LibDems are the main opposition in Cambridge right now. Its not impossible that by the end of NEXT years election cycle they'll be in control of the city council, but its a big ask. Still, that means that the views of this years candidates really matter - it isn't at all impossible that they could end up putting some of these views into practice.
As ever, I'll start with Kings Hedges. Daniele Gibney is their candidate.
Regarding her experience and that of her family...
That all seems fair enough. I share her concerns.
The second question is the 'space for cycling' one...
A key aim of our organisation is enabling more people to cycle, by the provision of protected space for cycling away from traffic, not shared with pedestrians, thus reducing traffic and providing transport choice. This best-practice is outlined in our guide, Making Space For Cycling, endorsed by all national cycling organisations. Do you support these principles, and if so, where could they most effectively be applied in your ward?
And her answer is pretty strong, as far as it goes:
Yes, I support these principles. For Milton Road, I support the proposals for segregated cycle lanes with priority over side roads. On King’s Hedges Road, I’ve long been bemused by the cycle lanes that hop on and off the pavement. Linking from King’s Hedges Road to the cycle lane alongside the busway is very confusing – the interchanges have no clear route through and signage is poor.
There are a lot of off-road cut-throughs in our ward – which is excellent, but some are narrow and have blind spots, and are used by both cyclists and pedestrians, leading to potential conflict. It would be good to see improvements made, though possibilities in each case will naturally depend on available space and balancing the effects on our green spaces. The cut-through between Woodhead Drive and Hawkins Road is an example of dedicated space done well, though with a very awkward dog-leg at one end.
Thats fine. But the elephant in the room is Arbury Road - do you support extending protected cycle lanes all down the length of the road, to connect Kings Hedges to other parts of the city via. a quality cycle facility? Or do you not? Its a simple choice - residents parking or cycle lane, which do you support?
Regarding 'evidence based policing' I was just starting to cheer her on when she dropped a clanger...
I fully agree with taking an evidence-based approach. Not just in terms of relative danger, but also in terms of the amount of impact that can be achieved – e.g. is it possible to ‘nudge’ behaviours to make big differences. I’ll be interested to see the outcomes from ‘Operation Close Pass’, and whether the same techniques have any effect on other behaviours such as using mobile phones while driving. Some larger vehicles can pose a particular danger to cyclists, particularly if their mirrors leave areas unsighted. The London Safer Lorry Scheme is interesting – requiring e.g. all heavy vehicles to carry appropriate mirrors to be able to see cyclists and pedestrians. I’d like to see similar ideas adopted in Cambridge.
I think cyclists also need to take responsibility though. When I learned to drive, I was stunned by how hard it is to spot unlit cyclists in the dark, and I get nervous when I see people using phones while cycling. These cyclists put themselves in danger, but if there’s a collision drivers and others can also get hurt. Cyclists should always be considerate around pedestrians in shared use areas.Policing approaches should be about education, not just sanctions. Education campaigns can operate more widely though, for example advocating the ‘Dutch reach’ – I’ve been doored in the past so I’m very keen on that one.
So you believe in evidence based policing except where you instead prefer your own beliefs? You're emphasizing the cause of around 2% of cyclist KSI (and thats a generous over-statement) caused by poor or no bike lights alongside the 70% or more caused by motorist inattention? I think Daniele is great in how she's proposing we should look at evidence - but I think she needs to go further in formulating her own opinions based thereon.
The schools question:
We are keen to see more children being able to cycle safely to school independently. Ideas from our members to assist this include protected space for cycling, parking/pickup bans 200m of schools, cycle parking. What measures would you suggest?
Her answer is...
These sound like good ideas. Also engage with schools (we have quite a few in King’s Hedges) to get a sense of any particular issues affecting the routes their students use (or would use, but feel they can’t). It would also be worth engaging with parents, to understand and, hopefully, address their concerns.
Thats close to spot on, but I do think she could have picked out the obvious fact that what makes a transport environment better for kids makes it better for everyone. Still, I can't disagree with what she's said there.
Question 5 is this one:
Our volunteers spend a lot of time scrutinising planning applications for failures such as lack of secure cycle parking, poor access, failure to fund nearby improvements to make the roads safer, and so on. Many of these things get let through by officers and Councillors in clear contravention of the Local Plan. The lack of a full-time cycling officer makes this situation even worse. What are your main concerns about the planning system, and how would you seek to make improvements?
And I must say I'm disappointed with Danieles response:
As I’m not currently ‘on the inside’ I don’t have full insight into the system. However, I do share your concerns about cycle facilities not being catered for appropriately, or indeed being watered down as plans are implemented. The CB1 development is a case in point. I’d want to understand better how these issues arise and where controls can be strengthened. I’m sure the Cambridge Cycling Campaign would be able to suggest some recent examples that would be worth looking into.
