Thursday 18 July 2019

'Weaving in and out of traffic'

Is there a phrase or term in psychology or sociology for a phenomenon whereby the mechanism by which a minority copes with a hostile environment created by a majority is as a result demonised?

I ask because I can't think of a better way of describing how people get so very angry about us 'weaving in and out' of traffic.

I mean its a constant complaint. You see it literally all of the time. And its a senseless, stupid thing to say. 

I'm addressing this mostly at you, motons. Here's the problem - there's traffic and it isn't going anywhere. Its probably not going anywhere at all, although its just possible that it just isn't going anywhere fast. And while I have a certain amount of sympathy for you stuck in the ceaseless, smoke belching, global warming creating traffic prisons of your own devising, I don't care enough for your problems suffer the same fate. I mean, yeah, I get it, you don't want to be there. I don't want you to be there either, what you're doing is delusional and irresponsible and you should be fucking ashamed. But I don't immediately get why that should be my problem.

So I'll go around the right of your car. If there isn't room on that side, I'll go around the left of your car. I mean I'd rather you all just got together and choose which side to leave us space on, but you stubbornly won't do that so I've sometimes got to go around on the right and then switch to the left. I should once again point out I can only do this when you're not (or at most barely) moving. Otherwise I can't do it, but then again if you're actually moving I don't need to. 

And yet, despite the fact that you, the motorists, created the problem, I mean you created the only problem here, the one you're suffering from, you're angry with me? I ask you, fairly and honestly, just whats fucking wrong with you?

There seems to be a set of unwritten rules among motorists that you're somehow all in it together and its the same for everyone. But for some reason you think it applies to those of us who aren't contributing to the problem? Why? Why is it you require, for your own happiness, that you drag us down into the same shit you're suffering with?

Is this just some fundamental principle of out-group psychology? I mean I can see parallels in how the coping strategies of other groups just looking to get by when people are giving them a hard time. Although here I think it might be different in that we aren't just surviving motons shit, we're doing better than them because they can't get their shit together. Because they've created a road environment that fucks everyone, but mostly themselves, and we're able to get through it, are they primarily angry out of sheer jealousy?

The truth is, I think, that they're angry and we're visible. We're a minority seen to be transgressing the rule that we've all got to be miserable as fuck and wasting time, money and resources polluting the planet and not getting anywhere.

In truth all motorists need to do in the situation where we're 'weaving in and out between traffic' is go and fuck themselves. Bluntly. They made the roads this way, all we're doing is making the world a bit better. 

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Jumping Red Lights - when and why I do it

One of the constant bellyaches from cyclist haters and idiot victim blamers is red light jumping. The idea that in some strange way a Moron sees another cyclist who isn't you jumping a red light and that's why they give you a hard time when they see you afterwards. Its nonsense, as anyone who has read any psychology at all will be able to explain.

But at the core of this is the idea that we must not ever jump red lights. only an idiot would say that we should ignore traffic signals. But to maintain that we must never jump a red light goes beyond idiocy and into suicidal stupidity. From a cosy, closeted view that never sees the world without windscreen wipers and a rear view mirror in the way its easy to pretend this is an absolute principle but don't be fooled, it isn't. At some stage when out on a bicycle you too will jump a red light for a valid and fair reason. The road network is so given over to dangerous motorists that by obeying the rules we can be put into extreme danger if we don't.

I don't intend to produce an exhaustive list of reasons, I'm only listing those that come to mind for why I sometimes have to go through a red light. Feel free to add as many more reasons as you like in the comments. But I am going to go through the times and reasons I sometimes go through red lights. tl;dr version: because I don't want to die.

...because a driver behind is going to kill me if I don't

This is one of the most common reasons, and it will be familiar to many of you. You're heading down the road at a fairly decent lick, probably covering your brakes because there's a light ahead of you and it could change. It goes amber with plenty of time for you to stop at the red light. But there's a car accelerating behind you, and from the sound of it you know the driver isn't planning to stop. 

You've got two choices. Stop and hope the driver behind won't kill you, or keep going and know that he's not going to kill you. Go through the red light and survive or hit the brakes and, with any luck, the driver behind is aware enough to stop. 

I've lost track of the number of times I've run a red light this way. It must be dozens, if not hundreds of times. And on every single occasion the car behind followed through on red - I've never mistakenly gone through a red light to avoid being run over and for the car driver behind to demonstrate that no, he wasn't willing going to kill me.

I'm not going to die under someone's car wheels just to stubbornly be right about obeying the law.

...because its understood by motorists that I should

There are some junctions here where if I don't go through a red light and cross the road on my bike on the pedestrian phase, drivers waiting behind become positively hostile. The best local example is the junction of Arbury Road, Union Lane and Milton Road, a four way intersection with lights for all ways on and a pedestrian phase. And almost every cyclist held up at the lights goes on the pedestrian phase, if the lights haven't favoured them sooner.

Is this naughty? Sort of. Its harmless, the space to ride across is safe enough, but you're still jumping a red light. The question really is, why not wait for your own green phase? I invite you to try it. 

You see, the cyclists going on red aren't holding any of the motorists up. If you wait for green then anyone in a car behind you IS (in their flawed opinion) held up for a few moments while you get away. Whereas all the other cyclists who headed off before you, through the red light, haven't held them up. Which exposes the cyclist waiting for a green light to hostility from ignorant motons who just won't have it that they need to wait their turn to get through. I've had some horrendous encounters at that junction because I've obeyed the law. The end result? I'm not waiting at a red light just to put up with some half wit threatening me for doing so. I'm going off with the other cyclists who don't suffer the implicit threat of murder under the angry wheels of an idiot. 

...because the road is designed without regard to cycling

This is another one best shown by example. If you're riding on Victoria Avenue in Cambridge towards Mitcham's Corner, you will most likely find yourself wanting to get off the road and on to the cycle route and shared crossings across the junction. Reasonable enough, its a shorter, faster, and less hostile route that doesn't require you to take the very centre of a lane of traffic to prevent motons encroaching on you from both sides. You get to the red light, but unless you're lucky and the bike box doesn't have a car in it you're left on the left kerb needing to cross a stream of cars to get where you're going. And they've only got a short light phase to get into the junction, they're not going to stop and let you past. Its not bad if you hit the junction on a green light and can get straight through - but that never happens.

Your other option is to go around the outside of the cars, through the red light, and straight on to the off road facility. Yes, its designed so badly that without breaking the law the safer cycle facility is inaccessible unless you go through the red light.

I mean I could ignore the cycle route and ride in completely the wrong lane holding my right arm out to cross two lanes of traffic hoping someone lets me out (they won't) to go the long way around a hostile road junction, that for once motons will show the slightest bit of respect to a cyclist there (they won't). But for the sake of going through a red light and breaking the law for all of about a yard of distance, screw that. I'll go the safer way.

...because the bike box is full

We've all seen this one. You're passing a long stream of car traffic to get to an advance stop box for cyclists, but when you get there its full of car drivers. You have the choice of waiting to their left (and if they'll turn left through you, you'll die), on their right (if there's space, but there won't be - and if they turn right through you, you'll die) or in front of them on the other side of the white line. Illegal, but visible and safer. I mean yeah, I could just legally wait in a stupid place and die, but that's not going to happen is it?

...because a lorry has pulled alongside 

By far the biggest killer of cyclists is large vehicles turning left through them. Many savages in the press like to blame cyclists for this, but most often if you find yourself in this situation its because as soon as the cab of the lorry has pulled alongside you the driver just forgets you were there, and then you're in danger. 

If a lorry pulls alongside me at a red light, or even right up behind me to put me into his blind spot, I'm not going to wait there just to prove a point. I'm going to ride forward until I can comfortably make eye contact with the driver, and I'm going to make sure he's seen me. I'm not going to get myself killed just to win moton brownie points by not jumping the red light. I didn't design the road in such a way as to make it potentially lethal to me - you're going to have to put up with me adapting my behaviour to make myself safer. 

