This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 89.
The saga of Gilbert Road
The decade-long saga of the Gilbert Road cycle lanes will, we hope, be resolved in April when, at long last, County Council Cabinet members are due to make a final decision on this scheme (see later in this Newsletter). We presented our petition, and heard an opposing petition, at a meeting in February, where residents tried to defend the privilege of parking on-street in an area where practically every house has one, if not two, off-street parking spaces.
It must surely be unacceptable in a city like Cambridge that some thirty parked cars should be seen as more important than the safety of potentially thousands of daily users of this route. Cycling levels could increase markedly, particularly amongst schoolchildren, if dodging parked cars ceased to be the challenge it currently is.
What was most noticeable about the residents’ petition, and indeed the debate by councillors which followed, is that it did not actually discuss the issues. Only the introductory summary by the lead councillor for the issue really covered the issues at stake. Instead, it was a debate about how many people said what. Not once was there any serious attempt by those opposing this scheme to address the safety issues which are manifestly present all along this road.
Our stance, by comparison, is about the principle of improving safety for the majority. Gilbert Road is not an isolated island whose interests are solely the preserve of people who live there. It is also a heavily-used cycle route with many schools in the area. The rate of children cycling to school could be much higher if the challenge of having to weave in and out of cars parked in the existing useless cycle lanes were removed.
The fact that some people consider it acceptable to park in the current advisory cycle lanes, although it is admittedly legal to do so, shows a disappointing lack of public-spiritedness. Several people have also commented to me how the debate also highlights the view – which needs to be challenged – that the public space outside one’s house is somehow an extension of one’s personal property.
Ironically, the overall level of support for the scheme clearly outnumbered the local (and vocal) residents’ opposition, but the decision was deferred to see if a ‘third way’ can be found. It will not be – for this issue has been debated for a good ten years. It simply needs councillors to bite the bullet and accept that there are wider interests involved than just those of the residents, and show that improving the cycling conditions here will not cause as many problems as some residents might assume. We hope that councillors will do so.
More parking equity issues
Residents of a few streets in Romsey have been leafleted by the council with proposals to introduce cycle parking in the area. Anyone who lives or uses the area will know how every possible bit of public space is taken up by car parking, and that there is zero cycle parking in these residential streets. This represents a real equity issue.
The proposals in one street are to replace one or two car parking spaces (out of around 100 spaces) in favour of cycle parking. We strongly support this. It will demonstrate the demand for cycle parking and show how residents will be able to manage. The turnover of property sales in the area means that the loss of car parking should be manageable. And at long last, cyclists will start to get space to park.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator