Few transport projects benefit as many people, so cost-effectively, as off-road paths for those prepared to cycle or walk if it makes their journey easier. The paths we have built already have taken thousands of people out of cars. If you’re a car driver, you may not have felt that the ‘DNA Path’ and the Guided Busway cycleways were investments which have affected you, but they have taken many vehicles off the road and speeded up your car journey times accordingly.
Off-road cycleways also enhance the independence, health and wellbeing of everyone who uses them. So we need to continue to make walking and cycling more attractive, by connecting more villages to each other and to Cambridge.
The routes should be away from busy roads, and suitable for ‘utility’ trips that currently require a car: to school, college or work; to shops, post office or doctor’s surgery. This is especially important for those who can’t afford a car or can’t drive (including under 17s).
The cycleways must be accessible to all, enabling people who are going about their ordinary business to use them without any second thought.
Some existing rural cycleways already carry trips of well over one thousand people each weekday. “Build it, and they will come” is as true for such high-quality cycleways as it is for roads.
So what’s required? Not much. A sealed surface so that you arrive at your destination without mud splashed on clothes or shoes. Sufficient width such that conflicts between users are infrequent and that dismounts for those on cycles are unnecessary. Safe road crossings that don’t exclude all but the bold and brave.
Good design needs to be built in from the start, with respect for landscape and heritage. Trips become pleasant, more reliable and faster when there is a lack of obstructions and interruptions. Top speed is not necessarily the main element in getting somewhere more quickly.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership is proposing to fund a network of ‘greenways’ (routes for cyclists, pedestrians and even equestrians) between South Cambridgeshire villages and Cambridge. Done well, this will make a significant contribution to modal shift from cars to walking and cycling. It will help reduce congestion and play a part in ensuring economic growth is sustainable. This is an investment which everyone can support.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 13 September 2017.