The Commission appointed by the County Council to review the proposed £500 million up-front investment in Cambridge’s transport system, including the controversial congestion charge, has reported broadly in favour of the scheme (www.cambstransportcommission.co.uk). We think this is extremely good news.
The report’s executive summary singled out cycling as an area for improvement. They also paid particular attention to getting the transport improvement message much more widely known, a key point in our submission to them. They recognised that there had been widespread lack of knowledge of anything other than the congestion charge proposal and a great deal of misinformation about that.
There’s still a long way to go yet though. The commissioners recognise that the government may withdraw the money because of its debt crisis. Councillors may not accept the Commission’s findings – especially as some councillors stood on a platform of opposition to the scheme in the recent elections.
The commissioners were especially enthusiastic about cycling. They said (in sections 3.60-3.65; the emphasis is theirs): ‘Cambridge is the bicycle capital of Britain… Whereas buses are not an “aspirational” form of transport for the better off, bicycles are to a significant degree used by the successful and higher-earning… We received convincing evidence … that suggested cycling use could increase further … there should be no assumed maximum for cycling as a proportion of all travel [as the County had suggested, at 40%]. The TIF bid promises extensive improvements for cyclists. New dedicated lanes and improvements to shared roads are a key element of the TIF objectives … which would almost certainly be the biggest-ever programme of its kind in the UK.’
They continued: ‘The Commission strongly supports this use of the TIF bid. Indeed, we would equally strongly support additional cycling measures whether or not the bid is accepted and funded. Cycling is an important element in Cambridge’s civic physiology.’
On the congestion charge, the Commission broadly supported the County Council’s approach of transport improvements first (including as a prerequisite the A14 ‘improvements’ and a station at Chesterton) and put back any possible start date to charging to beyond 2017 recognising that the recession has delayed the expected massive development of 73,000 new houses and 30,000 new jobs in the area. However, they also said that perhaps a charge might not be needed at all. Would all carrot and no stick work?