Friday 29 September 2023

Cambridge STZ is dead

As dead as flared trousers. As dead as consensus politics. As dead as the Earth will be because we're not addressing climate disaster. It's dead, Jim.

And that's a shame, it wasn't entirely bad. The idea that motorists, who are after all polluting, creating congestion, causing damage to the roads, making walking and cycling difficult and dangerous, killing children with avoidable pollution, should pay their way and that we spend that money on better options for everyone? Anyone smarter than a gherkin should say yes to that. The problem was the scheme couldn't be delivered, it was a political impossibility. And then they went and did the worst thing you can ever do, made concessions to swivel headed loony motons who are willing to render their own children down for a litre of diesel. What is it about a bunch of people who turn up at the back of assembly meetings furiously shouting about whatever conspiracy theory they think this is really all about that made the Greater Cambridge Partnership think they might ever be interested in compromise?

But rather than rescue anything from it, they've given up. This is a total victory for the world-ending, climate change denying, cyclist hating motor lobby and considering where we started, with an opportunity to maybe make some positive changes to the city, its a damning indication of how badly our County, Mayoral and Combined authorities have handled this. There are no positives to draw, none. 

You can read what Councillor Meschini says about it here.  She's chair of GCP's executive board. All I can say in response is this - resign, Elisa. Just go. You've failed utterly, you've let us all down completely. You, and all associated with this, ignored all calls for a better scheme involving planning for rapid transit. Sadly, the GCP, the County and mayor Nik Johnson were completely wrong to go in the direction you did. Nik, Elisa, both of you need to square up and accept your failure here, and go. Just go. 

This scheme failed for predictable, indeed predicted reasons. If I could see it, why the hell couldn't they?

Thursday 28 September 2023

Milton Road Still Looks Shit

We seem to have been circling the drain on Milton Road forever. And now we're plunging in to the sewer. Pavements being built there are too narrow to get down with a wheelchair, too narrow with a pram. That's flat out unacceptable. 

To set the scene. Milton Road is a major route in to Cambridge, connecting the centre of town to the A14 through the North of the City. Many of the houses on it are huge, the kind of suburban detached and semi-detached quasi-mansions making their geriatric owners paper-millionaires, having done nothing to earn this wealth other than not died. Traffic there is constant, and the folk commuting to the city sit on the guided bus as it slowly pootles across the countryside slower than a train was doing on the same route in the 19th century, and then they spend another hour or so slowly shuffling down a dripping abscess of a road, on a wet day perhaps watching snails ooze past them on the verge.

The road has always been made worse by having a shared use route (pedestrians and cyclists) that randomly stops and stats in places you need a PhD in urban design to understand, a hostile police force and angry motorists who will threaten you with their vehicles if you're not using it

The plan to improve it started out shit and only got marginally better, always held back by three things. One was the fact that no matter what suggestions came along to make it better the priority has always been to avoid making things bad for drivers - there's no real road space taken from private car users in the final design, roundabouts and junctions will remain potential death traps. Greater Cambridge and our Mayoral Authority have been, for most of their existence, car sick institutions wedded to the perpetual domination of drivers over all others, as is evidenced by the fact that it took them over a decade to come up with a transport plan (which failed, wholly because they caved in to drivers). This of course explains the second problem, that we haven't got a good model for how many people will be driving down Milton Road because there's still no public transport plan, and there never has been. Rather than devising a rapid transit system and making plans based on how many people will drive with that in place, reducing car reliance and then building for what's left, we've had to have a design that won't be a problem for an ever increasing number of drivers. And, lastly, the NIMBY paper millionaires who live there willing to chain themselves to the stunted, dying cherry trees sitting in parched earth full of the collected pollution of a century of failure. WE DEMAND TREES, they say, with no understanding of what species are possible or desirable in the space.

We need high quality cycle provision on Milton Road and there is space for it, and we need high quality space for pedestrians and there's space for that too. But because of the car lobby and NIMBY's we're getting a bland treescape and car dominance instead.

