Friday 30 August 2013

Cambridge Motorists Are not in a Pickle

Interesting to see that this news story is getting quite a bit of attention from cycling aficionados across the UK.
A Cabinet minister has lashed out at Cambridge’s high car parking charges and warned councils not to force the transport choices of the “elite” on the rest of the population.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles told the News this week that his call for local authorities to ditch their “anti-car dogma” very much applied to the city and said efforts to improve cycling provision should not completely override concern for motorists.
Mr. Pickles is implying that we're favouring cyclists in a way that not only disadvantages motorists, but actually completely overrides their concerns.

Lets just take a moment to think that through. Is Cambridge a place that actively seeks to put cyclists first, even to the point where motorists will be actively disadvantaged?

Well we don't expend any effort to prevent people parking on the pavement or in cycle lanes. We can't even keep cars off cycle bridges that cannot physically be used to carry them. Our current road 'improvement' projects do not give us high quality cycle facilities, and fail to prioritise cycling over any form of car use at any point. Indeed road space allocation does not reflect the number of road users using different modes of transport, with cyclists being massively disadvantaged in this regard. Expenditure on cycling over the entire County is a trivial fraction of spending on one road, the A14, from which we are effectively excluded. On those rare routes that SHOULD be good for us, even removing barriers to pleasant riding thereon is viewed as strangely controversial. On roads with high cyclist accident rates, and very high cycling rates in general, we still fail to put them first in junction design, selling cyclists out by spending specific cycling safety money on sub-standard facilities. 

The local police force do not consider crimes against cyclists (close passes, intimidation or theft for example) worthy of recording or demonstrating clear-up of. They do however think recording incidents of people throwing things at cars is important. Our police commissioner is openly ignorant on the rate of cyclists breaking the law and the risks associated therewith, but still chooses to target us. Hardly surprising that our police force will sometimes stake our cycle lanes that end with no warning, where transferring on to the road is neither rational nor safe, and arrest cyclists who can't possibly know they're breaking the law.

Getting councillors to take the issues cyclist face seriously is an uphill struggle. There are some good eggs, but all too often trying not to die is seen as antisocial, and they set the police on us for it. Many of our councillors seem to want to be nasty to cyclists out of some misguided sense of balance.

This is a city where private companies publicly threaten to destroy your bicycle and no one in any position of authority in the City or County Councils, or the Police, cares. Where even the cycle routes raised as gold-standard by our authorities are not considered safe enough by school children who instead choose to ride on the massively wide pavements and grass verges that could be used to make the route genuinely top quality.

Mr. Pickles bases his argument, it seems, on conjecture and the fact that if you park in a short stay car park for a long time its quite expensive. Yes, Mr. Pickles, thats because its a short stay car park.

No fair analysis of Mr. Pickles argument shows him to be correct. If you ever see Cambridge without windscreen wipers in the way you can't possibly agree with Pickles.

But lets not be too unfair on him. Maybe he just needs another perspective - on the absurdly remote chance you read this Mr. Pickles, I invite you here, to Cambridge, to come out for a ride with me. We'll tour about a bit, see what you think after that. If anyone has his ear, pass this on to him.


  1. Pickles was in my local rag (Brentwood weekly news) last week going on about ditching "anti car" measures such as speed humps. I prefer them being called something like "pro pedestrian" or "pro children" measures. He's a first class muppet who presumably gets out of breath if he parks too far from the kerb.

  2. Mr Pickles is just another pompous snob who thinks cyclists are peasants.