Tuesday 5 March 2013

Catholic Church Junction - Failure Planned

Today plans substantially like that but with the slight improvement that we might get advance lights for cyclists were approved by the County Council.

Or in other words they aim to spend £900k, including £450k supposedly earmarked for safety, on nothing of very much interest to cyclists. No reallocation of road space. No safe routes. On one of the most serious cycling accident blackspots in the city and they couldn't even paint cycle lanes on all the wide, open approaches.

So another failure for the consultation process - apparently about half of those who expressed a view supported this proposal so thats okay then. With so few concessions for safe cycling this will neither encourage more people out on to bikes nor will it make the junction safer - an advance stop box with advance lights that I can't get to because of two solid streams of traffic is of no use to me. But more important than that is that once again this plan fails to take into account those who really would benefit from a genuinely cycle friendly scheme - those who don't cycle because the roads are too hostile. This doesn't tame the road space - it doesn't even change it very much.

Once again I find myself wondering who cycle facilities are for. They're not being built for me - I'd need to be physically restrained to keep me from cycling. Faffing about a bit making the roads trivially less hostile for me and my kind... So what? Really, so fecking what? I'm not the target audience here.

I'm struck by a comment attributed to Councillor Curtis, the County Council Cycling Champion. Apparently "we can't go all the way this time". This time? On what occasion did our county council go 'all the way' for cyclists? It sure as hell wasn't on Gilbert Road, where there is ample space for truly high class cycle infrastructure but all we got was slightly better cycle lanes. Its not on Milton Road or Arbury Road where the police target cyclists at the unlabelled end of a shared use path to stop them riding on in safety where they  must instead ride on a killer of a road. Certainly not as you ride down towards Mitchams Corner where the cycle facilities disappear wherever you may need them. Nor on Mill Road where we've not only got no cycle facilities but the 20mph limit must be regarded as a joke by a police force who flat out don't enforce it. We be talking about the Guided Bus Cycle path that spends so long under water cyclists are forced to ride on a hazardous bus track because, quite literally, there is no other alternative route?

The truth is that in Cambridgeshire we never go 'all the way' for cycling. Not ever. There is no example of a road where we've put cycling first, where getting safe cycling has been the top priority. We're always way down the list, which means we're left with a derisory patchwork of bad to passable infrastructure joined together by lethal junctions. Outside the reality bubble that is Cambridge City Centre we quickly revert to being just as bad as everywhere else in the UK, as evidenced by how few people cycle in to Cambridge from outside the City. I'm forced to ask why we even have a cycling 'champion'.

Our supposed Cycling Champion didn't go 'all the way' for cycling because he, like the rest of our County Council, is failing the cyclists of this county, and in so doing failing to tackle congestion, pollution and obesity. Our County Council are therefore failing everyone within the county - they fail to give us the fair choice to ride safely, because ultimately they do not believe in cycling as a form of transport.

And after all this? Cambridge Cycling Campaign (who to their credit opposed this abysmal scheme) and the County Council will revert to smug back slapping. And there will be no substantial improvement, at least at this junction, for another generation. Still, drums up business for the NHS, I suppose.


  1. Ah yes, that junction. It was on my commuting route for several years when I lived in Cambridge. Horrid by bike, and as you point out, the council does indeed seem committed to doing nothing like enough to fix the problems that occur there for cyclists.

    As you probably know, we've been organising study tours for many years. Unfortunately, no-one from the planning team in Cambridge and no councilors from Cambridge have ever been able to attend. Diaries always seem to be full, even when we have offered in the past to do an extra tour on any date of their choosing.

    Overall, Cambridge is a nice place. It is a crying shame that road design plays such a part in what is wrong with the city.

    The roads in Cambridge degrade the quality of life of everyone who lives in the city. It's not only "cyclists" who are affected, but also parents who have to work as unpaid taxi drivers because they can't let their children travel alone, those same children who would like more freedom but who don't get it because they're not allowed out on their own, people who live on a "rat-run" and wish they did not, and also the everyday driver who doesn't see an alternative but to drive because nothing else feels safe but for whom it's not a stressful experience.

    The offer is still open. I'd be very pleased to show a group of planners and councillors from Cambridge what genuine state of the art infrastructure looks like, how it is contiguous and comfortable to use and how this changes the way in which people behave.

    Cambridge could be a genuine beacon for cycling within the UK, instead of being largely an anomaly resulting from a lucky demographic accident. However, to get to this point requires a real change in the way that things are done, not just more business as usual.

    1. I agree that we need to make our cycling provision better and more continuous; as you know the main area I disagree with you is while thats a major part of what we need, we also need to address how unpleasant the roads themselves are. No journey will be entirely off road - we have to make connection to and from cycle infrastructure rideable too. I see that as equally important - a cycle trip is only as pleasant as its worst junction.

      But for me this hilights a greater problem in Cambridgeshire planning. By UK standards of course Cambridge is way ahead for cycling, and thats with next to no funding and, fundamentally, mostly crap infrastructure. Where is there the ambition to turn Cambridge from being good by British standards into the global leader for cycling that it can and should be? Why are our County and City councils prepared to sit back and achieve next to nothing for cyclists when we could quite credibly lead the world? How can they possibly be so lacking in vision?