...because the sensor hasn't seen me

Thankfully this is less common than it was, but it still happens. You ride to a light that is meant to be triggered by a vehicle on top of it, and you wait. Maybe other lights change and other people get a phase, but you don't. And you realise that maybe its your alloy bike, or you've maybe not lined your ride up on the right part of the road sensor. So you shuffle about a bit, and the lights change for other people again, and it becomes apparent you're going nowhere.

I'm not going to wait there all night in hope. I'm going to wait until I can see its safe and I'll ride on. I don't see I've got any other choice. make space for an emergency vehicle

A while back I was approaching the red light at the end of Bridge Street, with heavy traffic on the other side of the road blocking that lane all the way around the corner. I heard a siren, glanced back, there was a police car coming. I went past the knot of pedestrians on the pavement, through the red light, and hopped the bike onto a quiet bit of pavement I could see ahead before waving the police car through.

Amazingly someone on the other side of the road stormed out through the heavy traffic on the other side, waving a walking stick at me and yelling for going through the lights and being on the pavement. I think you'll agree it takes a very special kind of dick head to argue its better to block emergency vehicles than to go through a red light.

...because someone is threatening me

So you've had someone yelling abuse at you on the road, and there's a red light ahead. You don't want to face continued hostility, and you don't see any reason they should be allowed to project their own inadequacies via. the medium of a car engine and the relentless gleaming metal and glass box they're in. You get to the red light, they're stuck in traffic. Be honest - why the hell wouldn't you ride through and get out of their sight if you can? You aren't obliged to put up with someone abusing you and threatening you, and if you need to take the law into your own hands to escape them? I won't argue against that.

So there you have it - my short list of reasons I've broken the law and gone through red lights. I know, it is an inconvenient truth that on a hostile road network we are forced to sometimes bend or even break the rules to avoid being killed by the idiots who the rules are set up to control. But there it is - I'm not spending time recovering in hospital because I want to demonstrate how virtuous we can be, and I'm not having it that going through a red light in any circumstances where I'm putting myself at greater risk if I don't do so is wrong. 

Bluntly I suggest that anyone telling you otherwise should be invited to take a long walk off a short pier. You don't have to take their shit. 

Friday 12 July 2019

Cambridge Transport Policy - How NOT to do local government.

Sadly I'm going to have to split this up into multiple blog posts. There's too much to absorb in one go, and its a developing situation changing very rapidly. A friend of a friend of a friend suggests that there have been some leaks from some of the authorities listed below that will be hitting the web in a few weeks time - so the state of things is currently fluid. Stick with me, please.

Cambridge is often heralded as unique in Britain, in that more people cycle here than elsewhere. And thats certainly true, although the numbers aren't as great as some would have you believe. In my view thats only one of the many ways this city is different to the rest of the UK. There is also strong evidence that we have the worst local government stratification in the country, and that this is completely ruining any hope of ever having an effective transport policy.

To explain why, one must look at the organisations involved. 

The City itself is operated by Cambridge City Council. Its currently Labour run although as things stand its hard to know whether that majority is safe going forward, especially with coming boundary changes. When you drill down into it you find that the local Labour party is as divided as it is everywhere else - we've got hard red Trots like Dave Baigent and Kevin Price (I can make a case for him being the second worst councillor Cambridge has ever had), essentially they're hard nosed Corbynistas, and we have notorious cyclist haters like Gerri Bird, all the way to pragmatic modernists like Carina O'Reilly. And this has bubbled over into petty deselections of councillors to apparently balance the wings of the party. The idea they might have a unified or intelligent transport policy is extremely far fetched.

But in a way that barely matters because the transport authority is the County Council. And that authority is made up of a few labour and liberal democrat councillors mostly from Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, but is dominated by a comfortable majority of red in the face Tory fruitcakes representing rural and fenland constituencies where a monkey with a blue rosette would win. So thats who they put up, the most frothing at the mouth, swivel eyed, nasty Tory who passes muster with the local associations seemingly more interested in the petty hurt they can inflict by executing Tory dogma than anything else. Until recently the only challenge they faced was UKIP, so now they're effectively unopposed. If they have any interest in Cambridge at all its how to fleece us for council tax to then spend giving immigrants a harder time in the Fens, and how they can maintain car access for hate filled geriatrics who had their souls sucked out by Thatcher. Suggestions to them that cycling and walking are important is likely to get you shot through the lungs. 

Then we have South Cambridgeshire. That was a Tory stronghold but spectacular mismanagement gave the Liberal Democrats a way in. So far they haven't done much - in itself sufficient reason for cynicism, and they've really flopped when faced with intransigent road engineers who are making a right royal mess of the arterial road through their area. But they're there. And thats as much as we can say for them.

And lastly there's East Cambridgeshire, a council so ineffective it fights over folk festival parades. Its a bizarrely run, car-centric place in which an unsustainable free parking in the historic city of Ely means that you can neither walk nor breath safely there. At least its Tory/Libdem contest, but as its a contest fought for control of a freakishly car dependent part of the county I hold out no hope of any improvement. 

So four different local government bodies all with their own transport priorities? Oh, no. We're not done. Not by a long way.

Because having at least two, even three layers of local government in each location wasn't enough, our local councillors agreed with central government to have a directly elected mayor who covering the needs of the frothing at the mouth UKIP fenlanders, the cosmopolitan and complex city of Peterborough, and the professors of Cambridge who can show mathematical proof of Plancks constant but if you boil carrots and potatoes in the same pan it blows their minds. Big ask - squaring the circle of a bus and train city, the nations cycling capital and a county that would render down their own children for another gallon of diesel.

The mayor is and will, as far as we can see, always be a Tory - which upsets the Labour/Libdem City of Cambridge. And because its so safe its very prone to cronyism, with the rate at which the mayor shovels cash into the coffers of his mates seemingly showing now bounds. They Mayor has plans for reforming our transport in the city, but he'll probably just blow all his cash on posh headquarters and severance pay.

And last, but oh my gosh no means least, because things weren't complicated enough and we weren't blowing enough cash on 5 layers of squabbling local government (district or city council, possibly a parish council area, the mayoral authority, county council and of course the elected police commissioner) we also have a massive body of good old fashioned quangos shoveling money into endless consultations but very little solid infrastructure work. It was called Cambridge Cit Deal but that became so toxic they renamed it Greater Cambridge - yeah, they say its because that was more inclusive, so at best the rebranding might seem convenient. And they have their own plans and views, and ever more absurd and peculiar ways of feigning democratic mandate for an entirely un-elected body.

Needless to say, this city doesn't have a transport policy, nor a coherent development policy. We're a hub for economic growth and in a very short time the city has grown beyond all expectations, and continues to expand. And at the top? More of a bun-fight than an authority. The Mayoral plan is different to Greater Cambridge, which isn't reflected by what the County wants, and the City don't agree with any of that. While the Districts have their own priorities too.

What a mess. What a pity. What a monstrous waste of resources, having endless overlapping consultations from needlessly repeated local government positions. 

I'll go on to detail how plans of the City Deal and the Mayoral authority differ (and indeed why each is, independently, pathetic) in future posts. But for now, I can conclude that there is no way that the current system can work. Strip away all but two of these layers of government, divide the total number of councillors by 3 and make that a full time job. It would be cheaper, faster, comprehensible, and might actually get something done. 

Monday 8 July 2019

Arbury Road - Camcycles inexplicable love affair with Greater Cambridge?

In the last couple of years Cambridge Cycling Campaign (often quaintly and trendily known by their twitter handle, Camcycle) have been, on the whole, better than they were. While there has been the occasional weird outburst, and their rabid enthusiasm for the underwhelming eponymous trail remains peculiar,  they have at least no longer got a convicted child assaulter on the committee, and I've talked to Robin (still their chair, I believe) about the support Martin gave for the crap facility on Gilbert Road,and he didn't get it either. There are some excellent, committed, positive people there who deserve our appreciation.