In the BBC article linked to at the top there, the key passage is this:

Mr Porter, the scheme's project manager, said: "We are aware that this section is too tight and we're going to rectify it."

The GCP plans to move the central curb back slightly to accommodate the changes.

Or in other words, they know it's a problem for pedestrians but they're going to move the 'central curb' back (the start of the cycle lane) to accommodate it. Heaven forbid a scheme be designed from the outset to reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians with motorists ceding even an inch of space to allow it.

Greater Cambridge learned nothing from their failed pavements on Histon Road. And they'll learn nothing from this either. The sooner the pathetic shower of a project that is Greater Cambridge is euthanised, the better off we'll all be. 

Milton Road is going to be worse to walk down, meaninglessly better to cycle on because we'll still have dangerous and badly thought out sections preventing anyone new from deciding to ride, and exactly the same as it always was for drivers. And there's the take home lesson - it's really all about the drivers and, from Greater Cambridges perspective, nobody else matters. At all. 

Thursday 31 August 2023

Cambridge Unsustainable Travel Zone is Back

 I wish I didn't have to come back to this. Oh, well.

Cambridge's Sustainable Travel Zone, the STZ, turned out to be hugely unpopular. This is unsurprising - if you tell motorists "we're going to make this better for everyone but you'll have to pay..." then they'll get angry. And they'll stay angry. It doesn't matter what the good stuff is, of course. You could be offering free public transport with busses running to high speed rapid transit that transports everyone to their destination as fast as the car, paid for by stubborn motorists who refuse to use it, and the car lobby would insist on being just that stubborn and paying more to travel less efficiently. There's no compromising with the car lobby, they're not interested, their only moral compass is personal freedom to drive as far and as fast as they like at any environmental cost and fuck everyone else.

So in response to criticism someone at Greater Cambridge went out and got kicked in the head by the horse and decided to offer a compromise and charge motorists slightly less often, with some free days, and then not have anything like enough money to pay for the bus service that was the only thing they had on offer. They also had to dump two thirds of the funding for non-bus improvements despite those commitments having been nebulous and non-committal at best. Or in other words "get the bus peasants, but not as many as we were suggesting, or as frequent, or ride a bike but we aren't actually raising the money we need to build cycle facilities that you'd be happy to ride on, not that we were promising to build those anyway, suckers!"

Other than the democratic deficit inherent in the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the near inevitability that the web toed fenland Tories would win the County back sooner or later and cut the funding to buses as fast as they can say "I do" when marrying their cousins, I raised two concerns with the scheme. The first was that it isn't Tory proof, and that "please get the bus, please!" doesn't fix our urgent need to start building a modern rapid transit system. The other was that the scheme didn't give me any confidence in their commitment to high quality cycle infrastructure. Neither concern has been addressed.

So this compromise proposal, has it any chance of getting through?

No. It's dead. It's just a matter of whether the LibDems or the Labour Party at the County and District councils dump it first and blame the other lot.

You can't compromise with the car lobby, anything shy of utterly unrestrained car access leading to deadly pollution and endless congestion and they'll keep pushing back and refuse. And they have plenty of petrol drinking morons and conspiracy theorists in the media who'll back them up. And more than a few in local politics. Has Greater Cambridge thrown any bones to anyone who opposed this scheme on any other grounds? Nope. Only the petrol heads. Who can never be won over.

There are answers here, good ones, and viable solutions. But because of over a decade of inactivity and squandering vast sums on endless nonsense, Greater Cambridge can't afford them and the Mayoral authority opposes them becuase they can't bring themselves to back any of the half hearted schemes our former Tory mayor never really believed in anyway (remember, he had years in post and listed free parking in Ely as one of his top accomplishments - this is not a man to sort public transport out). I like you Mayor Nick, you're a good bloke, but I believe your opposition to rapid transit scheme and reliance on the bus as an answer is ideological and stupid.

I think the STZ is dead, which is a shame because we urgently need to address transport chaos in a fast growing city. But with any luck it'll take Greater Cambridge with it. And if that's true, good riddance. 

Edit: Looks like I called that just right...