Farewell to Chief Executive for Environment Services

This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 89.

Brian Smith has held the senior officer post in the Environment and Transport field as long as I’ve been campaigning on such issues in Cambridge. He is retiring from this post at the end of March.

As campaigners ‘for better, safer and more cycling in and around Cambridge’ we’ve often complained that officers have dragged their feet over issues such as standards, re-allocation of road space, and speed reduction. Some members even think the County is out to get us, but in reality this is far from being the case.

Brian Smith has led a team of officers who have proposed pro-pedestrian, pro-cyclist and pro-bus solutions which can be difficult to sell to voters and sometimes even councillors living in the rural areas of Cambridgeshire. The road closure in Bridge Street was one such early scheme, which many saw as denying a fundamental right to drive in the city. We mounted a very strong campaign in support of these proposals, which resulted in a large number of postcards in support arriving on officers’ desks. Brian Smith now admits publicly what we’d heard in private, that it was only the strong support from the Campaign that persuaded councillors to support the closure.

Who would now suggest all bollards should be removed so that motor traffic should have free access to such areas as Sidney Street and Trinity Street?

The changes on Hills Road bridge are the most recent example where senior officers have been brave in making pro-cycling and pro-pedestrian decisions. We hope that, in the future, this scheme will be seen nationally as an excellent example of the benefits of road space re-allocation. Officers do need to lead, rather than follow public opinion.

Brian Smith praised the Campaign at the recent meeting in Cambridge of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling, saying that we were the County’s sternest critics yet sometimes their strongest supporter. Given the significant moves nationally showing the benefits of sustainable transport, we hope the council will appoint as his successor someone who will be as brave on key issues such as reduced speed limits and reallocation of roadspace (principally removal of car parking on main routes used for cycling).

We wish Brian Smith a long and happy retirement.

Jim Chisholm