Smarter Cambridge Transport

How can we improve mobility in the city centre?

Following on from my piece about developing a vision for Cambridge city centre, here are some thoughts about the consequences of prioritising more of the city centre for pedestrians. In particular, how would it affect those who have limited mobility or impaired perception?

A mobility scooter with a top speed of 4mph is really not at home on a narrow, crowded pavement; nor is one with a top speed of 8mph at home on a road with buses and taxis. But clear the road of motor traffic, and suddenly there’s plenty of space for mobility scooters, tricycles, cargo bikes and bike trailers.

Tricycles are an attractive mode for people with impaired mobility or balance. They can also carry a relatively heavy or bulky load without being destabilised. With electrical assistance, hills and significant distances are no obstacle.

Cargo bikes and trailers are great for young families. They’re also ideal for most daytime deliveries around the city centre, as Cambridge’s Zedify (formerly Outspoken) is proving.

We will need to find a lot more space to park cycles of all sizes. The multi-storey car parks are rarely full, so why not convert more space in those to cycle parking?

Being jostled on a crowded pavement or forced to step into the road can be stressful and dangerous, especially for the elderly and young children. Removing large buses and HGVs from certain roads would enable pavements to be widened, greatly enhancing people’s experience of walking in the city.

Improved air quality would also make the city centre a more pleasant place for those with asthma and other pulmonary conditions.

There is a negative, though: relocating some central bus stops and taxi ranks would reduce accessibility for some people. The answer could be to run an electric minibus service within the city centre – emulating other European cities with large pedestrianised centres, such as Ghent and Ljubljana.

Do you agree that excluding motor traffic from more of the city centre would make it more accessible, more enjoyable and safer? What else, besides extra cycle parking and a minibus service, would ensure nobody is excluded?

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 31 October 2018.

Ideas for re-routing buses in the city centre are set out in our paper on a Cambridge city bus hub.

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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  • A good idea but only if there are good traffic free access routes from outside the city centre. So any idea like this needs to be a part of a wider transport policy which prioritises non-car forms of transport and includes proper segregated cycle routes along major feeder roads.

    • Ideas to address priority access to the city for buses can be found elsewhere on the website, for instance Cambridge city bus hub and Inbound Flow Control. We also support the provision of continuous protected and off-road cycle routes into and throughout the city, and improved provision everywhere for people walking and using wheelchairs and mobility scooters.