Change is challenging. The County Council is experimenting with closing a small number of streets to through-traffic. Some shopkeepers are worried they will lose business. Some residents are concerned about vehicles U-turning at closure points when children are cycling through.
The main reason for the changes is to make it possible to allocate some of the road to pedestrians, so people can maintain a safe distance while walking or queuing to enter a shop; the other reason is to make more routes safe for people of all ages to cycle. Residents on those streets will also benefit from having no speeding cars and better air quality.
The challenge is that some trips by car will now require a detour, and other roads may become more congested as a result. Those inconveniences could negatively impact businesses. We need our local traders, so how do we ensure that they thrive?
Shops offering online ordering and home delivery during lockdown were rewarded for their efforts. Using cargo-bike couriers to deliver to customers and bring in supplies has several advantages over lorries and vans: they can continue to use the shortest routes; they don’t pollute; and they don’t block pavements while unloading. The Greater Cambridge Partnership could assist this transition.
Local communities can help traders leaflet homes and promote themselves in other ways to attract more local customers. There are lots of people needing haircuts, eye tests and dental check-ups!
Where a road closure is enforced by cameras (as on Mill Rd bridge, to allow buses through), it could be time-limited, for instance to facilitate early-morning deliveries. The City Council could perhaps trial a system to allow taxis through when carrying a passenger holding a Blue Badge. Site meetings between safety officers, local councillors and residents to go over and refine scheme designs can help build confidence in them.
There is a real opportunity to make long-term changes for the better. It needs council reps, business owners and residents to engage respectfully, and to listen to each other’s ideas and concerns with an attitude of, “How can we make this work better?”
Together we can do it.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 24 June 2020.