This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 82.
What does ‘supporting cycling’ really mean?
Those of you who have been following the saga of allowing two-way cycling in the minor streets of Petersfield (see article) will be aware of the politicisation of this issue by some of the local Councillors for the area. We as a group of volunteers have had to spend much time arguing against some anti-cycling attitudes.
From what was said at the meeting, it seems that one of the Councillors concerned seems to accept the principle of two-way cycling, if the signage issues – which we agree are problematic – can be resolved in a reasonably satisfactory manner. By contrast, the other Councillors simply don’t seem to like cyclists to be able to cycle in two directions on these streets. They are no doubt aware that they are in the minority here, having suffered a failed Council vote and come up against our larger petition.
The signage situation is not helped by the attitudes of some County Council officers who seem to be trying to resist even the compromise proposals we have put forward. The risk is that the current layouts will remain with the problems of illegal motoring remaining.
One supportive Councillor has said that, even though there are signage problems, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and that two-way cycling itself is fundamentally not problematic. We couldn’t agree more. Allowing cycling down lightly trafficked streets to avoid the hazards of Mill Road, and make longer journeys shorter, is a simple and safe way to increase levels of cycling.
The leaflet from the Councillor opposing two-way streets claims that they support cycling. But this cannot be taken at face value, based on what has been said on this issue. If that were the case, the leaflet would have contained a clear statement in favour of the principle of two-way cycling, a condemnation of the illegal motoring that is causing the problems (which local residents have rightly complained to them about), and a statement that they have been trying to persuade their own government of the need to allow the straightforward ‘No entry except cycles’ signage that we and practically every cycling group around the country has been pushing for.
Supporting cycling means making hard choices that will result in changes that, admittedly, some people may not like, but from which the many people in Cambridge who cycle will benefit. If we can’t get tiny changes like this one made, what hope is there for the more radical and cycle-friendly proposals we outlined in our Cycling 2020 vision document?
Bike theft a priority for community safety partnership
A report sent to Councillors about the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership Plan for the coming three years said bike theft would not be treated as a priority issue. We wrote to Councillors on this, pointing out that bike theft is still a very large problem all around the city. It is therefore good to report that the Committee decided to make cycle theft a priority following a motion that Councillor Lewis Herbert put forward. Councillors are to be thanked for listening to our pleas.
Do the police want to tackle road danger?
Anyone following the saga of Hills Road would be hard-pressed to say ‘yes’ on this issue.
The change to two 3m lanes on the Bridge is unavoidable because of the works for the Guided Bus. Everyone accepts that. The question is how to manage the fact that this means there is not space for motorists to overtake cyclists here. People need to accept that a short delay to their journey may happen here, and cyclists who are not confident to use the road should dismount and walk.
The police say, ‘We do have a duty to protect the pedestrians as well as cyclists’, a principle that we strongly support. We argued clearly against allowing the pavement to be made shared-use for cycling during these works. But the point is that the police have taken NO action at all to protect cyclists being overtaken. The ‘as well’ bit is nonsense.
We are strongly in favour of cracking down on illegal and inconsiderate cycling, and we unambiguously want to see more resources put into this. But this has to be balanced with action to stop driver behaviour on the roads that cause real danger, such as overtaking an uphill-moving cyclist on a 3m-wide stretch of road.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator