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.

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