Will Cambridgeshire councillors block space for cycling?

At London’s Space for Cycling ride on the 17th May, Andrew Gilligan said something that sounded rather ominous: “We shall see if the forces supporting cycling are greater than the forces opposing cycling.”

Even in Cambridgeshire, where Cambridge City boasts the UK’s highest rates of cycling (58% of residents cycle once a month or more), the forces opposing cycling remain strong. Councillors on the County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee just voted to defer decision on the Hills Road and Huntingdon Road plans, which won Cycle City Ambition funding. At the least the schemes are going to be delayed and at worst, there’s a risk of losing the funding and/or further diluting the plans until they become meaningless.

Like others, I didn’t think the plans were perfect. I did see them as a step forward, with the clear intention to separate cycle traffic from motor traffic and from pedestrians, on these busy main roads. I wrote:

“the plans – however imperfect – are a clear sign that universal design is slowly gaining ground in the UK cities that are leading on cycling, but improving junction design remains a priority.”

Cycle Infrastructure Design.

Dear Continental visitors: yes, this really is the cover of our cycle design manual.

In blocking the schemes, some on the Committee raised safety fears. But not those safety issues (lack of segregation through junctions, for example) which would mean that – despite the improvements – cyclists and pedestrians still face unnecessary risk from motor vehicles. No. The safety fears raised by the Committee related to ‘kamikaze’ cyclists and the threats they pose to pedestrians.

The language may be offensive, but the sentiment’s not entirely their fault. LTN 2/08, our Cycle Infrastructure Design manual, is an international joke. Not only is much of the content useless, the images continue to hold sway over the public mind. Look at this cyclist. You wouldn’t want him zooming behind you when you’re getting off the bus, would you? He belongs on the road. Look at him! He’s got a helmet on. He’ll be fine. (Sadly, some of the Hills/Huntingdon Road illustrations do have more in common with Mr. C.I.D. than with the diverse group of people who cycle in Cambridge.)

On the other hand, how do you feel about telling her she's got to mix with buses and HGVs?

On the other hand, how do you feel telling her she should mix with buses and HGVs?

The Committee will meet again on 8th July. If you live or work in Cambridgeshire, please, write to your councillor, and/or to the members of the Economy and Environment Committee, expressing your concern over this threat to the proposals. One reason why the Councillors on the Committee voted the way they did was that they received a number of emails opposing the proposals. Here are some thoughts on what you might say (there are some references at the foot of the page related to the evidence on infrastructural preferences etc.):

1. There is now a pretty strong academic consensus that we have to separate cycles from heavy or fast moving motor traffic, if cycling is to be inclusive and safe. This is also generally acknowledged by international design guidance.
2. Hills Road and Huntingdon Road are both busy main roads: these are not the kind of streets where people on bikes (or indeed on foot) should be expected to share space with motor traffic.
3. Hills Road and Huntingdon Road are direct and quick routes into the centre of Cambridge, and people on bikes and on foot should be able to safely and pleasantly use these routes.
4. Without high-quality separated infrastructure, these routes exclude people from cycling; people either will not be able to cycle, will cycle feeling unsafe and intimidated, or will ride on the pavement. Evidence shows that women, children, older and disabled people are particularly put off, so will be disproportionately excluded.
5. Although the risk of injury is low, pavement cycling annoys pedestrians; particularly disabled and older people. (At the moment, Hills Road actually permits pavement cycling, so the proposed move towards separated cycle lanes there is clearly a gain for pedestrians, particularly the most vulnerable groups).
6. For people to be safe and comfortable on these roads either on bikes or on foot, we clearly need high-quality separated infrastructure as proposed in the plans (preferably kerb segregated, and with caveats about junction improvements being needed). Not surprisingly, the consultation over the plans showed majority support.
7. If people on bikes are being segregated from motor traffic, ‘bus stop bypasses’ (where the cycle lane continues inside the bus stop) are part of that. It makes no sense to protect people and then make them regularly pull out into motor traffic at bus stops. If bypasses really aren’t possible on a particular road, and it is to be made safe for all ability cycling, then motor traffic volumes and speeds will need to be dramatically reduced instead.
8. Bus stop bypasses work elsewhere in Cambridge, in Brighton and in London, and in many other countries. They need to be sensitively designed and monitored, because they’re still relatively new here. Some expressed concerns were being taken into account in Cambridge, with proposals to narrow cycle lanes at bus stops and put in crossings for pedestrians. Possibly more tweaks need to be made – but this isn’t a reason to block the scheme.
9. These proposals represent a substantial increase in safety and comfort for people on bikes, and (given the likely reduction in pavement cycling, especially on Hills Road) an improvement for people on foot. Bicycles will get in the way of buses less, with potential journey time benefits for bus travellers. The proposals will enable more people to cycle, thus encouraging modal shift with resultant benefits for health, environment and congestion.
10. The protection offered by the scheme must not be watered down, or these benefits (already compromised to some extent) will be lost.

