Tuesday 2 July 2013

Cycling Summit - What do we want?

Cambridgeshire County Council Cycling Summit is being held this week. No doubt you're assuming that I'm going to be a grumpy so and so about it, but that isn't my intention. No need to get grumpy unless there is a need to be grumpy, like the summit being held in the middle of nowhere or something. You know, somewhere that sounds like a really good idea if everyone is going to be driving there but is going to be a real challenge by public transport. Oh...

That aside, I think its fair to put forward what goals I think we should have. I've made a start to that with the Cycle Lane Manifesto posts here and here. Frankly I think that the biggest question our County Council must answer (a question that I believe Cambridge and Ely Cyling Campaigns must address) is a very simple one. 

Cambridge (and the surrounding county) are ideal cycling territory. Its flat. Its dry. Demographically Cambridge is the perfect cyclist city - it is dominated by the University, it is compact, its got lots of small, technologically advanced companies in surrounding cluster. In short, if we're not going to install top quality cycling facilities as standard here, and now, then where and when will this happen? We're in the midst of what we're told is a cycling revolution yet we're frittering away what funds we have on bad schemes that don't link up to form a greater whole that encourages cycling. So if we're not going to do it now, when? Why NOT now? And why should cyclists sign up to anything but the best?

Despite a more or less apathetic approach from county and city councillors here (who think that its appropriate to target cyclists who break the law because the roads are lethally dangerous) Cambridge is our cycling capital. A higher percentage of trips are by bike than elsewhere. What a fabulous platform to become not just the best in the UK, but a world leader for cycling. We have that within our grasp - if we can get where we are with crap infrastructure where will we get if we do it right?

Does the County share that vision? Yes or no. If not, what IS the vision the County has? Where is cycling in 5 years time? Where is it 10 years from now? 20 years from now? 

There are some specific areas I think we can look at to get into this. A good one is the A14 - we're allegedly about to spend £1.5bn on it - so that means safe, segregated cycle facilities that for the first time link Bar Hill and other villages along the A14 to Cambridge to give rapid, safe transit for cyclists, pedestrians and mobility scooters..? Yes, and cycling is demonstrably something the County takes seriously, or no, we're all mouth and no trousers on cycling?

A few simple, easy questions really. Is the county serious on cycling or are they all hot air?


  1. It would be helpful if the Council could also finish some of the point to point routes that have been started. The Impington - Milton cycleway only makes it halfway along Butt Lane. The Horningsea - Fen Ditton cycleway has a dangerous junction to cross (slip road onto A14) and a narrow pavement near the Fen Ditton School it is supposed to facilitate access to.

    The A14 upgrade is £1.5Bn (rather than $1.5Bn). It would be a disgrace if they didn't sort out decent segregated cycling access. My fear is that the villages along the way will become even more car-locked.

    1. Broken auto-correct now corrected. $ for £? Dunno why. Thanks!

      Yes, I entirely agree that a partial solution to cycle routes is the wrong idea. A journey is as good as its worst junction - all too often we get cycle lanes on the 'easy' bits and fail wherever we really need the protection. Impington to Histon is a good example, Horningsea to Ditton a better one (the A14 junction is especially hostile).

  2. Where is cycling in five years' time? A very good question. Another one in a similar vein would be, Where is cycling in a year's time?

    In the foreword to Cycling: the way ahead, the European Commissioner with responsibility for the environment at that time, Ritt Bjerregaard, made the point that the essential thing is to take the first step. As Madame du Deffand (1697 - 1780) explained: "The distance doesn’t matter; it is only the first step that is difficult."