Look, I get it. A great response for a local politician when faced with a hard question is to compliment the questioners knowledge and act like you'll learn from them. Once in a while a prospective councillor will say this and actually even mean it. But here I can't help but think that the right answer is 'yeah, you know what, having volunteers doing the work of council officers isn't the best idea, lets look at it' would be a better answer.
But question 6 about junctions is a strong recovery - she has hilighted several that need improving and clearly does get the need to improve the Milton and Histon Road junctions. Top marks there. But then on pavement parking Daniele completely blows it:
There are a few options for managing something like this, such as a traffic regulation order or physical barriers on the pavement, and each comes with pros and cons. As a party, our preferred approach is to consult with residents locally to find an approach that carries support, and arrange the appropriate applications. The best option may differ from one street, or set of streets, to the next.
Nope. Pavement parking is always a problem - yes, the degree to which it is a problem in different places varies but the idea of spending -years- (and it takes that long) consulting on each individual space? Of pitching cyclists against residents again, and again, and again? Come on, no. You know this isn't going to solve anything. Pavement parking endangers cyclists, it endangers pedestrians, and its a huge problem for the disabled. There are city-wide solutions - why aren't you supporting that?
On the last question, on barriers on cycle routes, I think she's knocked the ball out of the park:
I understand that the Cambridge Cycling Campaign has had their LHI bid supported to review the barriers in King’s Hedges and Arbury, so hopefully improvements are already in store. There are some that simply need to go – on the cut-though between Campkin Road and Ramsden Square for example, which is almost impassable for a normal cycle, and completely impossible for larger cycles (or indeed wheelchairs and mobility scooters). The gates on the Northfield Avenue underpass, and elsewhere, are really awkward for cyclists with trailers and other longer vehicles. Where necessary, it’s possible to use bollards that will still deter motorised traffic, while giving sufficient space for larger cycles.
Yep. Rip them out. If you really must have one to stop idiots driving through spaces they shouldn't be in they have to be permeable to cyclists.
Ok, so much for Kings Hedges. Up and down but more up than down. We went to Chesterton for a second candidate last time so this time lets head West and see whats happening in Arbury, where veteran beard Tim Ward is having a bash at getting re-elected.
His families experience of cycling and how it relates to recognised problems...
I and my family routinely cycle both within Cambridge and beyond, including daily commuting. There are various hazards, with the worst at the moment being the proliferation of potholes which distract attention that should be spent on situational awareness, along with the perennial illegally and antisocially parked taxis, and completely oblivious pedestrians stepping out in front of cyclists without looking in the city centre. One of which led to a broken wrist (and destroyed bike) in my family since you asked this question last year.
I'm slightly surprised he hasn't mentioned the big problem being motorists passing closely really scares the wits out of people, but otherwise thats reasonable. Regarding 'Space for Cycling' I'm disappointed though:
I support the principles, but as there is essentially no unused land available for new development in Arbury the use cases would be largely restricted to "street renewals". The recent work at the top end of Arbury Road is interesting, but even this has its downside, making the right turn into St Alban's Road that much more challenging now that both lanes of traffic are no longer slowed down by the mini roundabout. The poor GCP proposals for Histon Road show the difficulties of satisfying the demands of cycling as well as those of preserving trees and front gardens where available land is severely restricted, but at least, following representations I made last year, the proposal to ban cyclists from turning right into Warwick Road has now been dropped.
Well, yes, almost all relevant road schemes, everywhere, are renewals. And we're in the middle of the biggest road renewal project in the history of the City right now, thats a big component of City Deal. Thats not a negative, its a big opportunity. And I'm disappointed that Tim has touched on Arbury Road without mentioning the elephant in the room - its only going to go down half of the length of the road. People living Arbury won't have a safe route down the whole length of the road. Sorry Tim, this is lacklustre - and you're failing the residents of your ward here.
As for 'evidence based policing'...
I agree with your view. My priorities would go with the evidence, following the accident record, in addition to listening to Camcycle and local people via the Area Committee, and addressing any behaviour patterns that emerge as problematic.
Well, yay for evidence based policing! I take issue with his focus on the Area Committee - almost no bugger goes to that, the last one I went to had two attendees who were not part of a political party group, a residents (otherwise known as 'parking') association or Richard Taylor. Thats probably the worst forum imaginable for judging relative needs in the community. The average age of attendees was, by my reckoning, around 200 years old. It should and could be valuable but it isn't.
And getting kids riding to school..
Yeah, ok. Can't argue there - but, again, I do wonder that none of the candidates have spotted that what works for kids works for everyone. Children riding bikes are a barometer for whether we're getting road management right.
Regarding the problem with planning and the work Camcycle do being better done by council staff, Tim gives a trademark boring answer that seems entirely fair and correct - and is at least being proactive in a way other candidates I've looked at so far haven't.
