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...

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