- Confirmation that the Campaign strongly supports both enforcement action on illegal cycle movements and action to promote sensible and responsible cycling throughout the historic centre pedestrian zone. This is in line with our own position paper on Responsible, Legal Cycling, copies of which are available on our website or printed on request. We recognise that the current actions of an inconsiderate minority are a significant barrier to public perceptions of the desirability of revoking the existing cycling restriction. We suggested that the County Council write to the police, asking for renewed enforcement against illegal cycling (such as riding on pavements or in the wrong direction).
- A suggestion that a code of conduct for cyclists be agreed, for inclusion in any publicity.
- That a change to Hobson Street junction gates could be implemented to slow down cyclists entering the zone and to deter cyclists from using the pavement.
- An observation that the experiment should result in a simplification of the current regulations in the city centre, which should aid compliance with those which remain.
- That a Working Group could be established to look at these and related issues. We would hope that such a group would include representatives of bodies such as pedestrian groups and disability organisations, as well as stakeholders such as the Student Unions, who are in a good position to help promote positive behaviour.
Upon receiving our letter, Richard Preston, the Officer concerned, wrote, “Thank you for your very constructive letter. Your suggestion of a working group is a good way of taking this forward” and that he intended to set up such a group in coming weeks.
We have recently received confirmation that the Working Group will meet at the end of March.
Cambridge City Council debates the suspension
In mid-February we heard that City Councillors Blencowe and Durrant had tabled a motion to the full City Council condemning the decision taken by the Area Joint Committee, moving that it be overturned.
We immediately wrote to all Councillors in response, countering the arguments put. Several Councillors responded positively to our letter, stating that many of the points we wrote about provided useful ammunition against the Councillors’ motion.
In Council, the motion was amended to read as follows, and then passed:
This Council welcomes the decision of the AJC to lift the city centre cycling ban on an experimental basis, subject to consultation and evaluation using independent market research.
The Council notes that this will provide a valuable northbound cycle route through the city centre and that it will reduce the confusion surrounding the present restrictions, with the attendant compliance problems.
The Council notes that the AJC’s decision reflects recently reinforced Department for Transport advice that pedestrians and cyclists can co-exist in pedestrianised areas, and that experience in Cambridge supports this advice; the accident record where coexistence takes place in the historic city centre is good.
The Council recognises that public acceptance of this approach is important to the success of the experiment. Encouragement of responsible cycling will be important, as will its enforcement by the police. The Council welcomes both Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s paper on Responsible, Legal Cycling and the establishment of a working party to consider a detailed approach to implementation of the trial.
We now have a situation where the City Council explicitly supports suspending the ban, in addition to the support of the two Councils’ joint transport committee. We strongly welcome this City Council support for the proposed experimental suspension. Like the Area Joint Committee, we feel that trying to see whether it will work is the only way in which this long-running debate will be resolved. We note that much of the wording within this motion is taken from our own letter, surely a recognition of the quality of our arguments here.
The impact on walkers in the area
We feel that pedestrian comfort needs to remain a high priority and that cyclists who will be allowed to use the area need to respect this. We are confident that pedestrians and cyclists can co-exist in the city centre, as demonstrated by the lack of any major problems on Sundays, when cycling has always been permitted. We are glad that our suggestion that the Working Group should include pedestrian representation has been accepted.
Many cyclists choose to walk during the busiest times, such as on Saturday between 4 pm and 5pm and during Sundays, even though they can legally ride. We do not expect this will change, and it further demonstrates that many cyclists do respect the needs of pedestrians and that the current blanket ban is not the correct balance.
Making the ban work
Councillor Jenny Bailey, following the City Council’s decision, said, ‘Most of us are OK and we cycle safely but there are a few people who are poor cyclists and they have a bit of an attitude. These people flout the ban anyway.’
We agree with this analysis. We feel this minority does give other cyclists a bad name. However, we feel that it would be wrong to continue to discriminate against the majority of sensible cyclists because of this. The minority of irresponsible cyclists will always be a problem unless and until enforcement is present.
The Campaign will do what it can to promote responsible cycling here (and elsewhere). Ultimately, of course, it has no formal power to prevent bad cycling, much as those motoring organisations which promote safe and responsible motoring cannot be blamed for the transgressions of motorists.
We have stated on many occasions that levels of traffic enforcement by the police are unacceptably low. We fully support enforcement against illegal cycling and, as our letter to the County Council stated, we feel that the County Council should be making this case to the police also.
We are looking forward to the first meeting of the Working Group to discuss practicalities of the proposed suspension and ways in which better promotion and enforcement could be applied.
We understand the County Council plans to start the experimental suspension during the summer. Until that time, the restrictions on cycling remain in full force.