This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 91.
Gilbert Road: public interest wins out over privilege
At long last, the decades-long saga of Gilbert Road is over. Councillors, after much deliberation, have decided that the needs of thousands of road users override the privilege for 20-30 residents of having a third parking space outside their house.
The County Council Cabinet Meeting on 15 June was again well-attended, with audience mutterings at every point, as if to make clear that the Councillors’ decisions were being carefully scrutinised (and sometimes disagreed with) by the residents.
James Woodburn from the Campaign read out our speech. At one point, when emphasising that the scheme would increase levels of legal and responsible cycling, a hushed chorus of some of the residents expressed cynicism, as if to say ‘but cyclists just break the law’. By contrast, at another point in the meeting, when a statement was read out that the average speed of drivers was above the speed limit, i.e. the majority of motorists break the
law in a dangerous manner, there was no such negative reaction.
Why is it that cyclists breaking the law is considered a problem, but that motorists speeding is not?
The Gilbert Road Subgroup has worked hard on this issue, and the support of many others, including the local schools, was instrumental in getting the County Councillors to see that the correct solution was the addition of yellow lines to stop motorists parking in the cycle lanes.
Councillors decided not to include speed reduction measures, despite the existing law-breaking, in the hope that cycle lanes would be enough, thanks to a last-minute intervention by Councillor Todd-Jones.
I predict that within a year of the cycle lanes being added, residents will be calling for speed reduction measures. By that point, there will be no money, and a colossal own-goal will have been scored.
Just before going to press, news of a plan to govern developer changes in Newmarket Road came in. The area in the vicinity of the East Road roundabout is arguably one of the worst in Cambridge for transport and the urban environment. It is a classic of 1970s urban design – with the underpass turning out to be a decidedly anti-pedestrian measure. The new plans propose replacing the current roundabout (with its traffic lights) with a standard signal-controlled crossing, and to free up space in the area for pedestrians and other public use. We will be scrutinising the plans closely once they go out to public consultation, but they look extremely positive at first glance.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator