Co-ordinator’s comment

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 68.

The Netherlands shows us the way

For me, and I think everyone else who went on the trip, cycling round the Netherlands was a real eye-opener. David Hembrow, who kindly organised the tour, presents a review of the trip and James Woodburn gives his personal impressions of Dutch cycling provision. We were delighted to be joined by four officials from Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Councils and we hope that they will share their enthusiasm and experience with their colleagues.

It is no exaggeration to say that, literally everywhere we went, cyclists were thought about and catered for.

  • for cyclists is based on the three principles of convenience, directness and speed. Safety follows almost automatically. Compare this to the UK where obstructions, bollards, shared-use pavements, unfriendly road crossings and loss of priority are the norm.
  • The three groups of road users, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, are kept separate; there is almost no shared use. Compare this to the UK where cyclists have to co-exist uneasily between the other two.
  • The Hague has 270 km of cycle paths within the city, with more outside the city boundary.
  • There is lots of cycle parking everywhere.
  • Speed limits in residential areas are 30 km/h (19 mph).

Of course, not everything is perfect. Sometimes cycle parking is insecure and the use of block paving (albeit well-laid) in places come to mind. But in general, the quality of provision was uniformly high, an order of magnitude better than that found in the UK, reflecting political and financial support for cycling. No wonder the Netherlands have such high rates of cycling.

Cycle parking in the city centre: going, going …

These past two months have seen a decrease in cycle parking provision in one of the areas of the city most desperately in need of increased provision.

As we report elsewhere in this Newsletter, parking outside the former Bradwell’s Court and in Fisher Square outside the Central Library has been removed. The new Christ’s Lane development has no shopper cycle parking (in contravention of the Cycle Parking Standards).

For years, we’ve been highlighting the shortage of cycle parking in this area. In 1999 our survey of the city centre found that by 9 am there were already nearly twice as many bikes as secure stands. This indicated insufficient provision for workers, and none at all for shoppers and casual visitors. Millions have been spent on Park and Ride to enable car drivers to get into the city centre. How about spending even a fraction of that on cycle parking?

It is madness to be reducing cycle parking in the area which most needs it, particularly as lack of secure cycle parking contributes to high levels of cycle theft.

Gonville Place crossing

Sometimes the Campaign is portrayed as being ‘always negative’. I think that’s unfair- there are things like the new Riverside Bridge that we’ve strongly welcomed. Not only is the bridge going to be good, but the processes of consultation and decision-making were exemplary.

Yet there remain many problems which cyclists face on a daily basis. Members have added over 500 photos of them to our photomap since its launch in June. These show a lack of cycle parking, narrow cycle lanes, and obstructions in the most ludicrous places. It’s time these problems were fixed.

Yet what is more disappointing is that schemes like the new Gonville Place crossing (see the article in the last Newsletter) continue to be built. They break many rules of sensible design when best practice could so easily have been achieved. We’ve sent off a six-page letter about this crossing – a catalogue of problems. Since then we’ve had responses from several Councillors, agreeing with us, and stating that the process has clearly failed.

We look forward to the day when we can celebrate in Cambridge the quality of provision that we found in the Netherlands.

Martin Lucas-Smith