This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 64.

The Editor welcomes letters for publication. They represent their authors’ own opinions, rather than Campaign policy, even when written by a Campaign Committee member.

The Cam

There may be more than one route to heaven. As near as Reflector will get, so close to home, is by cycling in winter sunshine along the towpath, on Sustrans route 11. Gone is the need to weave round water filled craters, with mud slide thrills on the river bank. It is now Breedon style gravel rolled flat and even. Unlike tarmac it is in harmony with the river side, and a pleasure for cycling.

But beware Cerebus guarding this route, its owner glaring like Charon awaiting a toll, on the river edge. Watch out too for loud voices on bikes hurting at one, eyes turned towards the young blades, feathering in near unison. Yell out ‘ahoy’ and the oncoming voice may briefly straighten its erratic path.

Cygnets, virgin brown, await the spring for fulfilment in white. Moorhen scuttle down the bank, to safety. Molehills, in newly minted earth, line the path edge. Willows are shedding leaves, but will be first dressed come greening.

From the underworld, can it be, there is an occasional sulphurous whiff. Froth patches float below the weir at Baits Bite Lock. There, a short stretch of lumpy tarmac breaks the cyclist’s rhythmic reverie.

Come the weekend, black poles may bar the way. Large men fumble cold hands in tins of maggots, then the long poles nose their way towards the far bank, letting one pass.

On the bank ahead, the sleek grey silhouette of another fisher snaps out of its pose. Neck out, on long wings, the heron climbs over the electricity cables, heading for a backwater.

A young man, legs outstretched, smokes on a bench by Clayhithe bridge, a turning point. Homewards, catching up at the railway bridge, he spurts by, showing his lungs have some life yet. At the Pike and Eel, glimpses of earthly paradise, so briefly gained, are forfeited to motor traffic. It’s a short sweet ride.


Why ever not?

I was interested to read James Woodburn’s account (Newsletter 63) of the tortuous sequence of events that has resulted in something so obvious and necessary as a cycle contraflow in Corn Exchange Street finally being approved.

Without this contraflow, the new cycle park being created (arguably on the wrong side of the development, against the City Council’s Cycle Parking Standards) would undoubtedly be a complete white elephant.

While the Cabinet is to be congratulated on this long-overdue decision, it has to be asked why this matter has dragged out for so long by a county council which supposedly regards itself cycle-friendly, or why the matter was elevated to Cabinet status when a transport committee exists specifically to make transport decisions and quite reasonably has a better understanding of the issues.

Indeed, I was incensed enough to go on-line to hear the webcasts of the Cabinet meetings, to hear the standard of debates on the matter. For the meeting on 12 April, one Councillor said:

‘… the thing that worries me the most is this idea that because cyclists are always going to go through red traffic lights, we should make it legal for cyclists to go through red traffic lights. Now I know you haven’t said that, but that’s the way you’re dealing with illegal cycling in Cambridgeshire: you’re cutting down illegal cycling by legalising anything anyone cares to do on a bicycle. That’s not my personal view on how you go about solving that kind of problem.’

Another Councillor remarked, ‘anyone who expects cyclists to obey the rules is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.’

Such remarks about traffic lights are totally irrelevant to the agenda item, and simply display prejudice against cyclists. ‘Cyclists’ are not ‘always’ going to go through red traffic lights. Rule-breaking by motorists (especially over speeding) is at least as much of a problem as rule-breaking by cyclists

The suggestion that those in favour of promoting cycling want to see ‘legalising anything anyone cares to do on a bicycle’ is totally ludicrous. Catering for reasonable expectations, such as cyclists actually being able to get to a facility intended for them, barely registered in the discussion.

In contrast, it was good to see that the council officer at the meeting, Brian Smith, correctly sought to balance the debate by explaining that the Council seeks compliance with regulations by all road users, both motorists and cyclists. This is a view which the Campaign clearly shares, as any reading of its literature would clearly show.

Martin Lucas-Smith