Some references relating to these points
Bernhoft, I.M. and Carstensen, G. (2008) Preferences and behaviour of pedestrians and cyclists by age and gender, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 11(2), pp. 83–95
Björklund, G. and Isacsson, G. (2012) Forecasting the impact of infrastructure on Swedish commuters’ cycling behaviour, Stockholm Centre for Transport Studies, CTS Working Paper 2013: 36
Broach, J., Dill, J. and Gliebe, J. (2012) Where do cyclists ride? A route choice model developed with revealed preference GPS data, Transportation Research Part A 46 (2012) 1730–1740
Camp, A. (2013) Closing the bicycling gender gap: the relationship between gender and bicycling infrastructure in the nation’s largest cities, Project presented to the University of Oregon in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Community and Regional Planning, available at https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/12935/Camp_Terminal_Project_CRP_4%2026.pdf?sequence=1
Caulfield, B., Brick, E. and McCarthy, O.T. (2012) Determining bicycle infrastructure preferences – A case study of Dublin, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 17(5), pp. 413–417
Dickinson, J.E., Kingham, S., Copsey, S. and Pearlman, D.J. (2003) Employer travel plans, cycling and gender: will travel plan measures improve the outlook for cycling to work in the UK? Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 8 (1) pp. 53–67
Garrard, J., Rose, G. and Loc, S.K. (2008) Promoting transportation cycling for women: The role of bicycle infrastructure, Preventive Medicine 46(1) pp. 55–59
Goodman, A., Panter, J., Sharp, S.J. and Ogilvie, D. (2013) Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: a longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study, Social Science and Medicine 97: 228-37.
Heesch, K.C., Sahlqvist, S. and Garrard, J. (2012) Gender differences in recreational and transport cycling: a cross-sectional mixed-methods comparison of cycling patterns, motivators, and constraints, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:106, http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/9/1/106
Heinen , E., van Wee, B. & Maat, K. (2010) Commuting by Bicycle: An Overview of the Literature, Transport Reviews: A Transnational Transdisciplinary Journal, 30:1, 59-96
Krizek, K.J., Johnson, P.J. and Tilahun, N. (2006) Gender Differences in Bicycling Behavior and Facility Preferences, in Research on Women’s Issues in Transportation, Report of a Conference, pp. 31-40 (Transportation Research Board)
Office for National Statistics (2014) 2011 Census Analysis – Cycling to Work. London: ONS.
Pooley, C. and Turnbull, J. (2000) ‘Modal choice and modal change: the journey to work in Britain since 1890’, Journal of Transport Geography, 8: 11–24.
Pucher, J., Buehler, R. and Seinen, M. (2011) Bicycling renaissance in North America? An update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 45(6), pp.451-475
Sport England/DfT (2014) Local Area Walking and Cycling Statistics: England 2012/13.
Transport for London (2012) Attitudes Towards Cycling. London: TfL.
Transport for London (2012a) Cycle route choice final survey and model report. London: TfL.
Twaddle, H., Hall, F. and Bracic, B. (2010) Latent Bicycle Commuting Demand and Effects of Gender on Commuter Cycling and Accident Rates, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2190, pp. 28–36.
Wang, J.Y.T., Mirza, L., Cheung, A.K.L. and Moradi, S. (2012) Transforming Auckland into a bicycle-friendly city: Understanding factors influencing choices of cyclists and potential cyclists, paper presented to the Australasian Transport Research Forum, Perth
Winters, M. and Teschke, K. (2010) Route Preferences Among Adults in the Near Market for Bicycling: Findings of the Cycling in Cities Study. American Journal of Health Promotion 25(1), pp. 40-47.
Witlox, F. and Tindemans, H. (2004) Evaluating bicycle-car transport mode competitiveness in an urban environment: an activity-based approach, World Transport Policy and Practice, 10(4), pp. 32–42.

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One Response to Will Cambridgeshire councillors block space for cycling?

  1. Paul M says:

    Much as I agree with your 10 proposed arguments, I don’t imagine they will have any traction with the councillors who objected to the scheme in view of the grounds they offered for their objections.

    Your arguments are all about the cyclists, and his/her comfort, safety and convenience. These objectors really don’t give a rat’s arse about the comfort, safety or convenience of cyclists, so you need something else.

    You haven’t mentioned any of the positive benefits to the population of Cambridge as a whole which the introduction of high qualify cycle infrastructure would bring. Better cycling conditions would encourage more people to cycle instead of driving, in a way which training, promotion or simple exhortation never will. Transference awat from cars towards bicycles makes for safer roads, with less congestion for remaining motorists in particular those who really have no alternative but to drive and less danger and a more pleasant environment for pedestrians, especially children, the elderly and disabled. far from the proposals being a menace to these groups, they are a benefit.

    THAT is what people should be writing to their councillors.

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