Monday 1 July 2013

A14 Downgraded. For Cyclists, at least.

Apparently its happening, this A14 upgrade. I say 'apparently' because we've been here before - about this time in the last parliament we were getting an A14 upgrade too and that didn't happen.

This time we're getting it though. No, really. Unless the whole point of this announcement is to put it after the next election so Labour kill it because there's no money, like the Labour party did with their announcement before the last election. Oh, and it'll be new-spangled hi-tec too - cameras will enforce a toll. Hooray, you're all saying, something to look forward to, a bunch of half asleep motorists trying to pay a toll with their smartphone as they juggle the steering wheel and a hot coffee too. 

Consider whats being proposed for the route in to Cambridge. According to the above news stories, we're looking at three lanes in either direction, with four in each direction in the run up to Cambridge. Yes thats an A road with four lanes in either direction. Why, no, now you come to ask, there ISN'T any provision for ANYONE who isn't in a car. Thats right, if you're on a mobility scooter or a bike, our road planners would like you to go and feck yourself; you're not welcome on this A road - you can legally use it but they're designing it in such a way as to make that as near an impossibility as they can.

The A14 is a motorway in all but name. This plan turns it in to one of our busiest, noisiest and dirtiest motorways - the idea is we're going to move the traffic more efficiently along the road and ram it up at each of the bottlenecks that currently cause delays. Or, in other words, we're increasing the capacity of the road but doing less to reduce journey times than we would by getting people out of their cars onto other forms of transport. We've given up on policing to keep the A14 as it currently is 'safe' for motorists because thy can't, as a rule, be trusted; we're going to give them more tarmac to overtake each other to get stuck in queues on the way into the city. We're giving up getting people on to their bikes and on to the bus - we're surrendering to the car. 

Lets be clear - offering cyclists very long, alternative routes to the A14 heading through half a dozen villages, adding many miles to a journey because an A road has been made too hazarous to ride on is not a solution. By all means widen this major road, but as part of the scheme give us safe, segregated cycleways alongside - at least as far as Bar Hill, ideally as far as Fenstanton or Huntingdon. There is massive scope to reduce the amount of traffic on the A14 if we can get cycling rates from Bar Hill to Cambridge (currently approaching 0%) up to the average for trips in the City - 20-25%. Its only three or four miles away - the equivalent distance of Arbury down to Addenbrokes, a perfectly achievable cycle commute. 

The A14 needs improving. Improving it only for cars, while being welcomed vocally by our local politicians and journalists, excludes a large proportion of people in Cambridge who choose to travel by a greener, healthier, and quieter mode of travel. This actually takes the A14 from being at the outer limit of common sense for cycling and makes it into a complete physical barrier. 

Will any of our news reporters and/or politicians realise the political mileage there is for them in standing up for cyclists? Hey, Julian Huppert, what about you? You claim to be pro-cycling, why aren't you fighting our corner on this one? How about the big man on the county council these days, Martin Curtis, going to grow a pair and demand that cyclists are for once a priority or is this yet another example of a scheme where you can't go 'all the way' (or in fact anywhere at all) for cyclists? 

As we approach the next general election, lets get real with this kind of campaign; we're not just cyclists, we're potentially a powerful voting block who are being ignored. Or, rather, marginalised.

Want my vote? Lets discuss what you'll do to make the A14 safe. For me. 


  1. It's grim, isn't it? £1.5 billion can be found to turn the A14 into a wider car park, but £180,000 for a safe cycle route from Bar Hill to Cambridge cannot.

  2. There's a news item on the BBC today that some Chinese gentleman riding a rickshaw around the world was stopped on the A14 for causing a traffic queue; the police then had to admit he wasn't breaking any laws and he was allowed to ride there, so let him carry on his way.

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