So what the heck is he going on about here? Why did he choose this pooch to screw?

All I can think is that he didn't really know Arbury Road, or how people rode in this part of town, before the new lane was constructed.

Ocado delivery driver dangerous to cyclist and pedestrians
The background - Arbury Road is the oldest named route in the City, connecting Chesterton to Arbury Camp, which has had some occupation since the neolithic era. And since Orchard Park was built there the site has culturally reverted to that state. It is, like many roads derived from old drove ways, long and mostly straight, the result being that many choose to drive far to fast on it. The modern road can be divided into two main sections. South of Campkin Road it is fast, narrow, with parked cars all the way down one side and occasionally blocking the pavement on the other side too, essentially limiting it to two very close streams of vehicles with no room for safely overtaking cyclists. Not that this stops them. And North of Campkin Road, it isn't much wider but there is (and has always been) a hedge down one side and little parking on road on the other.

City Deal (sorry, that name had become so toxic they renamed themselves Greater Cambridge) has existed in a constant state of existential crisis since it was founded, needing to find ways of shovelling cash into schemes as fast as possible. Hence it has wasted no time in throwing money into shovel ready schemes and the black hole of consultation. And it noticed that building a cycle lane on the North end of Arbury Road would be relatively uncontroversial. So they did.

And... Well, where it is, it isn't bad. If you came at this without knowing this party of the city at all you might think this was great. You would look at the kids riding on this new lane and think its a revelation. But thats incredibly naive.

One of the multiple off road routes parallel to the new lane
The reality in Kings Hedges is that the estate was built at the end of the 1960s in a tremendously forward thinking, progressive way. It was made difficult to drive through the estate but easy to walk or ride, with the result being that a lot of journeys within the estate are made on foot or by bicycle. Conversely no attention was paid to this in much of the rest of the city, meaning that places like Kings Hedges that are great to ride around in are terrible to ride of to anywhere else. The result? You see plenty of kids riding to school within the estate, people riding or walking to the local shops or park, but the rate for commuting by bike is lower than in other parts of the city. 

And true to form Greater Cambridge ignored this. They ignored the simple means by which the same scheme could have been delivered cheaper, faster, with less disruption, with less ecological damage and with a better end result. Because that didn't fit the bill of spending enough money to secure the next tranche of government funding. And what we now have is a highly visible route that accomplishes next to nothing for those who live in Kings Hedges or indeed anyone else. 

Bus stop filled around one minute from every 10
In itself, it isn't bad. In parts. I mean if you ignore the fact that the two bus stops are used by a service that is due every 10 minutes, meaning that for about 10% of the time during the day its actively dangerous. And that there is no physical separation so that delivery vehicles are, all through most week days, blocking either the pavement or the cycle lane. But it doesn't take you anywhere. The primary school already had good provision, and the new cycle lane stops before you get to the part of the road thats most dangerous.

I would say that Greater Cambridges decision to build this white elephant of a scheme that will not increase the total uptake of cycling in the City but may in fact only get people out of the estate and on to the main road is deeply cynical, and that is clearly demonstrated by the fact that where you actually need protection the cycle route disappears. In theory you might turn right, head through the older estate and ride to town there, but of course if you're heading to the Beehive Centre or any of the shopping or employment locations on Newmarket Road the scheme is valueless. The truly terrifying part of Arbury Road has been left entirely untouched by this - no one who was dissuaded by the traffic on the North end of Arbury Road will be persuaded to brave the much worse traffic on the Southern half.

Cycle lane ends - at the worst possible place
Of course its possible that you might be heading North from Kings Hedges towards Orchard Park, or up on to the Guided Bus Route to go to the Science Park. Well, the latter is unlikely, as its the wrong direction and we've another more direct route (that could really do with an upgrade) if you work there. So you're presumably heading to the A14 bridge, going to Histon or Cottenham, or just up to the hotel on Orchard Park? Its an odd one but lets humour that idea. You ride up Arbury Road heading North and you see some good facilities - the new crossing, for example, is good... 

And then you end up at the end of Arbury Road, the junction with Kings Hedges Road. Where you're meant to do what, exactly? Well there's a shared use facility off to the Left there heading off up Kings Hedges Road. Its crap and gives way to the side roads without any sensible signage, of course. Or you can go straight across acres of hostile car dominated tarmac without any specific cycling provision at all. Its like someone vomited all the bad ideas they had on one junction, it has nothing to commend it. Or you could go right where there's a shared use route to cut the corner on to Kings Hedges Road which is, in that direction, lethally dangerous. I genuinely don't know what they have in mind that we should do here - are we just meant to disappear because there isn't a cycle route any more? Kings Hedges Road at this point has four hostile lanes for fast cars with motorists mentally preparing for or coming down from the 70mph high of the A14. They aren't looking for cyclists, few ever want to ride on or across it. 

End of Arbury Road. Well? Now what?
Robin old chap, you've done some good stuff with Camcycle. But if you think this scheme is good you've been suckered. Its a pointless scheme that won't get anyone new cycling, it'll just get some of the people who were already riding to ride on a slightly different route. It doesn't do enough to make whole journeys better, and by concentrating on the (relatively) good section of the road instead of the brutally hazardous end, this is merely a cynical way of digging holes to pour money into them. No one whose journey was bad has now got a good enough journey as a result of this cynical scheme. I lament that you've been taken in by this. You should know better.

Thursday 16 May 2019

Cambridgeshire Police - Don't Expect Them to Police Motorists

So this happened. I took this picture at about quarter past eight this morning.

You wouldn't get a pram down the side there, or any kind of walking aid. Frankly it would be hard to get down there with just a walking stick and anyone with any kind of visual impairment would be scuppered. It isn't OK to park like that - ideally they shouldn't be parked on the pavement at all, but if they really must then they need to leave enough space for people to safely get past. There are cars parked on the other side, but they're further on - here the police car could have been entirely on the road. It would take more care and time to park carefully behind another vehicle and on the pavement than to park on the road, so if this was any kind of emergency then parking like this is an approach that sucks.

I decided to call 101 and tell them, they told me maybe they're responding to an emergency, and I said yeah, clearly this wasn't how you'd park if there was an emergency, it would be much faster parking on the road. Then they put me through to whoever it needed to be and I queued, I waited, and got through to someone. They took the details down and said they're record it as a complaint against the Police. Which isn't right - I'm reporting a crime, I want it recorded as a crime, not a complaint. My reasoning was simple - if this was a plumbers van and I phoned the Police, it would be treated as an incident thats perhaps a crime, not as a complaint to the plumbing company. I don't think the Police necessarily have to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us, but clearly they have to be held to the same standard. The officer said they'd put me through to someone else, the phone rang again, I went on hold, then it went dead.

I called back and basically had the same discussions again, which ended in the line going dead. Again. 

Long story short (too late, I know), they required that if I don't agree about this being a complaint against the Police rather than a report about a crime, then I need to raise a complaint about that. So I did, and was told they'd call me back about that. Thats four hours ago now. The line randomly went dead three times trying to get this done and multiple officers flat out refused to accept that this should be treated as a crime that needs investigating.

Bluntly all I'm asking for is for the Police to be treated exactly the same as anyone else. If they park a car blocking the pavement such that a visually impaired, physically disabled person or someone with a pram can't get past then thats out of line. Thats not a police complaint, its something that needs investigating and handling in exactly the same way as it would be if its anyone else.

The Police are not above the law. But in being the prime organisation jobbed with enforcing the law its very clear that they think they ARE above the law. I find that really very sinister - they think that the answer to this is to go and ask the officers in question for an excuse. That can't be right - can it?

Thursday 9 May 2019

Camcycle Local Election Survey (belated response) - Independent!

Sam Davies stood for election to Cambridge City Council as an independent recently, and did really well. With next years elections here being for all council seats, due to boundary changes, she's a very good chance of winning a seat next time round in Queen Ediths, so when she asked me to look through her responses to the Cambridge Cycling Campaign survey I was happy to do so.

