When it comes to solving a complex problem, do you start with the easy parts, hoping inspiration will arrive later to solve the difficult parts? Or do you make sure you can crack the difficult parts first?
The £500 million City Deal grant was meant to give Greater Cambridge the opportunity to fix the difficult parts of the local transport network – the parts that developer contributions and ad hoc government grants couldn’t touch. The biggest conundrum of all is how to allocate very limited space in Cambridge city centre to make walking and cycling safe for people of all ages and abilities, and make buses fast and reliable.
The Active Travel Opportunities report behind the consultation on spending £20 million recommends just two, covering Mowbray Road, Perne Road, Long Road and Queen Edith’s Way – exclusively to benefit cycling. The shortlist of thirteen cycling schemes would cost a further £75 million, and still leave unresolved several of the most conflicted walking and cycling routes in Cambridge:
- Emmanuel St, Parker St, Hobson St, Silver St, Bridge St, Magdalene St: Should large buses be excluded to make these safer to walk and cycle? Where else could buses (and many more of them in future) connect and lay over?
- East from Barton Rd: Which routes should be widened to accommodate more cycling? Paths and bridges across Lammas Land and Sheep’s Green, or alongside The Fen Causeway?
- Pembroke/Downing St: Should buses be diverted via Lensfield Road? Or general traffic re-routed via Tennis Court Road? Or the Grand Arcade car park gradually re-purposed?
- Garrett Hostel Lane – Senate House Passage: Should cycles be excluded to make it safer for pedestrians?
The report proposes narrowing pavements and creating more shared-use paths, in contravention of the transport hierarchy, which places the needs of pedestrians – including those with disabilities – at the top. It also proposes extensive removal of grass verges.
In short, it’s another failed attempt to solve cheaply just part of the problem. Until the GCP develops, through genuine consultation, a coherent transport strategy for active travel, public transport, deliveries and private transport, it continues to waste our time and money.