Members’ Survey

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 65.

Do you remember the survey you filled in? (Part 2)

Last time we presented the first results of the survey originally carried out in the autumn of 2004. Here are some of the later questions. There is still more to follow. Thanks again to Simon for his analysis of the results and for preparing the diagrams, and to all of you for returning so many of the forms.

Introduction

Although it was as far back as 2001 that an AGM voted to hold a members’ survey, it proved such a complex task that it was not until autumn 2004 that the 8-page, 56 question paper-based survey was produced. It was sent out to all 700 members at the time and yielded 293 responses, i.e. 42%, a rate which reflects the enthusiasm of the membership.

The survey started with questions about the members, their bikes, where they ride and why, and what they think about Cambridge for cycling, which we covered last time. Then, below, sections about making things better for cycling, interactions between motorists and cyclists, and the Campaign itself and how it should engage with the authorities. Cycling restrictions will be covered later.

Section C: Making things better for cycling

Questions here asked, ‘how do conditions for cyclists in Cambridge today compare with five years ago?’, asked you to list up to three locations where you feel most comfortable cycling, where you feel most unsafe cycling, and a wide ranging open-ended question about what would be your top four priorities for improvements.

Respondents generally thought that conditions for cyclists had improved compared to five years ago.

They felt most comfortable cycling over the city’s commons and on quiet roads. The Sustrans route by the river had particular mention as did some of the longer and more continuous cycle routes. Cambridge city centre scored well on this count, as did the cycle bridges over the railway and the A14.

Approximately 50 different locations were named in response to this open ended question.

The open-ended question, ‘Where do you feel most unsafe riding?’ had answers grouped into some fifty categories or locations. Mill Road and Hills Road from Lensfield Road, and over Hills Road bridge to the junction with Cherry Hinton Road were named as the most unsafe sections. They were followed by narrow and busy streets in the city centre, and busy roundabouts.

In listing their top four priorities for improvements respondents wanted new cycle routes. However a large number wanted improvements to existing routes by improving sight lines, removing pinch points and bollards. Many junctions were cited as needing improvement in the way that cyclists approach the junctions, or the priority given to them. Other general points such as reducing speeds, road maintenance, more cycle parking and car parking enforcement were raised.

Simon says: in summary, respondents thought conditions have improved and that there are examples of good routes in the city. There are several weak points where cyclists feel unsafe and respondents asked why can’t these be brought up to the standards of the best in the city?

A case in point: And the most popular route is…

The most popular routes among Cycling Campaign members are those converging on Midsummer Common.
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As well as asking about your opinions, we also asked you to return a separate sheet listing your two most frequent routes. We have now recorded these in our membership database. This is so that we can contact you if there is a particular scheme proposed for a place that you use often on your travels. (We’re also asking new members for the same information, and eventually we’ll get round to putting the form online).

One of the interesting things to come out of entering all this data is which routes are more popular than others. Inevitably, many people’s frequent journeys involve heading into the centre of Cambridge, so as routes converge they appear on more and more forms. But if we exclude the historic core streets, we can be more precise.

This reveals that the most popular place to cycle in Cambridge is … Midsummer Common.

Perhaps this should not be surprising. The Common represents the convergence of many routes: East Chesterton from Green Dragon Bridge; West Chesterton via the Fort St George or Cutter Ferry bridges; the Abbey and Riverside areas; east Cambridge avoiding Newmarket Road; and now the Fen Ditton and Ditton Fields estates via route 51. And it means cyclists can avoid many busy roads and junctions.

Section D was covered in the last issue and section E will be covered in the future.

Section F: Interactions between cyclists and motorists

This section asked, ‘Have you been deliberately intimidated or abused by a motorist (verbally or physically) in the past five years?’ and if so what form that had taken, and whether there were reasons for it. We also looked at how many people had come off their bikes or been involved in a collision, and whether the police had been involved and what action had been taken. We asked, ‘how seriously do you believe that the police take intimidation and abuse of cyclists by motorists, compared with similar incidents not involving road users (e.g. that occur in a pub)?’

62% of respondents said they had been deliberately intimidated or abused by motorists in the past five years. Most of this was in the form of verbal abuse, gestures or by using the vehicle to intimidate the cyclists. In a few cases the cyclist was physically assaulted by the driver.

In the majority of cases respondents said that it was the layout of the road that contributed to the conflict.

Respondents said they had come off their bikes on 88 occasions, 42 of which were reported to the police, which resulted in 7 actions being taken against the motorist. About a third of respondents said that they thought the police did not treat intimidation and abuse of cyclists by motorists seriously as a crime.

Asked for any further comments, roughly 20% of respondents gave some. Based on the first 100 returns the sentiments expressed were that ‘some drivers are deliberately intimidating’ and a similar number think that ‘drivers would behave better with improved education such as being required to cycle as part of their driver training.’

Simon says: nearly two-thirds of respondents have suffered intimidation and abuse by motorists, most blaming the cause of this on poor road design. Many felt police don’t take the problem seriously, and called for more driver training on how to deal with cyclists. One respondent said ‘Some people behind a wheel shouldn’t be’.

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A case in point: I’ll kill you

“Turning right from Fendon Road (away from Addenbrooke’s) into Queen Edith’s Way means going three quarters of the way round the medium size roundabout at the top of Mowbray Road. White Van Man screams up behind me arriving at the roundabout, but can’t bear to be behind for a moment longer. So as I am sticking slightly to the right side of the lane around the circle, White Van Man squeezes past me on my inside, at high speed around the extreme outside edge of the roundabout.

After leaving the roundabout, White Van man turns first right into a residential street. So annoyed by the fool’s careless attitude towards my safety, I follow. He has stopped, just round the corner. He’s not interested in his driving. Unprovoked, and simply because I am riding a bike, he calls me a ‘green weirdo’ and says ‘I don’t care, I’ll kill you if I ever see you on the road again.’ Why does anyone think that someone like that is qualified to drive a two ton vehicle?”

A case in point: The McDonalds attack

“There I was, cycling along the cycle track alongside Newmarket Road just beyond the Park & Ride site, away from town at about five o’clock on a summer afternoon. The path is quite good here, and separated from the road by a wide verge so I’m maybe a couple of metres away from the road’s edge. A hatchback comes along, quite slowly considering this is just outside the 40 mph signs. Inside are four males in their mid-twenties, windows open, jeering. They’ve just been to McDonald’s up the road. Clearly the food is not to their liking, as I suddenly find my T-shirt covered with remains of half eaten burger and barbecue sauce. A direct hit at three-metre range. How hilarious for them.”

Section G: Your opinion of the Campaign

We asked, ‘how content are you with what the Campaign is doing for cyclists?’ and about the materials we produce. We also asked to what extent we should be more or less confrontational when dealing with local councillors and officials and whether we should be involved in direct action

Respondents were largely happy with what the Campaign is doing for cyclists. They wanted the Campaign to not be afraid of sometimes upsetting local councillors and council officials. They wanted the Campaign to hold legal demonstrations and protests. They love the Newsletter and Website.

When asked openly what the Campaign should do differently there were 37 responses in the first 100 returns. Of these 14 thanked the Campaign, 19 asked the Campaign to do specific projects or complained about some aspect of the service. A few asked the Campaign to retain a balance.

Simon says: respondents were very happy with the Campaign and how it informs its members. That they wanted the Campaign to engage more firmly with local authorities is perhaps a reflection of the frustration at how slowly it seems to take to change things for the better.

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Simon Nuttall
(‘cases in point’ by David Earl).