Smarter Cambridge Transport

Emerging vision for Cambridge city centre skirts around painful choices

“Cambridge – A City of Perpetual Consultation.” Next up is the Central Cambridge Vision, Aims and Objectives and Strategies report, which the city council is consulting on until mid-October .

You will probably agree with its description of Cambridge: “A city with a global profile … that is not living up to expectations,” struggling with congestion, highly conflicted streets, a lack of civic spaces, inadequate provision for buses and cycling, and overwhelmed with tourists.

So, the council is proposing making Cambridge “green, healthy, equitable, welcoming and well-curated.” That’s all very nice. So, what’s actually going to change?

The proposed strategies offer various improvements for people walking, cycling and resting, including “new public spaces.” But, when it comes to detail on how this will be achieved, the report lapses into promises of yet more research and consultation: “re-appraise the location and function of central car parks,” “re-appraise the bus and coach routing,” “review routing and arrangements for delivery and service vehicles,” “review the role, facilities and locations of taxi stands.”

This softly, softly approach permeates the report, most oddly in how it responds to climate change and pollution, where “increasing concern” about these prompts policies on “improving the green infrastructure” (unspecified), integration of “sustainable drainage features” and “a reduction in motor vehicle traffic and move over to zero emissions vehicles.”

We need more radical and specific policies on de-carbonising how we live and work, and on preventing people dying from exposure to polluted air everywhere in the city. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road. We have to make big changes, some of which will be painful and unpopular – with city residents, businesses and visitors in different ways. We need an honest conversation about how we will reduce motor traffic, where we will re-route buses, how we will fund more bus services, where we will provide more cycle parking, and so on.

The Citizens’ Assembly that met earlier this month may show us a new way to talk about growth, housing, inequality, transport, energy and water. Let’s get on with it – to secure the livelihoods of younger and future generations.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 18 September 2019.

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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