Cycling Demonstration Town (with a necklace)

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 79.

Cambridge and its necklace villages

Several years ago ‘Cycling England’, with funding from the Department for Transport (DfT), established a series of ‘Cycling Demonstration Towns’. Extra funding was pumped in and various experiments conducted to see how the levels of cycling could be increased and what benefits they would bring. The early results have been very positive.

Earlier this year funding for a second tranche, including a ‘Cycling City’, was announced and bids were invited from suitable candidates. In April we were pleased to hear that Cambridgeshire was to submit a bid, not as a City (it isn’t big enough) but for Cambridge and its ‘necklace’ villages. The necklace is pretty big including not only the traditional ring of small villages, but also those as far out as Sawston and Cottenham.

Why Cambridge?

Although Cambridge has traditionally had high levels of cycling, the expansion of the ‘tradition’ into the new urban fringe may prove difficult without special measures. In addition, although motor traffic within Cambridge has been stabilised, the above-average rise in traffic outside the city threatens the viability of cycling both for leisure and utility trips. It could be a good model to show how to tackle such problems elsewhere.

There has been slightly more rapid progress with this bid than with the bid linked with congestion charging for Transport Infrastructure Funding (TIF). In June you will almost certainly have seen that Bristol won the ‘City’ bid, but less was said about the other winners. Cambridge won one of the places for ‘Towns’, and for completeness the others were: Blackpool, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend on Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke on Trent, Woking and York.

This means that in Cambridge and around, some six million pounds should be dedicated to cycling over the next three years. Half of this will be direct from DfT (via Cycling England) with the other half from development levies (S106) and the local transport plan (LTP). It is unclear how much of this second half will be ‘new’ money, and it is a question we will ask.

So what happens next?

The submitted bid will have some fine tuning to ensure objectives are achievable, but one major item is that ‘Bikeability’ training will be delivered for all school children within the area, and a number of schemes, such as improvements to ‘The Tins’ (the path to Cherry Hinton that crosses the railway), should be completed early.

Other headline items:

  • One of the ‘prerequisites’ is that schemes should pass the Cycling England ‘Design Checklist’
  • Marketing will have a higher profile. Should cyclists be treated as ‘customers’, as Park and Ride Users are?
  • Monitoring will also have a higher profile, so perhaps we’ll even get an ‘Origin and Destination’ survey of cyclists.

It is very early days, and to manage a programme of this size extra staff will need to be recruited, and a ‘Steering Group’ will also be required.

Implicit in the ‘Information for Bidders’ is a technical requirement: “to restrain traffic volumes and speeds and to give advantage to cyclists”.

We sincerely hope that Cambridge will also offer good opportunities for innovative schemes to be tested, such as advance signals for cyclists, hybrid cycle lanes, and new types of signing etc. With levels of cycling far in excess of most towns and exceeded by none, evaluation of such innovations could be a rapid process.

Jim Chisholm