I'm going to treat Sam the same as I've treated everyone else - with as much or as little bitchy sarcasm as I feel like. So, lets have a look at her responses...

Her experiences cycling here, those of her family, and fears for younger/older riders...
Where do I start? The adults in the family have been cycle commuters in the city for 30 years, plus enjoying cycle touring holidays in Europe, the USA, the Nullarbor Desert in Australia and the Sahara! Our children were on bikes early, for trips to school, fun days out and then racing - MTB, cyclocross, road and track, they tried them all. These experiences have given them a degree of independence and confidence which is fantastic to watch.
However, in terms of concerns about cycling with younger children, I have several: 
- the intermittent nature of infrastructure - for example, coming back to Queen Edith's from town there is a gap between the signalled crossing outside Highsett and the lane which starts after Station Road, and then another gap in the stretch leading up to the Brookgate crossing. That's pretty hairy when you're cycling with small children. 
- inadequate shared provision on high volume routes (eg Long Road, Brooklands Avenue). I lobbied the County Council in 2013 and got them to finance £155k of improvements to Long Road, but when you think that it provides the East-West access to Long Road Sixth Form College, CAST, the Biomedical Campus and Trumpington Community College, you quickly realise the quality is completely inadequate to the importance of the task it performs.
- the density of bikes. pedestrians and motorised vehicles competing for space in the city centre. Children are just not as aware of the possibility of pedestrians unexpectedly stepping off pavements or a car cutting in front of them at a crossing.
These and other factors can make it a bit of an ordeal when children are in the 'training' phase. It's worth persevering but it did involve quite a lot of nervous wear and tear on my part at times ...
Thats a really exhaustive answer and it touches on specific issues in her ward (Queen Ediths) and its all fair enough. I would only suggest that it all really comes down to one thing - infrastructure. Is there enough and is what there is good enough. Nothing at all to disagree with here - but maybe the answer to what the main problems are is just simpler than the candidate is putting her finger on.

Anyway, the next question - seeing as more people cycling is a good thing for all sorts of reasons, what would she do to get more people out on their bikes. And its another detailed answer:

I sometimes worry that we make the narrative around cycling rather too much focussed on the practical and the worthy (or worse still the hair-shirt) side of the equation, and not enough about enjoying yourself. Ever since I first joined CamCycle back in the 1990s, I've felt we've been missing a trick by not allying the organisation more closely with sports cycling groups. This is particularly true for young people - I honestly believe that if you can make cycling seem like a fun sport, then the bike handling skills, the heightened awareness of what's around them, and the willingness to just jump on a bike all pay dividends when it comes to the day-to-day stuff. And think about the galvanizing effect that bringing the Tour de France to Cambridge had. Bristol uses its annual 'car-free' event to host a morning of competitive races, followed by an afternoon mass-participation ride around the same route: We should be investigating these opportunities for cross-fertilisation more.
Of course you need to then support this increased enthusiasm with the necessary infrastructure to provide a good experience for cyclists of all ages and abilities *and levels of experience*. Crucially you need to catch people as soon as they move to the city. We should encourage the estate agents who operate here to place much higher emphasis on cycling connectivity in their marketing materials, for example. We could also identify cycling 'champions' on new developments who could then help other new residents work out their best routes when they move in. There are lots of creative ways we could do this.
Lots to think about there, and I'll confess I'm rather taken aback by being made to actually think by reasoned, interesting views being put forward in response to this survey.

The only thing I'd really change there is I'd flip it around. We know from around the world that the only thing that leads to an increase in mass cycling is better infrastructure - thats the first message to get across, and I always worry when a candidate starts talking about soft measures to encourage before talking about infrastructure. I'm right behind the idea of car-free days and trying to inspire people with sport, but thats a supplementary measure. Heck, I can even get behind talking about cycling as a fun thing to do (not that you'd always know it from this blog).

On planing, I note that she gets that there's a problem here, and she supports what volunteers like the Cycling Campaign does. She supports having a full-time officer at the City Council, and rightly notes that much of the problem comes from the County. But whats missing here is a clear indication that she gets just how irrelevant a single or small number of councillors are when trying to block bad developments, and how dirty and unequal the fight between developers and councillors is. There's a need to level the playing field here by bringing public opinion to bear against bad developments such that we can get a structural change in how planning operates, and I don't know that she's up for that fight.

On cycle theft in general and at Cyclepoint in particular:
Security at Cyclepoint is a joke. I won't leave my bike there anymore. I can think of a couple of approaches (apologies if these have already been tried):
- City Council/Daniel Zeichner/CamCycle joint approach direct to the Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite
- adoption of cycle security at Cyclepoint as a policing priority mandated by councillors at Area Committee
- investigation of ways of tying security performance levels into the railway company's franchise agreement.
That covers most of it. Understanding that one of the key things that councillors can do is direct the Police to prioritise this via. the Area Committee is great. I haven't much to add to this - I'd suggest that understanding that a councillor badgering the Police on this subject carries more weight than us normal folk approaching them is the only thing missing.

There's a local question about pavement parking in Queen Ediths next, and again Sam hits most of the nails pretty hard. One thing perhaps missing is that there's already a bye-law in Cambridge where the City can put a ban on parking on grass verges merely by having a sign, and that this becomes a useful tool in conjunction with the other stated measures. I don't think she's missing much at all here though.

So all in all a very solid performance from Sam here - there isn't much missing, I would only question how much she's prioritising fully segregated cycle infrastructure over other measures. But this is a sound response - 9/10.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Camycle Local Election Survey - My Answers

Its only fair, after roasting local election candidates over their replies (some of which were great, some rubbish) that I should put my own views forward for criticism. Feel free to have a go at what I've said if you like.

Because when I open up the web page it goes straight to West Chesterton, I'll answer those questions. Enjoy.

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?
Myself and my partner ride all the time, its our primary means of transport. Sometimes its for fun too - we're happy going on longer rides, thats normally on the faster road bikes, whereas commuting tends to be by chunky hybrid, and trips to the shops and the allotment are by the sturdy ex-posties bike with or without the trailer. Neither our families live here in Cambridge nor do any of them regularly ride - like most people, in most parts of the country, adverse road conditions put them off. And thats from childhood onwards - I don't blame my siblings from dissuading their kids from riding in places they live, which are all entirely car-centric and hostile to cycling.

But if I'm honest those concerns, while amplified for kids and the elderly (and those less able bodied), are the same for everyone and can be addressed the same way - safe infrastructure should be there for us all to ride on.

Camcycle believes that more people cycling has positive benefits for individuals' health and the city by reducing congestion and air-pollution. What is your vision to encourage more people of all ages and all abilities to cycle as a preferred mode of transport?
It isn't so much my own vision as it is the clear evidence of decades or research on transport choices - there's one game in town, and thats high quality, segregated infrastructure. I know people like to talk about educating cyclists, teaching drivers, good policing, places to lock bikes and in work showers but the impact of all of those measures combined pales into insignificance next to the provision of high class infrastructure.

So my vision is for all levels of local government in Cambridge (City, County, Mayoral and Greater Cambridge) to commit to installing said infrastructure at every opportunity. Our sister city, Cambridge in Massachusetts, has passed law requiring that cycle infrastructure be installed on every major road project. And thats the way we need to go - the provision of safe routes for whole journeys, not just where its easy to build. Restricting car access to the city centre is also a no-brainer - it should be a beautiful place but its choking with fumes, and that has to change.

People can quibble about that all they like - but there's no room for more cars, bus routes will always be slower and indirect and we're not getting any kind of underground Metro for decades. To free up road space, make our air cleaner and our city safer for everyone, dedicated cycle infrastructure is the only game in town. Anyone saying otherwise is demonstrably wrong.

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?
I feel your pain.

