This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 73.
Congestion charging ahead
At last, a big and long-awaited announcement has come out from Cambridgeshire County Council. This is for an area-wide scheme, so would not have the down-sides that a smaller scheme would create, such as the effects on the suburbs. But this announcement is not just about congestion charging: it is about major sets of changes.
The cycling aspects of the proposals appear to represent a step-change in quality standards. For the first time, funding that can enable continental standards should become available. The proposals make real space for cycling, rather than just fitting it in as an afterthought or putting cyclists onto pavements. Even things like compulsory purchase – to make space for cycling – are possibilities.
We have played our part in the County Council’s proposals. Schemes like the Chisholm Trail, which we have long pushed for, are included, and things like ‘hybrid provision’ are a direct result of our suggestions and liaison with the consultants.
This could be the start of something big. Let’s hope it is not derailed.
This year’s planning agenda in Cambridge is, as expected, characterised by an explosion of large housing development proposals, which will lead to the addition of 50 000 new houses in the greater Cambridge area.
The Campaign naturally takes no view on the societal desirability of such housing; that is a matter left for individuals and organisations, including conservation interests, to debate. However, what is clear is that whatever does get built really must be done to the highest standards of cycle-friendliness. Without doing so, we face the greatest threat to levels of cycling (with the obvious consequences of congestion and pollution that infers) and transport patterns may be stuck for at least the next half century.
Developers clearly have a lot of power in this regard. They have the resources to plan and build large housing estates – many in the order of several thousand houses – and know how to play the system against local councils who are self-evidently struggling to cope, as the recent plight of South Cambs District Council (SCDC) amply demonstrates.
Without good development control procedures, poorly-conceived schemes will get put in place, and the taxpayer will be left to pick up the pieces, as is now happening on King’s Hedges Road as a result of the cycle-hostile changes made by the Arbury Park developers. These are problems which were not properly dealt with by the County Council, and the lack of democratic input into the Section 106 (developer contributions) system exacerbated the problem further.
It is thus pleasing to see major new guidance being published, in the form of the new Manual For Streets. We review this elsewhere in this Newsletter. Locally, the new Cambridgeshire Design Guide for Streets and the Public Realm is intended to dovetail with the national guidance and has just been published. A brief review is also in this Newsletter.
Highway Code twists and turns
The last few months have seen a frenzied series of developments concerning the revision of The Highway Code. For those that are not aware, there has been much concern amongst cycling groups that the new wording would effectively compel – either legally or in the eyes of insurance companies – cyclists to use cycle facilities where they exist. Anyone who has cycled practically anywhere in the UK will know that substandard facilities are the norm rather than the exception, with many being downright dangerous or totally inconvenient, when compared to remaining on the road.
Much support has been given to our cause by our local MP, David Howarth, who raised the matter in Parliament through both an Early Day Motion to force a debate on the new wording, and in the form of a Parliamentary Petition which, with our assistance, obtained 1190 signatures on paper in just two days.
Such has been the level of concern. We are grateful for his input and for the thousands of people who have contributed in any way to this important campaign.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has caved in to some degree, and agreed to some rewording. But as Ian McKee outlines in this issue of the Newsletter, the new wording remains unsatisfactory. We will continue to see what can be done at Parliamentary level.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator