Gilbert Road and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign not really getting it...
cabd

I was surprised to see that Cambridge Cycling Campaign have heard of me, and that recently they (or, rather, Martin Lucas-Smith of the CCC) have quoted me here:

http://www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/95/article4.html

Yes, I’m the pro-cycling critic of the CCC who Martin quotes (without ever linking to my article, which would have been preferable), which was this one here:

http://community.livejournal.com/cyclist_issues/7986.html

Much has been written on the subject of Gilbert Road, including contributions from the CCC and bloggers like David Hembrow. And what tends to be forgotten is that we all want the same thing; a more pleasant environment for all of us to be able to use the route in safety. It’s a major way in to and out of the city, it’s a big road, and an important way in and out for cyclists.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign work long and hard to gain improvements for cyclists. They’re tireless campaigners, constantly lobbying, consulting, discussing, and pushing for these changes. They’re the ‘go to’ organisation for local planners who wish to be seen to be consulting with cyclists. To do a road improvement scheme without talking to them is politically quite hard. And the evidence given for any road planning scheme having taken cyclists seriously is that the CCC have been consulted. Here, they are the Cycling Establishment.

The question, at least for me, is not whether CCC achieve their goals. They clearly do achieve some, and fall short on some others; here with Gilbert road it would be difficult to argue that there has not been a limited improvement for cyclists but that its not as god as it should be. And that’s what the CCC do. Good for them. And they’ve spent a decade campaigning to get there.

The question is whether CCC have the right goals and whether their methods are working. They claim to represent cyclists in Cambridge, and even though that’s an absurdity (their thousand members does not equate to consensus view among many thousands of cyclists here who are not members) that claim is largely accepted by planners and councillors here. I cannot stress enough that it is extraordinarily hard to be heard above the voice of the CCC; if you want to raise a cycling issue and your opinion is not the same as theirs, planners and council officers will ignore you. As for their methods, I cannot doubt their dedication, but Gilbert Road is not as great a victory as it should have been. I ride that road every week and while it’s a little bit better than it was it still isn’t a great route for cycling. Out of preference, out of simple fear of heavy traffic being too close, I still see mothers riding along the pavement with their children rather than using the new expanded cycle lanes.  Just this morning I counted half a dozen or so people using the pavement in preference to the road. And that’s after a decade campaigning; a 1.7m cycle lane, not wide enough and not inviting enough.

Martin has accused me of “Shouting from the sidelines and being grumpy”. Well, yes, I am shouting from the sidelines, and I am being grumpy. With good reason too; to campaign on cycling issues in Cambridge outside of the CCC is to do so from a marginalised position. And that’s enough to make anyone grumpy. But here it is apparent that Martin has misconstrued my suggestion.

Suppose, for a moment, that the CCC were to have a policy of no longer cooperating when it becomes clear that a road scheme isn’t going to deliver what cyclists need. Suppose  that instead of settling for lots of slight, marginal improvements, each of which may take a decade, they were to refuse to endorse these actually rather marginal schemes. What would happen if instead of cooperating with local authority staff who see cycling as something to be squeezed in (both spatially and conceptually), they were instead to say ‘no’? What if arguing against accepting marginal improvements and poor facilities were not ‘shouting from the sidelines’ but was instead the mainstream position of cycling campaigning in Cambridge?

Lots of stats exist on cycling in Cambridge, and its fair to say that they’re rarely very revealing. The modal share of commuting trips in this city is certainly more than 20%, I’ve occasionally seen it quoted at around 27%, but its obvious to anyone using our roads that some routes are entirely dominated by cyclists at rush hour. We don’t have a critical mass movement here because we’re already a critical mass! If Cambridge can’t achieve the facilities we need by a decade of careful consultation (if the best CCC can offer is a partial success), perhaps we need to consider what other campaigning methods (mass letter writing, walking away  when what is on offer isn’t good enough, refusal to cooperate on schemes that do not put cycling first, even, dare I say it, Critical Mass) are available. None those methods are feasible while the CCCs claim of representing cyclists in Cambridge is so blandly accepted by the local authorities, when any tactic not supported by CCC can be written off .