The answer I think you want is that I'd push for a full-time cycle officer at the City Council. And yes, I would, and I'd make cost savings to employ one by trimming away some of the endless deadwood in middle management at City level. All too often the people that the Council employs to do work around the city are brilliant, but they're not enabled to do their jobs by managers who just get in the way. I have absolute confidence, from first hand experience, that plenty of savings can be made there to employ a full time cycling officer.

But thats only part of the problem - another part is that planning is ludicrously slanted in favour of developers and against councillors and residents. And with the best will in the world no one local authority can change that. What they CAN do however is use the media and activists such as yourselves far more effectively - while a depressingly dull planning meeting might not get the attention it needs, calling activists and the press in to hilight oncoming planning disasters is a weapon that few councillors seem willing to use. That has to change - if the law is stacked against sustainable transport in development then we must be willing to win in the court of public opinion first, and that eventually changes the system.

Cycle theft is a city-wide problem, and the greatest frustration is focussed on the Cyclepoint parking facility at the main Cambridge rail station. Official response to cycle theft at Cyclepoint has been subject to a breakdown of relationship between those in authority. When somebody tries to report their bike has been stolen they get a run-around between the railway company, the British Transport Police and the local police. What can the city council do to encourage the necessary co-operation between Greater Anglia and Cambridgeshire Constabulary?
Its easy to bottle out of this question by saying its not a councillor thing, its a police thing. But I won't do that. I've seen how it plays out when you report anything relating to crimes against cyclists in Cambridge - the cops want you to shut up and go away and they'll do whatever it takes (frustrating you by losing details, not taking reports, refusing to accept that dangerous driving can be a thing without a collision, etc.) to frustrate you. But then when you call in a councillor, or bellyache online and a councillor pushes it (as Oscar did once when I had footage of a dangerous driver in the city centre) then the Police take notice. Councillors don't have direct sway over policing priorities but their views carry way more weight with the police than the rest of us can manage. Bluntly, councillors in the city must collectively approach Cambridgeshire Constabulary and British Transport Police and tell them that we've had enough. We absolutely require that for each reported bike theft at Cyclepoint footage from CCTV is consulted and images circulated to catch the thief. And, likewise, across the city wherever there is camera footage it must be accessed.

Its hard to imagine the police being so blase about the theft of anything else - councillors at each local area committee must push the police to prioritise crimes against cyclists, including bike thefts, in every part of the city.
Protected junctions where walking and cycling traffic are fully separated from motorised traffic have been proposed by Cambridge Cycling Campaign for junctions being rebuilt by the Milton and Histon Road GCP projects. Which junctions do you think would benefit from similar safety improvements within the Cambridge area?
There was a recent discussion on Twitter about cycle junctions in Cambridge, and I think it was Al from Camcycle who asked whether there are any junctions in Cambridge designed well enough for cyclists. After some consideration the considered, all round response was 'no, not really'. This makes the answer 'well all of them' quite easy, but its (a) unhelpful and (b) glib. But starting with the developments on Milton Road, I'd take the simple approach of addressing each junction in the city in order of the number of cyclist injuries reported there. Lets not guess or blunder about - the data is available and is a simple, unambiguous guide to the action plan we need.

Ultimately no bike journey is better than its worst junction. The more junctions we fix, the better whole bike journeys will get.
 The eastern section of Arbury Road near Milton Road is narrow, filled with parked cars creating a cycle safety hazard, and speeding traffic far above the 20mph limit. How would you propose to create safe cycling conditions along this part of Arbury Road, for instance by extending the new cycle lanes?
To be honest I wouldn't have started the Arbury Road project without a plan to do the whole road. Its absurd that there's going to be a short stretch of reasonably decent cycle lane completely unconnected to anywhere else thats worth cycling - at one end there's the dogs dinner of the Arbury Road/Kings Hedges junction where we don't connect up with anything, and at the other the plan is for the route to disappear and we're apparently meant to ride all round the houses and keep out of the way of the car drivers on Arbury Road. Fuck that for a game of soldiers, its not going to encourage anyone to ride to work from, say, Orchard Park to the Beehive. We have to stop these delusional part-projects and stop planning officers patting themselves on the backs for shit like this, its just not on - the current facility being finished on Arbury Road represents a failure, not a success.

The South/East end of Arbury Road isn't even that hard to fix, I find it inexplicable that we didn't see a plan emerge before the work started at the other end of the road. I'd make it one way for driving, ban parking on one side, and install a fully segregated contaflow lane for cycling on the other side. If there is room I'd put fully segregated cycle lanes on both sides, if there isn't I'd install hard speed restrictions to tame motorists there (they treat it like a long, straight drag track right now)

And thats before we consider what should be done on Union Lane...

Monday 29 April 2019

Camcycle Local Election Survey 2019 - The Purple Team

Not that UKIP have any hope here, at all. I mean even at their best they flopped here, but hey, this is a local election for local issues and I'm sure their demented requirement that a staunchly Remain city should give a shit about them is something we can overlook...

Except of the three candidates they've put up in the city none of them have responded. Not one. And thats a real shame from a comedy perspective because we've seen some right train crash responses in the past.

So in light of them not responding, and the known track record of folk like Berkinshaw, I'd like to award them a -50/10. Seems only fair.

Camcycle Local Election Survey 2019 - The Blue Team

Not a whelk in Hades chance in this ward, but fair is fair, lets find a couple of Tory candidates and treat them the same as we have the others.

In Kings Hedges there are two seats up, but the Tories have selected two candidates and arbitrarily I'm picking the epically named Eric Barrett-Payton. Just as well like, the other guy didn't answer yet.

His concerns cycling and for those who are more vulnerable?

Some family members have cycled and I was a very keen cyclist when I was younger, but not now, due to problems with joints. My main concern is the lack of safe places to park and lock a bike where ever we want to stop at our temporary destinations
Really? Thats your main concern? Not that councillors direct the Police to target children terrified to mix it with articulated lorries? Well I don't share your values then.

How would he get more people cycling because its leaner, greener, more economical?

 More places where it is possible to park a bike securely would help
Bit of a one trick pony, Eric? Like, did someone beat you to a Chelsea lock once and you've not recovered from the emotional trauma? Look, bike locking helps, but its not the be all and end all. Likewise his answer on planning is, well, not dismissive so much as not in any way invested in cycling as an issue. And his answer on cycle theft demonstrates that he doesn't understand the role of our elected police commissioner, the relationship between Cambridgeshire Constabulary and British Transport Police, the role of the provider of protected cycle parking, or that of councillors in setting policing priorities at an area level in Cambridge.

And on physical barriers to cycling? He's just wrong.
This is a tricky balance between the requirements of walkers and cyclists to have full access, but safely, without the risk of rogue motor cyclists using unsuitable routes. There is no excuse for not having full access for pedestrians, but it is more difficult to see how larger bikes can be accommodated and still deter motorbikes. Technical innovations might provide an answer in future, perhaps something like a low style that allows you to lift over a three wheeler, or other larger bike and trailer, which would be possible for them, but not heavier machines, although this is not an ideal solution, it might be some improvement in the present situation
I don't want to sound uncharitable but... Ok, lets be honest, I don't care if I come across as uncharitable, nor am I going to mask what I'm about to say by putting 'with respect' in front of it. Alex here is an idiot and basically wrong about most things. 0/10 for turning up and not being actively hostile to cycling - like I'm just glad I don't have to give you a negative score.

Now we've been mooching abut North Cambridge with all the responses so far and frankly I'm bored, so we'll go and look at what Manas Deb has to say in Queen Ediths.

His  experience of riding and concerns for more vulnerable riders?
I cycle with my little boy in weekdays for his school run and with family in weekends. My son has passed level 3 in cycling year before and we send him for cycling courses arranged by his school from time to time. Last year I have purchased an advanced multi gear cycle with a carrier for my son to use for his school journeys safely.Addenbrooke’s round about and Queen Edith’s Way round about is unsafe for cyclist and pedestrians due to the absence of zebra crossing and unfortunately elected Lib Dem Councillors are doing nothing to improve situation. Children should be taught about road safety at early age and I have made my child aware of few unsafe cycle paths and he cycles on his own using Queen Edith’s Way round about and Hills Road.
Oooh. A bit of politics. Well, yeah, that roundabout is crap. But (1) libdems aren't in power in the City, thats Labour which is what this election is for, so can do little there and (2)  the transport authority is the County, they're really best place to take action here, and thats Tory, thats your team. So yeah, I get your frustration and share it, but your political point scoring here backfires spectacularly when we analyze it.

