Smarter Cambridge Transport

A ‘people centric’ strategy or perpetual congestion?

Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) published a report in March that deserves more attention than its uninspiring title and status suggest. The ‘discussion only paper’ City Access Update, including Achieving Modal Shift and Options for Demand Management contains some revolutionary ideas: ‘people centric’ planning, an electric bus pilot, and pollution and congestion taxes.

It proposes new guidance for designing junctions and traffic signals that “focuses on improving the movement of people rather than on the management of vehicle queues.” Regular readers will know we have repeatedly asked for this. It means the County Council and its contractors will have to update their modelling software to take full account of people walking and cycling.

Yes, it also means motor traffic will be held up to give more time and space for people to walk and cycle across roads and junctions. But that’s how we create, for instance, safe routes to schools, which in turn means fewer parents having to drive their children to and from school.

The report explains how, “as modal shift occurs, road space will be freed up for other uses.” A Spaces and Movement Supplementary Planning Document will set out how a “‘people centric’ strategy [will prioritise] the enhancement of the city’s spaces, streets, cycleways and walkways.” Excellent news, but…

This is not what GCP is planning for Milton and Histon Roads: rather than freeing up road space, the plan is to take green space, primarily for buses to have their own 3m of tarmac for a few hours a day.

GCP seems to be planning for two different futures. In Plan B, ‘demand management’ measures succeed in reducing motor traffic to 10–15% below 2011 levels, and pollution even further; electric buses run frequently and reliably through the city; most routes are safe for anyone to walk or cycle; and places like Newmarket Rd and Mitcham’s Corner have gained trees and green space.

But Plan A is still to convert green space to bus lanes, busways and park-and-ride sites, while congestion and pollution grow steadily worse.

Which plan are you asking our politicians to deliver?

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 2 May 2018.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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