I have a lot of respect for CCC campaigners. But looking back at schemes like Gilbert Road, I can’t see why they think that they are doing so well. Surely the evidence on the ground, the white paint and red tarmac, shows us that the current campaigning stance isn’t going to get us where we need to be.

Time, perhaps, to campaign a little less calmly, and to hold out for better.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign have recently published an extensive shopping list of schemes that they believe will help Cambridge double the proportion of journeys taken by cycists. But on past record, using their current campaigning methods, we're not going to get there. I applaud their long sighted vision, I just think that their methods are rather myopic.


Great for cycle campaigners, maybe not so great for cyclists.
cabd

Gilbert Road finally has its new and improved cycle lanes. They’re 1.7m wide in each direction, and parking has been banned therein due to the presence of double yellow lines. This should make for an improvement for cyclists using that road, and it is fair and right that those who have long campaigned for this should declare their victory.

Here is a link showing what it used to look like, and discussing the agreed changes:

http://www.camcycle.org.uk/campaigning/issues/gilbertroad/

And here’s one just showing how much fun it didn’t used to be to ride on:

http://www.cyclestreets.net/galleries/115/

And here is how much fun it is now:

http://www.cyclestreets.net/location/28382/



I should point out that this campaign has taken a decade, during which time fierce nimbyism from people living on an expensive road with massive private driveways down most of it have eventually had to accept that they don’t get a third, fourth or fifth free parking space on the road for free. The fact that there was already a cycle lane there (and you’re advised by the highway code not to park in one of those) was neither here nor there. That lane was worse than useless.

So well done Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Really. You have achieved your goal.

I just don’t think it’s the right goal. This is yet another marginal improvement for cyclists; yes, its wider, but it isn’t wide enough. Yes, you’ve got rid of parking there in theory, but you’ve left us with an advisory lane that is free for motorists to enter in to and to be  a nuisance in. You’ve given us something that’s a bit better than we had, but which isn’t good enough.

This is the most cycled city in the UK, yet even on a busy road that serves multiple schools as well as being a major route for cycling in to the city, that has ample space for a fully segregated wide cycle lane without depriving motorists of a single lane, a route that would really encourage people to feel safe,  that could demonstrate that cyclists aren’t just welcomed but really valued, even here what we’ve got is a cycle lane that barely does better than the naffest ones specified by the Department of Transport. Is that it? Is that all we get? All that campaigning from organised teams of motivated and determined  cyclists? All that time and effort, and we get to this?

The problem really is very simple. The minimum standard we should require for cycle infrastructure is higher than is obtainable in the best cycling cities in the UK. What we want as a starting point is better than the most useful we can get from local authorities. This IS a victory, but not a tactical one. This sets a standard for the best new facilities we can expect to get into and out of the Cambridge, and while its better than we’ve had, its not good enough. Its not nearly good enough.

When cooperative campaigning fails, whats left? If we’ve got cycling campaign groups who view this kind of thing as a success, if they’re looking at what can be achieved without upsetting people too much, if they’re always willing to accept such compromises, perhaps we need to consider NOT being cooperative. Maybe we need to consider NOT avoiding upsetting people. Perhaps we need to make a nuisance of ourselves. When the best on offer isn’t up to the minimal standards we should accept, what purpose is compromise? After all these years of such campaigning we now have to accept the simple premis; conventional cycle campaigning bodies have failed.  Well done Cambridge Cycling Campaign, I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. I just don’t get why you think you’re really getting somewhere.


Cycle Campaign Groups
cabd
I've got a problem with anyone who claims to represent me without my permission, or who unwittingly allows themselves to be used in such a way as to be portrayed thus. So I've got a problem with Cambridge Cycling Campaign (CCC). Thats this lot here:

http://www.camcycle.org.uk/about/

The extent of any such problem is, of course, defined by what said body does. And increasingly I'm finding myself at odds with the CCC. Its not so much what they do, its what they don't do that bothers me. They don't campaign on my interests, yet their existence makes getting anywhere on my own basically impossible. On a number of occasions I've raised cycling safety issues with the County Council, and their bland response is simply to point out that they talk to CCC, so they listen to 'cyclists'. And this is a very effective tool for council officers to fob off an individual; complain about it and they can validly say that they've had representation from cyclists and they don't share my concerns. All that means is that while I may have a very clear and valid point, because CCC haven't campaigned on it (or they have and they have accepted a bad compromise), I'll be forever fobbed off.