On to what Manas would do to increase cycling:
Cycling is certainly a good exercise to keep one physically fit. Cycling increases cardiovascular fitness, improves joint mobility, decreases stress level and strengthens bones. Motorised transport is noisy, while its emissions reduce air quality and add to the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Cycling can also reduce congestion and the journey times of other road users, particularly in Cambridge City.
My vision to encourage more people of all ages and all abilities to cycle is to first Improve safety and perception of safety, providing infrastructure that encourages active transport, such as creation of direct or shorter routes for cyclists and pedestrians. Encouraging a culture of active transport, understanding that the barriers are different for different populations.
One of the things that New Labour learned from the Tories was that sometimes a simple message said simply is better than a more verbose one. Infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure. Just say it dude - everything else, the cycling culture, the respect that people get when they're no longer treated as an out group, it all follows from that. You're right to look at safety and subjective safety - thats done through infrastructure. You're right that this is a different threshold for different populations but all of them are addressed by infrastructure.

His answer on planning is enthusiastic and clear that he wants to make improvements, but perhaps a little thin on how he'd change things. Tough, nuanced question, and while Manas here has avoided an own goal here he hasn't cleared the ball away.

On to bike thefts...
Cambridgeshire has been hit by a wave of bike thefts. Police data shows a total of 4,296 bikes were recorded as stolen by police in 2017/18.That works out as an average of 12 every day. The figure is up by more than 500 from the 3,793 bikes stolen the previous year. It is the highest it has been since 2010/11, when there were 4,374 bike thefts.
Lib Dem Councillors have failed to raise this bike thefts issue with local police seriously. If elected as Councillor, I would work with City Council to introduce cycle marking initiatives and continue to deliver the message that people have to lock up their bike safely and take the time to security mark their bikes and register the details of their bike with Bike Register. I will also work closely with Police & Crime Commissioner to allocate additional police resources dedicated to reduce cycle thefts.
He doesn't like the Liberal Democrats, does he? I don't really go in for the squabbling between party candidates and I just wish they'd all just fucking grow out of it, but there you go, I'm an idealist. He's well informed as to what the problem is, but not really getting just how little resource is needed to make an enormous impact here - that the difference between looking at footage of cycle thefts on CCTV and not doing so is literally expending 5 minutes of time digitally chopping to the point of theft. Bike marking isn't the issue here, the Police giving this zero priority and actively making it hard to report crime to keep their numbers down, in a way that the Commissioner must surely be fully aware of, is the problem.

There's a Queen Ediths specific question on verge/bike lane/pavement parking next and while he's right in his desire to combat this he's missing out on a handy local bye-law that would stop parking on verges overnight. Right spirit here, needs a bit more information to get in and fix it.

So... Hard to grade this one. He's spot on in so many ways but seems to sacrifice making a good point to make a political one as often as not. 7/10 - some excellent moments, and he gets what the needs are, and he's someone campaigners can work with and, I do hope, influence favourably.

That gives us an inelegant 3.5/10 average for the Tories. Slightly more shit than Labour.

Camcycle Local Election Survey 2019 - The Green Team

As the Green party are the nearest thing we have to a third party in Cambride, in that they have a councillor and the Tories and UKIP don't, lets do them next. Although their chances of still having a seat after the election are up in the air, they're still (for the moment) ahead of the blue and purple teams.

So... The local candidate Angela Ditchfield hasn't answered (I've often said of her I think she's a good egg but I'm never sure her heart is in the whole 'getting to be a councillor' thing).

So I've got to cross in to Arbury where I find Stephen Lawrence. On his own experience cycling and what should be done for those more vulnerable:
Lifelong cyclist.
Yes - those with either a more cautious approach or a lower level of energy need to be catered for specifically
Catered for how, specifically old chap? And is it really true that they need -specific- help or is it more the case that helping cyclists out, all of us, is of disproportionate value to the most vulnerable?

On how to get more people to choose to cycle...
 Sort out the dozens of "dodgy locations" that subconsciously say "cyclists are not form of transport worthy of consideration".
You know Stephen, I'm beginning to think you aren't taking this seriously. Sort out how? You're going to make them appealing to cyclists by doing what?

His answer to planning issues and cycling is more or less a complete non-entity. He didn't grasp it.

Nor, really, are his answers to the other questions worthy of consideration. Sorry to talk all interwebby, but I just can't even.

1/10. Thanks for turning up.

I'm now bouncing around wards to find one where another green candidate has answered, and eventually I'm stopping at West Chesterton where Shayne Mitchells first answer on his(?) own experiences cycling and needs of vulnerable cyclists is brilliant and needs repeating word for word:

 I've cycled all my life, and everyone in the family cycles, mostly as a way of getting around. I love cycling - you feel free and alive - and I can't imagine living without it. I've been lucky to live and cycle in Rome - which was never frightening like Cambridge, as you knew you could trust drivers to (a) notice you and (b) be careful around you.
But following a back injury some years ago, my balance and strength are not what they are, and I have become very aware of how scary it can be. Cambridge is far from being the cycling paradise it is popularly believed to be - too many people drive fast and aggressively and with disregard, even contempt, for cyclists and pedestrians. 
Our daughter has a short cycle ride to Parkside Sixth. I find it depressing that I am glad she is not at Hills Road/Long Road/Impington, simply because getting there by bike involves unpleasant junctions/motorway roundabout, and the like. Simply because the cycling infrastructure is quite inadequate.
Likewise his answer on what should be done to get more people cycling is exhaustive and detailed, but I would take issue with some of his priorities...
Yes, it is dispiriting how few, relatively, people cycle. And what a narrow demographic it is.
While waiting for the bus in Northampton Street, I often pass the time counting vehicles and bikes. The usual ratio is around 1:7. This despite its being a main route for cyclists.
1. A 20 mph limit throughout the city, following on from the successful 20 mph limit in side streets. (If you are throwing up your hands in horror at the prospect, and think it unworkable, remember how so many people threw up their hands in horror at the proposal of a 20 mph limit in side streets - and how it's mostly happened effectively with no kerfuffle.)
2. Decent WIDE cycleways on the road on main roads - Milton Road, Elizabeth Way, Chesterton Road, etc - on the lines of the cycleways on Hills Road.
3. Advance cycle stop lines at all traffic lights.
4. Cycle crossings and pelican crossings - rejig the controls so that they give priority to cyclists/pedestrians crossing the road. At present, they prioritise motor traffic, leaving us waiting in the rain/wind/cold twiddling our thumbs waiting ages for green crossing light.
5. Park andRide - better facilities for cyclists. Normalise it.
6. Use images of older people/women to encourage cycling. Cycling used to be a normal means of transport among middle-aged women in Cambridge. It isn't now - people say they used to, but are discouraged/frightened.
7. Decent bike parking WITH COVERS to keep your saddle/child seat/paniers dry. You don't expect to get into a wet seat in a parked car, so why a bike?
8. Buses and taxis - encourage them to give "cycle awareness" training to drivers. Get the drivers to go out on a bike and see what it's like when buses and taxis pass too close.
Well I can't agree with all of it, ASLs aren't all they're cracked up to be if you can't safely reach them. But there's a heck of a lot there to work with. Its just a but broad and I worry that the prime message, the one thing we know works, which is good quality infrastructure, is lost in among the noise. I'm left thinking its all a bit Andy Preview - all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.