This is a bureaucratic process question, so I'm afraid I am going, of necessity, to give a bureaucratic process answer. I could guess where improvements might be effective, but it's quite easy to guess this sort of thing wrong, so I'd take an "issues and options" approach. I would commission an investigation into the scope and scale of the problem, perhaps by the Internal Audit team, to identify the root causes of recent problems ("issues") and suggest remedial measures ("options"). These can then be evaluated and the most effective measures chosen for implementation.
I'd only say that I don't believe that the City Council is capable of introspective self criticism - they'll find excuses rather than improvements. I get what Tim is saying here but my experience of the City Council doesn't suggest this will work. Still, its at better approach than we've seen from other candidates so far.
His response re. barriers on bike routes is proactive and fair. But then his answer on junctions just seems weird.
I'd have expected Tim to know that cycle facilities aren't compulsory. Fully separated routes give us safe space that almost all cyclists will choose to use, but your're not legally compelled to do so. A confident cyclists doesn't have to - but if that route is good enough then said confident cyclist will. I don't get that there is a 'right balance' between safe cycle facilities and, well, not safe cycle facilities. Tim here is simply wrong. And ASL? They're no use at all if you can't get to them. I'm rather afraid that Tims approach is the approach of the 1990s - and that didn't work.
As for Histon road, this is a great little question...
How will you work with the GCP to improve walking and cycling proposals in their Histon Road scheme, in particular with regard to children cycling to school at the Mayfield Primary School, crossing Histon Road near Carisbrooke Road, and within the narrow section of road from Aldi south to the junction with Victoria Road?
...with Tims worst answer yet:
The Histon Road scheme was aimed at improving bus times along Histon Road, which always struck me as being rather a big ask as, whatever was done along the road, buses would continue to get held up at the junctions at the ends. The original proposals seemed to be more aimed at car drivers than anyone else ("hey look, they've put in a bus lane, which takes all those pesky buses out of my car lane, so I'll drive more often"): they certainly didn't look good for cyclists, or trees, or owners of front gardens, or people living along the several rat-runs that would have been created. After I and others, including the Histon Road Area Residents Association, made representations a number of the worst features of the original plans have been dropped, and the plan then spent some time on the "too difficult" pile making no visible progress. However it has recently been revived and we're awaiting the next set of "final" proposals: the feeling at the moment seems to be that the plans will end up delivering a small net benefit for cyclists, albeit at vast cost.
Personally I cycle along Histon Road most weeks and don't usually have any problems apart, of course, from the potholes - perhaps the GCP money could be better spent fixing the potholes on Histon Road, so that cyclist can have some attention to spare to watch the traffic?
Particularly in the narrow section from Victoria Road northwards motor traffic, in both directions, is in my experience usually well behaved towards cyclists, and indeed drivers are only too pleased when they can actually drive as fast as the cyclists! The only manoeuvre that I sometimes find difficult is turning right into the passageway through to Borrowdale, through traffic accelerating away from the Gilbert Road traffic lights. But that's a wide section of road that does already have a cycle lane, and it's not obvious that there's any sensible intervention that would be proportionate for the limited number of people making that turn.
Tim is making the cardinal error of assuming a cycle facility is there for someone who already cycles, someone how put off by a hostile road environment. Tim, you're the last person to ask about whether its safe, you already ride it, you need to talk to the people who don't ride it because they don't feel safe there - and there are obviously many. Stand there at commuting time and count the cyclists, then stand on Hills Road where the new bike lanes are and count them. Cycle facilities are about facilitating more riders, not trivially helping out those who ride already. I'm very disappointed by this - Histon Road is savage and needs taming.
As for how he'd improve cycling on Carlton Way...
I wouldn't have started from here - I wouldn't have put in the current scheme. The illustrated route appears to me to be a failed attempt to provide a segregated facility at any cost, no matter how poor the result (I cycle on the main carriageway there but appreciate that not all cyclists will want to). My recollection is that this was part of a scheme which, bizarrely, seemed to be designed to ADD space for parking for children to be driven to school! - I did question how the scheme was supposed to comply with the County Council's priority of "walking and cycling first" but didn't get a straight answer from them. In improving that area I would look at whether we really need to allocate road space for driving children to school, but as the current scheme was put in so recently I can't imagine the County being happy to spend money tearing it out again just yet.
Thats not an answer. Its an evasion. The question isn't 'what would you have done' its 'what would you do now'. The answer to fixing Carlton Way is a doddle, and I don't see why Tim doesn't get it.
I don't know what to say. Its a roller-coaster looking at the LibDems, they vary from spot on to just awful. Would I feel confident that, between them, they'd support a better environment for cycling? No. Do I believe we'd see some support for small improvements? No. Is that good enough? No. 5/10. Do better.