Al at the Cycling Campaign asked for my answers to their election survey. So, here goes...
What experience do you and your family have of cycling? Do you have any different concerns about younger or older family members cycling than you do for yourself?
I ride a bike more or less wherever I go and always have, as does my partner. Its just how we get around - we've chunky bikes for carrying a load, light bikes for faster travel longer distances, and other bikes in-between. We commute, go out for fun, go to the shops, to the allotment, everywhere else more or less by bike. To stop us riding you'd have to physically staple us to the floor, so to understand the concerns others have cycling we have to be attentive to their needs - I see a bike not only as transport but as an excellent mobility aid. Bikes have been great facilitators for us both through periods of injury and poor health, and I acknowledge that for kids and older folk the roads we're faced with are often far too hostile, chicanes on cycle paths become more or less impassable, and the shared use facilities and narrow cycle lanes we're often faced with create a level of conflict I wouldn't wish on them. And thats before you even start on aggression cyclists are often faced with on the road.
What challenges do people face in your area that prevent them from cycling, especially children and those using cycling as a mobility aid, and how will you address them?
In Kings Hedges we've got good and bad facilities for riding and, frustratingly, the bad ones are more visible. The Kings Hedges Road cycle lane is comically bad and very visible, whereas the many routes that can safely, legally and enjoyably be ridden through the estate are hidden from view and barely if at all signposted. I'd add to that, roads like Milton Road and Arbury Road have incomplete cycle provision, at best, and if we want to facilitate kids and people who struggle to get about riding we've got to tackle all of these things rather than, as we currently do, dash ahead with piecemeal provision.
I think the key message is that any bike journey is only as good as its most hostile junction - so we need to think about whole journeys rather than bit-by-bit improvements. Whether its the insanity of not planning a high quality bike route down the whole length of Arbury Road, or the sheer stupidity of not linking the end of the Guided Bus Cycle Route with the bridge over the A14, its the same issue. Until we address whole journeys rather than just little bits of them, those barriers to cycling will remain.
One last thing - a big barrier to cycling in and around Kings Hedges is councillors. A reasonable response to kids riding bikes on the pavement by a hostile road is to direct the Police to tame the roads, whereas councillors in North Cambridge repeatedly direct the Police to target this as 'antisocial cycling'. Or, in other words, they're telling the cops to tell kids to go and play in traffic. Someone needs to stand up to this obscene institutionalised bullying - nothing will put someone of riding more than this.
Which aspects of current City Deal proposals do you support, and what additional measures which have not been officially proposed do you think should be explored?
I have, thus far, been disappointed with City Deal. Its not that its all bad (the route we're getting down part of Arbury Road is good) but the specifics we've seen so far have been just so lacking as to be farcical. The Green End Road cycle scheme is so bad I fear it'll kill someone, and the second stage of the Arbury Road scheme has drifted so far from what could have reasonably been interpreted from the consultation (with regards to local ecology) as to bring the whole ethos of the City Deal into question.
In my opinion all new cycle provision (City Deal or not) needs to be delivered to a high quality (for safe and effective cycling) and within a strong ecological framework. There is no advantage to approaching this any other way when cycle provision is also a superb opportunity for better urban planting schemes. I'd also look at strategic routes in and around the city, with emphasis on both routes in, and radially around the city. We need to consider a Greater Cambridge Cycling Network that is actually a network. Thats the only way we'll see further mode shift to cycling from driving.
Which junctions in your area need to be improved to increase safety for people cycling, and how what can be done to fix them?
I hesitate to say 'all of them'. So I'll say 'nearly all of them'.
Arbury/Milton/Union is dreadful - we need cycle provision on both parts of Milton Road and on Arbury Road leading to ASL's and an extend joint phase for cyclists/pedestrians, with an experimental closure of Union Lane to motorised traffic coming in from the junction.
Upgrades planned to the junctions on Arbury Road are generally well thought out, but we need to follow through and get them done.