On planning I think his is the best answer I've read, I hope Shayne and the folk at Camcycle don't mind me cutting and pasting so many of his responses but its worth it:
Employ (again) a full-time cycling officer.
Planning system - look at best practice in other places to improve how we, the public, are informed of planning applications. Eg put the site notice on a bright colour and put "This will affect you" in large letters.
Lack of transparency in planning system - can the local newspapers be persuaded to cover applications/meetings more?
 There's an element of wanting to bang heads together in the response regarding cycle thefts, which I share. And on which junctions should be modified such that cyclists and pedestrians get better protection from motorists, the answer 'all of them' followed by a few examples seems heart-felt and at least thought out. I don't disagree with much there.

The last question is a really interesting one restricted to this ward:
The eastern section of Arbury Road near Milton Road is narrow, filled with parked cars creating a cycle safety hazard, and speeding traffic far above the 20mph limit. How would you propose to create safe cycling conditions along this part of Arbury Road, for instance by extending the new cycle lanes?
And the response, extending cycle lanes further down Arbury Road, restricting car parking in front of the shops on Arbury Road, all sounds good but rather shows that the candidate is a little behind the curve on this issue. There's a proposal to make the South end of Arbury Road one way (hopefully only for motoring - it would be absolute murder to stop cycling there), and thats a game-changer.

So all in all, a lot of passion and some in-depth thought from this candidate, but its a little bit of a muddle in places. Still, very good - 7/10.

That gives the Green team an average of 4/10 - as ever, their candidates are a real mixed bag.

Camcycle Local Election Survey 2019 - the Yellow Team

Historically there used to be three parties had a hope in Kings Hedges. I was talking to an ex-LibDem councillor yesterday and he told me that they always treated the ward as a three way marginal because there's a persistent Tory vote that never seems to go away. But getting real for a moment, its a long time since the Tories did anything but belly-flop here, and the only real opposition is the yellow team.

We've got two candidates for the two seats (which is a mistake guys - why wouldn't you want to maximise your chances of getting one candidate into office?) I'll pick one of them to review and look or another in a neighbouring ward. Tossing a coin I'm going to consider Luke Hallams responses.

On concerns for older and younger cyclists, and his own experience cycling...
I mainly travel on foot and I do not currently own a bike. I only cycle occasionally when I borrow a bike from friends. I am therefore not confident riding on roads but I am currently looking into going to a Bikeability course to improve my knowledge and confidence. From my perspective, better cycle routes, with segregated bike lanes (that don’t suddenly disappear onto a busy road) would really encourage me to cycle more and I think would really help younger cyclists as well.
Luke, if you're reading this, firstly, thats spot on. Well done. Secondly, give the guys at Outspoken a call and talk to them about what training options are available. Its not the be all and end all, but it won't hurt. And thirdly, get in touch with me, we'll see if one of our spares in my garage can be fitted to you, and come out for a ride with me and my other half - it sounds like the biggest thing you're lacking is confidence, and thats best obtained by riding with people who do this, here, every day. Failing that you've got a whole lot of yellow team cyclists, surely one of them has a spare bike and can ride out with you?

On how to get more people out on their bikes:
Increasing the number of cycle lanes is one way to make people feel more comfortable about taking up cycling. I believe there is value in shared cycle schemes, working with robust public transport to ensure that there is always an alternative to car use. Our wider anti-idling campaign will help draw attention to the environmental cost of vehicles, and will encourage people to cycle instead.
Well thats most of it covered. Infrastructure is the biggie - although some reference to policing (total lack thereof with regard to motoring) would be appreciated here too. But on the whole... Good.

Regarding planning and council work, he's supportive of having a full-time cycling officer, and raises a fair concern regarding the new developments coming to the ward. Perhaps an acknowledgement that councillors could themselves do more could be there too, but, again, nothing to disagree with here.

On cycle theft his suggestion of getting reps from Greater Anglia and the Police in the same room is fair, and the acknowledgement that police resources are stretched is reasonable. Although frankly I've never heard anyone say 'well you know, investigating (theft of something that isn't a bike) isn't going to be a priority because of resources'. And I would have hoped that he'd have understood his role as a councillor would put him on North Area Committee, giving him a vote to instruct local Police officers to prioritise cycle theft.

And on specific barriers to cycling in the ward? He's picked some of the major constrictions and told us how he'd solve them. Top marks.

I'm giving Luke 9/10. I know. I'm as surprised as you are. He's nailed most of it, he just needs a tiny bit more attention in some answers.

So we went off to Arbury last time when looking at Labour, lets drift south into Chesterton and see what we find there. I see that Owen Dunn is standing. In fairness beating the Labour candidate, Gerri Bird on cycling issues isn't hard. Whats his experience riding and whats the problem for more vulnerable riders?
Cycling is my main mode of transport. I cycle 30-50 miles a week commuting around Cambridge, mainly on the road but also using some off-road cycle paths. I sometimes use a bike trailer to do large shopping trips.
I also cycle for fun and do 100km-200km rides with Audax UK (
I'm a fairly confident cyclist and usually cycle on roads, but many younger or less confident cyclists and those with disabilities find on-road cycling too scary. They benefit from having segregated cycle routes which are protected from motor traffic, and I'm keen that the city's network of segregated routes grows (and connects!)
So he's pretty serious about his bike. I've seen him on two wheels, not seen him out with the trailer, but have no reason to doubt that. And he's spot on about cycle facilities - although I'd say maybe an acknowledgement that they'd be good for him too would be worthwhile.

Regarding getting more people riding, I can't disagree at all:

 We need to make it easy and pleasant to get around by bike. This means:
* continuous segregated cycle routes which are well signposted and don't just disappear
* more bike parking on more streets, and sufficient bike racks in business and residential developments
* more permeable development so that cut-throughs make local journeys much easier by bike
* encouraging businesses to provide showers and changing facilities
We need to take action on air pollution so that getting around the city is feasible for those with breathing difficulties. Measures such as monitoring air quality, reducing engine idling, and tree planting will contribute to this.
I would only suggest that this needs to be clearly ordered - work showers won't help at all unless there's safe access to ride there. The only game in town that really works is infrastructure, everything else follows as a result of more people riding.

On planning his desire for a full time cycling officer is fair, and his desire to work with officers to hard-wire cycling into planning responses is worthy. I also think there's a party line emerging here - you guys want a full time cycling officer? Brilliant. So do I. Whats your costing for it? How much will it cost and how will you pay for it? Can you, for example, tell me which other post you're going to cut or reduce to part-time to pay for it?

The next Question in Chesterton is about Nuffield Road and basically how its a motorist dominated death trap. He doesn't fluff it, and provides a fairly detailed response and I actually appreciate how he holds back from going for the political jugular by not talking about how the previous consultation was fluffed when only residents rather than the school and medical centre were asked. His answer is considered and fair, acknowledging a clear need to protect pedestrians and cyclists by physically stopping cars getting on the pavements and providing a protected cycle route.

Regarding physical barriers to cycling, he lists the kinds of barriers that are a problem without listing the locations of where they are in his ward or (confusingly) in Kings Hedges which the question asks about. Take the trailer on a jaunt around the ward Owen, you'll find a few.

But on the whole? Splendid from Owen. 9/10

This means the Libdems have scored an unprecedented 9/10 - both of their candidates are on message, rational, fair, and simply know what they're talking about on cycling issues.

Camcycle Local Election Survey 2019 - The Red Team

As the team thats currently winning in Cambridge, having a majority on the City Council, lets do Labour first.

Kings Hedges, the ward I live in, has two seats up for grabs this time after the death of one of the Councillors (a Labour councillor and mayor). So some parties are standing two candidates, which should give us a lot to choose from here.

Sadly only one of the candidates from Labour has responded so far, which is unsurprising because as far as I can tell Kevin Price doesn't particularly give a shit and is a fine example of how Labour think any old buffoon with a red rosette can win here. But another, Alex Collis, has replied.

Collis has form talking about cycling before, and I'm afraid it isn't good form as you can see from this thread. Her tendency to generalise about cyclists and specifically concentrate on negative stereotypes speaks volumes, but lets not hold that against her. Well, not much. Lets see what she says in response to the survey questions...

