Cycling 2020: our vision for Cambridge’s cycling future

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 77.

Cycling 2020 vision document

After several years in the making, we are pleased to announce that our vision for cycling in Cambridge, ‘Cycling 2020’ is being launched at the national CCN/CTC conference in May. Cycling 2020 has been funded with thanks to a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, but to whom we are extremely grateful for allowing us to proceed with this much-needed work.

Copies will be sent to members and decision-makers once it comes off the press. Delegates to the conference will also receive copies. Many of the issues apply to other areas of the country and so we hope its distribution in this way will help other cycling campaigns around the country in their own work.

Cycling 2020 is our visionary document for cycling in the city over the next 15 years. The brochure contains a series of achievable but challenging plans for the delivery of an attractive cycling infrastructure.

Cycling 2020 has been written by our consultant, Justin Coleman of Blue Grape. Several interviews were conducted with Committee members, and an online questionnaire was circulated to a number of our most active members in the Campaign in recent years. In addition, material has been drawn from the vast amount of material the Campaign has produced over the years. The text was edited into its final form by Martin Lucas-Smith and Monica Frisch on behalf of the Committee. The photography and design has been done by Geoff Muller of 2up Ltd. We are grateful to Justin and Geoff for their work, and others within the Campaign for their input.

Cycling 2020 is intended principally to:

  • Make a strong case for cycling, through presentation of a range of key policy strands;
  • Give decision-makers a clearer idea of positive things the Campaign actually wants;
  • Provide a ‘pick-list’ of schemes which could be carried out (e.g. the Chisholm Trail, local schemes, opening up of blocked routes, etc);
  • Outline a clear list of theme-based objectives for action (e.g. removal of obstructions, increasing cycle parking to meet demand);
  • Give a focus on getting improvements to existing infrastructure to meet the needs of cyclists (and walkers);
  • Make suggestions on broader non-physical measures such as driver/cyclist education and training as well as enforcement issues.

Our vision for cycling in 12 sections

Here is a quick overview of the 12 sections in Cycling 2020.

Foreword (by the Co-ordinator)

Cambridge is often known as a cycling city. Its vibrant cycling culture, with probably the highest rate of cycling in the country, is an asset to a city which would otherwise be even further choked with traffic. Through Cycling 2020, we invite readers to share the vision of a world-class cycling city that we set out in this brochure. A city which genuinely values cycling and the contribution it makes. A city which wants to see even higher levels of cycling, where cycling becomes a real alternative that even children and the infirm could safely use without the sort of dangers, or perceived dangers, that sometimes exist.

Why cycling?

Bicycles are just as much a legitimate form of transport as cars, buses, and motorbikes. Cyclists are just as much road users as those behind the wheel. We set out the numerous benefits of cycling.

Providing for cycling

Drivers will only be tempted out of cars if they see a better alternative. Cycling infrastructure that looks unsafe, is inappropriate, or appears slower than going by car will not encourage people to leave their cars at home and hop on a bike instead – only high-quality cycling conditions will tempt more people out of their cars. We outline aspects of good design which will facilitate this.

Bad infrastructure and the problems it causes

Cyclists suffer from badly designed infrastructure every day and this has a negative impact on encouraging more people out of their cars. Such infrastructure can be unsafe and inconvenient, and can encourage poor drivers to feel that cyclists have no right to use the roads. We want to see an end to substandard cycling provision, lessons must be learnt from past poor design and planners need to appreciate that poor cycling provision is worse than no cycling provision at all. We take a look at examples of bad infrastructure and explain the problems it causes.

Barriers to cycling

If cycling is to be encouraged, routes for cyclists need to be as direct as possible. There needs to be a positive benefit to them in terms of speed or convenience, preferably both. Just as with any other form of transport, anything which acts as a barrier is likely to deter them. Unfortunately, urban environments throw up all kinds of barriers to cycling. These can be mitigated through good street design, whilst bad design often creates new problems. We demonstrate this contrast.

Reallocation of road space

There is massive competition for road space in Cambridge. The way the city’s road space is used can have a major impact on encouraging cycling and it can make our neighbourhoods safer and more pleasant places to live. We outline how councillors and council officials need to bite the bullet and look seriously and creatively at ways of reallocating road space to benefit cyclists and pedestrians.

Area-wide Solutions: Primary Cycle Routes

In this section, we showcase the Chisholm Trail, our proposal for a major new cycleway that would run roughly alongside the railway, joining Addenbrooke’s to the Science Park and beyond. It would attract many new cyclists, and make many journeys that take perhaps 40 minutes by car cycleable in 10 minutes. We outline this and other schemes, and show the need for a cohesive, joined-up cycle network for the city.

Reducing, managing and taming traffic

Traffic is the single greatest danger to the cyclist, both in terms of its volume and speed. Cambridge is already heavily congested and many of its roads are not designed for such heavy car usage. Reducing traffic levels is probably the biggest challenge facing transport planners, but it must be achieved if we are to encourage greater cycle use. We summarise the possible solutions.

Legislation and its Enforcement

As traffic increases, road culture changes and the demands on our urban areas increase, the legislation encompassing road users needs to be looked at regularly and in depth, to ensure cyclists are being properly served by the law. There are several areas where changes in the law can make an important difference to cycling safety and, as a result, to cycling levels.

Cycle parking

Cycle parking is an essential tool in encouraging cycle use, reducing pavement obstructions and fighting the scourge of cycle theft. Cambridge is currently the worst city for bike theft in the UK outside London, a key problem needing urgent attention. We challenge the mindset that gives cyclists a much lower status in the provision of parking spaces compared to those for motorists, despite the positive role cycling plays in the city’s transport system.

Good design in cycle crossings

The Campaign wants to see crossings for cyclists working to the same principles afforded to motorists. Never again must the Gonville Crossing debacle occur. But Cambridge must go further, and create crossings according to continental-standard, best-practice designs.

New Developments Around Cambridge

Cambridge and the surrounding area will soon come under immense pressure from several new residential developments which are either being planned or built. From the Southern Fringe in the south to Arbury Park in the north, Marshall’s Airport site in the east and Northstowe in the west, the next few decades will see a major increase in housing, people and traffic. With new developments there is a clean sheet and the transport authorities and developers need to use this opportunity to get things right from the very beginning. Dovetailing with our Position Paper on New Developments, we make the case that it is essential to design high levels of cycle use into new developments and help encourage the kind of cycling culture which makes Cambridge such a unique city.

Martin Lucas-Smith