Arbury/Kings Hedges/Histon Road mix is total pigs ear - as part of a cycle lane upgrade for Kings Hedges Road (which I don't think is planned but is essential) we need advance stop lights for bikes on all parts of this route.
Science Park/Guided Bus/Milton Road/Milton Bridge area needs a complete re-design. Its almost impassable on a bike, lets dig it up as part of City Deal fixing Milton Road and start from scratch with a range of bike facilities linking all parts of it - including the woeful pedestrian/cyclist crossing to the new station from the Science Park.
All junctions on Milton Road (as part of the Milton Road City Deal scheme) must prioritise Cyclists on the 'main road' route just like we prioritise others on the road itself.
There's a simple straight line route from the back entry of the Science Park to the City Centre, following the old Roman Road route down Stretten Avenue, Carlton Way and Mere Way. I'd upgrade that as a cycle super-highway and prioritise cycling along the simplest, straightest line route linking Cambridge to the Science Park.
With Park Street due for demolition, and Grand Arcade cycle park frequently beyond capacity, where do you think a third covered city centre cycle park should be located? What other additional actions do you propose to increase cycle parking capacity on our city centre streets?
People keep blathering on about this like its complicated and it really, really isn't. There has just been no political will to solve it.
Grand Arcade hugely under-delivered on promised bike spaces - I'd make any further planning permission changes to or in that development provisional on fixing that. When we re-develop Park Street (this is City, rather than County) there's plenty of scope for more bike spaces in any new plan.
Its frustrating that the Grafton car parks offer no bike parking - I'd like to see Grafton West car park re-developed to put at least one story of bike parking (underground or ground floor). And as Cambridge Examinations moves to their new site I'd be looking for bike parking as part of any redevelopment of that site - I'd make provision of a significant covered bike space a key part of accepting any planing proposal there.
There's also ample space for better laid out and more bike parking on Castle Hill - the County Council site where a seemingly vast acreage is given over to nothing of great importance. And for the life of me I don't know why we're not putting bike parking on key recreational sites in and around the City Centre - there's practically nothing heading out past the Mill Pond, and there's ample space to do something there.
What measures would you support to boost cycle commuting into Cambridge? For instance, the City Deal Greenways proposal, reuse of old railway alignments, or new bridges over main roads?
This is a huge question and its always been the elephant in the room - Cambridge has a high level of cycling within the city but that peters out as you head into the Greater Cambridge area. The Greenways plan isn't bad as far as it goes, but its not enough.
I think we need to think strategically about bike routes coming in to Cambridge as well as those inside the city - that must include a fully segregated route to Bar Hill (which may or may not come alongside the A14 upgrade), a similar route to Ely (servicing Waterbeach and other sites en route), and similar schemes linking villages to the South and West of Cambridge. Segregated cycle routes should be included in all future road upgrade schemes as part of granting permission to build them, and if such is not on offer as part of the plan then that plan must be rejected.
As for bridges over main roads, the plan to build cycle routes to the West of Cambridge hasn't had enough of this - no cycle route should involve mixing with dual carriageway or motorway slip road traffic so where said routes cross the M11 or A14 of course bridges are needed. The current route over the A14 to Histon, for example, is much better since crossings were installed but they're still an absurdity. A bike and pedestrian bridge is absolutely essential there.
What improvements for cycling would you like to see on Milton Road?
The 'do optimum' plan is pretty good - but its only part of the answer. Mitchams Corner and the approach/crossing from the Science Park need a lot more thought. I'd consider closing some of the routes to Mitchams Corner and I'd like to turn that into a genuine public space rather than a glorified roundabout.
The contentious issue of Milton Road trees is one that keeps coming back - I'm on record as arguing that this is a huge opportunity to build world class cycle facilities and to simultaneously revitalise planting there to create a genuinely exciting city treescape too. Thats outside the remit of this questionnaire - but we should never shy away from making our city better. My fear is that City Deal is not able to understand the importance of such aspects of the scheme.