Lets look at who the CCC are and what they campaign for. They've got upwards of a thousand members, which isn't bad at all. And I think that many of the people campaigning for them are good people. But as a body it represents a tiny fraction of the total number of cyclists in this city; they don't, therefore, have a mandate to speak for cyclists here. They represent their own interests, their own goals, and they don't speak for me. The County Council manage to get away with treating both the CCC and individualse as complete shmucks by playing one off against the other; and for as long as the CCC remain committed to close cooperation with the County Council, nothing is going to change. They campaign quite hard on so many things, yet they're so often forced into accepting pretty bad compromises. And as an individual, I have to say I find that they've been an hindrance to me.

I can extend the same logic to the Cycle Touring Club (CTC). They campaign for cyclist safety, but the means by which they do so has never really impressed me. They don't speak for me; I've been a member in the past, but not any more. I'll not be another member adding my weight to a campainging body that doesn't campaign for what I want.

So what are the options... Well, I guess that most people into cycle-politics in the UK will now be aware of the split between those who favour working within the system of such pre-existing organisations to change what they campaign on, and on the other side those who are splintering off to form their own (Cycling Embassy being the best example). I can respect both positions, but I do wonder whether both miss what to me seems a very fundamental problem; the bare minimum we require to improve standards is greater than the maximum there is on offer. When the least we want is more than the most they'll give, why are any of these campaigning groups actually for? Why would we seek to replace one body (or group of bodies) with another that would have exactly the same problems? Do we not just split the cycling movement (if that even makes sense as a concept) to replace one ineffective body with another that cannot hope to achieve more?

I propose that we should at least explore a third option, and I'll expand on this in future posts. What happens if we choose NOT to cooperate? What happens when we choose not to join competing organisations? What happens if we resolutely refuse to get in to bed with transport planners? What happens when we, as cyclists, decide that we've had it with the lot of them, and we're going to throw our toys out of the pram? Is it the case that it is the cycling movement itself, and the organisation thereof, that is holding us back?

Because it'll probably not get published on the website...
cabd
My response to this crap story here:

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Stupid-cyclists-are-risking-lives-right-outside-AE.htm


Classically bad bit of journalism here. A minority of cyclists are doing something illegal on that road. Its even mentioned in the story, look:

"The number involved might be a minority but sooner rather than later those responsible for this stupid behaviour will end up in A&E or worse."

And on that basis we've got YET ANOTHER story in the CEN that has no purpose other than to reinforce the negative stereotype of rogue cyclists?

Get hold of yourselves and look at the facts. A very small minority of the small number of cyclists breaking the law will ever hurt themselves. An even smaller number will cause any harm to anyone else. By all means if you catch a cyclist breaking the law, prosecute, but lets get over this farcical weekly newspaper rant about cyclists. It isn't cyclists causing congestion, pollution, noise or killing and maiming thousands of people every year. It isn't cyclists who make our cities all basically loud, dirty and unpleasant places to be.

I see you've got another story today about a car ploughing into houses; are you going to have a go at motorists in general for the harm they do? No? Thought not.

This is a poor excuse of a news story from a newspaper that has a terrible record on cycling news.

Cyclist News on the BBC
cabd
Just watched a short article about cycling on BBC Breakfast.


By 'article' I mean discussion; they had the fake couple who present the program say that there is a lawyer campaigning for cyclists to get something or other on the roads, and then introduced a woman who rides a bike and an enormously fat bloke who would benefit from doing so.

The woman said that there is an inbuilt disparity in rights on the road and police don't take cyclists seriously, the fat bloke then ranted about cyclists breaking all the rules and how he has never seen a cyclist indicate properly.

Same old, really. She did make the correct point that such ranting about cyclists is unhelpful and shows no respect, and that there is no chance of getting anywhere unless people treat each other as equals, but shortly after that smug-bloke-in-fake-couple presenter joined the morbidly obese motorist in berating her for not being in favour of cyclists all being insured and carrying number plates.

There is so much wrong with this kind of reporting, its hard to know where to start!

