Local election 2008 candidate survey

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 78.

As last year, the Committee took the decision this year to see what candidates standing for election as local councillors thought about cycling (and walking) issues. We again received a good response, with over half those standing responding.

Half of each survey was based on cycling issues which affect all areas, namely cycling promotion, the vast shortage of cycle parking, and the need for enforcement against traffic offences (including those committed by rogue cyclists). A selection of the questions can be seen in the boxes below.

Ballot box

We covered each of the 14 city wards, as well as Girton and Histon & Impington wards (both of which are in South Cambridgeshire).

We did the survey on-line so that constituents – including our members – in each ward (rather than merely our Campaign’s Committee) could see what each candidate thinks. Voters could then take these views into account alongside other issues of concern to them. Naturally, we took care to contact every candidate in each ward equally, as well as notifying their agents, should letters get lost in the post.

Generalised questions

Firstly, here are a few of the more generalised questions we asked in every ward.

Cycling offers a huge opportunity to reduce motor traffic and free up road space. Do you have any suggestions for additional cycling promotion activities that the Council could do?

This question resulted in lots of good ideas. Some respondents rightly pointed out that the City Council was not often in a position to deliver such ideas, but the intent of our question was to get candidates interested and talking about these issues, and to press where relevant for their implementation with their County Council colleagues.

Do you support our view that traffic policing (including fining of cyclists without lights or using pedestrian-only pavements) should become a greater police priority?

Candidates naturally supported our stance on responsible cycling, but, in the main, felt that other crime issues were deserving of greater priority. Most seemed to give a well-balanced answer that recognised the relative seriousness of these crimes, but like us, wanted to see increased police activity to deal with irresponsible cycling.

We are seeking a trial of a new type of cycle provision in the city – ‘hybrid cycle lanes’, as used in Holland and Germany. These are 2-3m wide, on-road but with a degree of separation from other vehicles. They combine the best aspects of both off-road and on-road cycle lanes but without the downsides of both. The picture on our website illustrates the concept. What do you feel about this idea, and is there anywhere in your ward where you think these could be tried?

A good number of candidates liked the idea of hybrid cycle lanes, recognising the benefits for both experienced and less-experienced cyclists.
Image as described adjacent

A good number of candidates liked this idea, recognising the benefits for both experienced and less-experienced cyclists. However, few were able to identify potential locations, though Gilbert Road and a few other key strategic locations were mentioned. Many correctly noted, however, that these would be ideal for the New Developments which do not have the same space constraints.

In our own view, there certainly are locations around the city where these could be tried, e.g. Cherry Hinton Road, but this would require proper funding so that good-quality provision can be created. Furthermore, there could be some loss of car parking, which candidates failed in general to recognise was in many places a necessity if genuinely good-quality cycling conditions are to be achieved, with hybrid cycle lanes or otherwise.

If the County Council’s proposed Congestion Charge goes ahead, it is likely that the free, up-front money that would be received from the government to support prior improvements to public transport and cycling would be of the order of some £100m a year for four years. This is roughly ten times the amount the county currently receives for transport. If the scheme goes ahead, what would be your priorities for use of this up-front money?

Some candidates used this question as an excuse to express their opposition to congestion charging rather than actually answering the question. We posed this question as we felt many candidates were likely to be simply unaware of the scale of investment proposed.

The majority of candidates gave a range of sensible uses for the money centred around better cycling facilities and public transport. Several made clear their opposition to the use of this scheme for general road building or widening, possibly referring to the (now quashed) suggestion of an Ely bypass.

Ward-specific questions

We were keen to ensure that a range of ward-specific questions were put forward. This helped to ensure that the survey dealt with local issues of relevance to each candidate. Here are a small selection.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign is promoting a new route for pedestrians and cyclists called the ‘Chisholm Trail’, alongside the railway, joining up many journey destinations between Addenbrooke’s to the south and the Science Park to the north. This would make many journeys much quicker. Do you support this in principle?

There was a lot of support for this, and we hope to capitalise on this, following the public launch of Cycling 2020 which includes the Chisholm Trail as a key proposal.

At present, permitted car parking in cycle lanes on Gilbert Road makes cycling unpleasant and unsafe in an area through which thousands of school children travel daily. Given that virtually all houses have their own off-road car parking, would you support the replacement of the on-road parking on Gilbert Road with on-road red mandatory cycle lanes?

The one candidate in Arbury that kindly responded on this question did not support the proposition, preferring the current abysmal situation to be dealt with by widening the pavement to include a cycle path, noting that that although virtually all houses have off-road parking, there were still a few that did not.

Most of the West Chesterton candidates did answer this question. Two (including the one who was elected and is the Leader of the City Council) supported it and felt it “could be introduced relatively quickly and inexpensively”. That candidate also mentioned the possibility of the hybrid option here, which we feel is definitely worthy of consideration.

We feel the needs of cyclists and in particular children should take priority here on what is a key route that could have high-quality cycling provision rather than shared-use paths.

The full sets of questions and answers from each candidate are on our website, and we are happy to print out copies of the responses for each ward for members upon request, if you do not have internet access.

We are extremely grateful to all candidates for their time at such a busy period. The responses were fairly equally distributed across all the political parties that had representatives standing.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign is of course a non-partisan body and we did not endorse any specific political party or candidate.