      The answer is simple enough - our councillors, especially at county level, see the world as motorists. Rural Cambridgeshire County Councillors see Cambridge purely as somewhere to drive to, to park at, and to shop in. They see cyclists as an inconvenience, as parasites. They see us as something to plan around rather than plan for - they'd be happier planning us out entirely. And if you think the councillors are bad, look up our new police commissioner...

    2. Cab, I don't know why you think I disagree with you regarding "as pleasant as its worst junction". That's very much the point of my argument.

      It's a mystery to me why you think we disagree because I don't see the source of the disagreement. I have always been quite clear that cycling provision does not always mean cycle-paths. A range of measures are necessary.

      You'll find many posts on my blog which show how cyclists are separated from motor vehicles even without cycle-paths in the Netherlands. A very deliberate policy of unravelling of cycle routes from driving routes has lead to a vast proportion of the total road network being unused by motor vehicles except for access by residents. Rat-running has virtually been eliminated because residential streets, both old and new, no longer function as through routes.

      It's not perfect here. There remains work to be done. However, there are very few unpleasant junctions in the Netherlands for cyclists. So few that they tend not to be noticed. If there were common as they are in the UK then the Dutch would be a lot less keen on cycling than they are.

      As for Cambridgeshire planning, yes they are incredibly unambitious. It seems the powers that be are happy to sit on their laurels and pretend that what Cambridge has is somehow due to them. It's not good enough.

      If the city became proactive, I agree with you that Cambridge could lead the entire world in cycling. The city has the most amazing demographic advantage over pretty much anywhere else. Cycling comes easy to Cambridge and with the correct investment Cambridge could vie with and perhaps beat Groningen.

      Groningen, btw, also is a little too complacent about their place in the world. However, a difference between Groningen and Cambridge is that campaigners in Groningen complain loudly about it.

    3. David, its because we've discussed this before, specifically with reference to some of the cycle routes within Cambridge; my position is that, say, the shared use routes within Kings Hedges are for the most part pretty good considering the fact that they're quiet and open - these routes don't act as a disincentive for cycling, but even a few metres on Arbury Road puts the most dogged of us off. You've disagreed with me regarding my stance on the shared use :)

    4. You've either got the wrong guy, or you've seriously misunderstood my opinion.

      Six years ago I wrote an article for the Camcycle Newsletter making exactly the point that you just have !

      The Kings Hedges paths are indeed "pretty good considering" but they don't link properly to other places in large part because other places have been designed almost specifically to avoid doing so.

      The slightly longer version of the same article on my own website includes a map which makes the point about not joining up.

      And yes, I also agree that Arbury Road is horrible to cycle on.

  2. But... but... but Cambridgeshire County Council's Local Transport Plan clearly puts walking and cycling at the top of their 'user hierarchy' -- and private cars are at the bottom.

    Surely you're not suggesting that the Council would ignore their own policy, are you? This must all be lies. Lies, I tell you!

    See figure 4.2 here. Or maybe I'm reading it the wrong way round, and the lowest priority users are at the top?

    1. They tore that up and wiped their arses on it. Quite simply thats meant to be a nice bit of paper to show us all they care while blatantly planning solely around drivers :(

    2. Ah yes, the thought that journeys by car must be more 'important' will creep in again. What's needed, I think, is to redefine based on stress for those who live in the city. Pedestrians give the lowest stress on the city, and heavy motorized traffic the highest. Hence the goal should be on livability, not on motoring efficiency. This would take a paradigm shift, of course, the oil tanker turnaround. Luckily it has proven to work out alright(in the long run)for all parties concerned.
      The arse wiping clearly shows how good intentions easily revert back to the status quo. Hopefully, with London recently setting the example, change will now be considered properly?

  3. The reasoning seems to be that they can't do something radical here as it would upset traffic flow at other locations, and they don't have a plan for how to deal with that. To which I respond WHY THE HELL NOT? It hioghlights that there's a need for a detailed plan of what a pro-pedestrian and cycle road network could be for the whole of Cambridge- so that it can be implemented. The lack of such a plan has just been used here to do basically fuck all.

    1. That reasoning is based on the simple assumption that journeys made by motorists are of greater value than those made by cyclists and pedestrians. When it comes down to it the convenience of drivers has been given greater value than the lives of cyclists. Anything else is simply rationalisation of simple car-centric prejudice from the County Council - they despise us, as is evidenced by the fact that there is not one single example of them getting cycling provision right in the county.

    2. I agree, the basic assumption is all wrong. The thinking that lots of traffic flowing through the city is good for a city is faulty. That instead priority should be given to those modes of transport the least burdensome for a city is apparently still way too radical. I suppose that is because indeed tinkering on one place would mean revising larger parts of the grid. But just because something is hard to do should not mean that is an excuse not to do anything at all, is it?

  4. I have written to Huppert to ask how I can petition the DfT against the use of cycle safety funding for this project.

    1. Good stuff. Keep us all posted as to how you get on with that. Has Huppert commented at all on plans for junction?