The first question is a bit of a warm up effort:

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?
 And her response...
I do not own a car, preferring to either walk or cycle as often as possible. Half of my family still lives in Cambridge and all are regular cyclists; my own son is now an adult but I do have concerns about my younger nieces and nephews' safety when cycling, particularly on main roads such as Newmarket Road and Histon Road where there is such a high volume of traffic. Although they see/learn good cycling practice from their parents, they are inevitably more vulnerable and less able to judge situations or assert their position as cyclists.
Call me picky but I worry when someone is asked about their experience cycling and they respond with their motoring status first - from a strictly identitarian perspective its worrying. You weren't being asked about whether you drive, you were asked what your experience of cycling is. Its fair to comment that some roads are busy and thats a problem, but I'm worried about how this response immediately places blame on the more vulnerable younger cyclists for being less able to judge their surroundings or assert their position than other. She's immediately shifting responsibility to groups bringing so little risk to others that it can hardly be measured and away from motorists who bring all the risk. Worrying. Very worrying.

The second question is an opportunity for candidates to really open up about what positive steps they might favour for cycling. Thus:

Camcycle believes that more people cycling has positive benefits for individuals' health and the city by reducing congestion and air-pollution. What is your vision to encourage more people of all ages and all abilities to cycle as a preferred mode of transport?
And here the candidate immediately crashes and burns. When asked how you'll do things positively for everyone in the city, because we all benefit from less pollution, noise, road danger, etc. she immediately becomes an apologist for motoring. The question doesn't set cycling advocacy against motoring, but the candidate immediately does:
 I haven’t owned a car for over ten years, getting rid of it as a conscious decision on environmental grounds. Even then, Cambridge was horribly congested and the air quality noticeably deteriorating. Not everyone is going to feel similarly or choose cycling (over driving) as a mode of transport so a diversity of approaches will be needed. Information on health and environmental benefits of cycling will need to be freely available and well publicised, but will not work on its own. Action is also needed.
Thats your plan? Accept people will drive but tell them it would be nice if more people cycled? There isn't a single person who doesn't know that doing a bit more exercise and burning a little less fuel makes good financial sense, good ecological sense and a great deal of personal fitness sense. But she goes on about cycling advocacy and soft measures to encourage. This is nonsense - research going back decades shows a single measure works to increase cycling uptake, and thats the development of safe cycling infrastructure to cover whole journeys. No commute by bike is better than its worst junction - you can't whisper in peoples ears that cycling is good for them if their lived experience is the murderstrip cycle lane on Kings Hedges Road. Epic failure from the candidate here.

Question 3 is much mure nuanced and subtle than I suspect any of the candidates are going to realise (were you being a little too clever here Camcycle or am I reading more into this than you intended?)
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?
So basically its a question loaded to put the blame on councillors in all sorts of ways. They haven't chosen to give a cycling officer time or remit to go through planning in detail, they haven't instructed planning officers to fully prioritise cycling in planning. and councillors themselves are waving through dreadful planning applications that enormously under-deliver on cycling. The clever response would be to address all three issues and explain how the candiate would push to do better. Does Collis give that clever response? No, not really, apparently officers and councillors need better training and something about cars being at the centre of planning. Again, its not about doing things for cyclists, its about not doing everything for motorists so, again, she's playing us off against motoring in an absurdly uneven fashion. Not good enough.

The next question is about cycle theft across the city but with specific reference to Cyclepoint. And the candidate, rather than demonstrating an understanding of the problem (police flat out refuse to look at CCTV footage citing the frankly insultingly stupid notion that they must look at 8 hours of footage, spending 8 hours, to find an image of when a cycle was stolen rather than repeatedly look at half way points to find a view the culprit inside of a minute) the candidate talks about stakeholders and basically waffles. The issue isn't lack of work from 'stakeholders', it is purely a regulatory and policing one. Nil points.

The next one is about permability and physical barriers to cycling in the ward and across the city. Bit of a banana skin question this one - you can immediately tell whether someone cycles in and around the ward by whether they've found the insane and frustrating routes blocked to cyclists for no apparent reason. And does she get it? No. I mean she's only just now talking about cycle lanes, and she has't picked out any of the specific locations in the ward that are a problem. And I'm sorry, if your argument that narrow cycle lanes are bad because they're physically harder for disabled cyclists you're missing the point more profoundly than I know how to address.

So, all in all, I'm going to give Collis an absurdly generous score of 1/10. I don't think her head is in the right place on cycling at all, and even though she says she rides a bike its obvious that many of her answers have come out of a 'not a motorist' place rather than that.

Looking further afield, lets hop over the road and look at the now well established candidate Carina O'Reilly.

She doesn't really answer regarding experiences of younger and older cyclists, but does highlight that she rides here and abroad. Ok, but half an answer.

Regarding getting more people cycling because it benefits us all in so many ways:
I think the priority for encouraging cycling is to provide safe and segregated cycling facilities. Cycling among traffic is very intimidating for new riders.
Pretty much nailed it, although I'd go further and say that safe facilities are brilliant for all riders. But with specific reference to the question, she's spot on.

On the planning question she's perhaps a little pessimistic, but like most pessimists I suspect Carina would say she's a realist:
 The planning system as a whole is under-funded and planning decisions are very restricted by law. There is very little systemic change that is possible at City Council level; we are limited by the law and by losing 40% of our budget in the last few years. Unfortunately, until there's a change in government, we are more reliant on good work done by citizens and volunteers than anyone would ideally want.
While thats all true, many of the changes to planning applications needed to make things a whole lot better for cycling aren't that great, and there are clear things that the City can do to make this better (which perhaps if I get time to write my own responses to these questions, I'll elaborate on). But all in all, she's speaking from an experienced, grounded perspective here - reading this I don't see any silly ideas or misunderstanding of the problems and it makes her come across as someone cycling advocates could work with.

On the cycle theft question she's again clear this isn't a city power, but acknowledges that working towards a clear reporting system would help. I am however surprised that she's missed out the simple thing she as a councillor (and the labour group as councillors) could do, which is instruct local police to treat cycle theft as a 'local priority' via. the city Local Area Committee system. Bluntly, if for example the Police come out with nonsense about not looking at cctv footage because it takes too long at a public meeting, Councillors are in a position to publicly and vocally call them out on this shit. But instead the NAC on which she sits has frequently empowered bellyachng about cyclists rather than policing for them through its police priority decisions. Hit and miss answer there I feel.

Now the fifth question here is a ward specific one, namely:
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?
And her answer...
 We have already submitted proposals for a crossing in this area and are hoping to make progress on this this year. I use this area regularly for cycling and I am keenly aware of the difficulties and dangers for all cyclists here.
Well the whole Histon Road thing is going to be a fight over the next couple of years and I fully anticipate that its going to run and run. I would have liked to see some more detail of the proposals here, there's not enough to judge the candiate on this answer really.

Question 6 is about improving cycling on Carlton Way, and she replies that she'd like dedicated cycle routes there. I agree entirely, and its almost that simple - the question should reasonably be extended to 'and then what?' when you get to either end, as there's huge potential to turn this into a major North/South route for cycling in the city incorporating Stretten Avenue, and linking Roxburgh Road, all the way along the route already there (but terribly surfaced and poorly laid out) to the Science Park. But a good, clear, simple, fair answer.

Carinas answer to number 7, about junctions separating walking and cycling from motorised traffic, concentrates mostly on Mitchams Corner and Chesterton Road - perfectly fair to hilight those places because although they're not in the ward they're unavoidable for those living there and clearly need addressing.

So for Carina O'Reilly, considering the whole body, there are a couple of places where I'd like to see more detail and hear a bit more about what she's proposing, but whats there is all positive, reasonable and sensible. I'd rate it 7/10.

So for those two candidates, I'm giving Labour an average score of 4/10. Which isn't great if I'm honest, but we've seen worse.