To begin with, you need some NEWS before you have a discussion. There was no context for the discussion, no news article, no informed journalism, it was set up as a fight, only a fight, and nothing but a fight. Secondly, by having a motoring correspondent whose only interest was berating cyclists, it was rather like having a discussion on sexism where a male chauvinist pig was allowed to rant at length about women knitting, or a discussion on race where the crimes of some, say, Indian people are used to paint a negative picture of everyone from Asia. It is not relevant to a discussion on whether the police take cyclists being rammed, assaulted or even just endangered to rave about some cyclists breaking the law. Were it to be a discussion on breaking parking laws you wouldn't have a cyclist on screen going on about how motorists all deserve to be clamped because so many of them speed. It is entirely irrelevant, and to argue otherwise, to use the perceived inadequacies of some as an argument against being fair to others is as clear an example of basic prejudice as you'll ever see.

But thirdly, and most importantly, its yet another story about cyclists being a problem. It was pitched as a discussion about problems cyclists face, but from the outset the bias of the 'journalist' was such that it was really about problems that motorists have with cyclists.

Motoring has a huge lobby behind it. Its something that angers people every day; they get behind the steering wheel and feel persecuted from the outset, and when they're not driving they feel persecuted by how much the car costs them as it sits there depreciating. The whole sector of motoring journalism is based largely on myth; there is no 'war on the motorist', motoring does not pay for the environmental or human damage caused, there is no such thing as 'road tax' and motoring taxes do not even raise enough money to maintain the roads, let alone improve them, the cost of motoring is now cheaper in real terms than ever before, speed cameras aren't there to raise money or persecute motorists... Yet every one of these facts is held to be incorrect (even heretical) by a large media section that exists solely because of the sense of persecution felt by motorists. These writers and broadcast journalists pander to the fears and the prejudices of motorists without ever coming close to actually reporting real news or solid facts, and their supremacy in all matters concerning transport, environmentalism, or the supremacy of petrol-headed retardedness are held in such high regard that no one ever really challenges them on any important point. They can say 'but I never see cyclists obey red lights...' as if it is relevant to another cyclist who was obeying the law being crushed by a lorry and no one ever challenges them on this.

The fact is that the sheer strength of our motoring lobby is such that institutions like the BBC are, in this regard, just branches thereof. Is it any surprise that the police pander to a public opinion that cyclists don't count?

Guys, we're not the enemy...
cabd
I'm still a little narked by all of the supposedly pro- and anti- cycling facility stuff going on.

Another shining example of a well written, superbly angry piece from the Waltham Forest blog enshrines much that is wrong with the discussion:

http://crapwalthamforest.blogspot.com/2010/12/whats-wrong-with-cycling-in-chingford.html

Its true that the cycling facilities we have are usually spectacularly bad. Its also probably true that better facilities would attract more people to cycle. It is not true that the culture of Britain now is similar to Britain or indeed the Netherlands of the 70's, and that therefore the same kind of revolution in cycle facilities is a realistic possbility. That isn't to say that I'm opposed to good cycle facilities, not in the least. I'm saying that as things stand now we're not going to get those facilities here, and that the arguments made by people such as Freewheeler at the Waltham Forest blog do not address that fact.

Lets take Cambridge as an example. Specifically lets look at Gilbert Road. Here, look at it:
http://www.cyclestreets.net/galleries/115/

What a nice, wide road. Look, its even got cycle lanes. They're useless at present of course because they're full of parked cars. Worse than useless in fact. But thats okay, this is Cambridge, Britains most cycling friendly city, so surely there will be some changes made and we can have, say, a wide, two way segregated cycle facility running right down the middle if we want. We can revolutionise cycle transit on this wide, major cycling route in to the city. Can't we?

Well, no. A decade in to campaigning on this issue, and only now are we getting some improvement. Wide, two way dedicated cycle route with no parking? Nope. Okay, off road facilit on either side with priority over driveways? Nope. At least we can expexct two or two and a half metres either side of the road for wide, safe cycle lanes? Nope. We're getting 1.7m lanes, with double yellow lines. Okay, okay, its an improvement, but it isn't MUCH of an improvement, and even this has met with fierce resistance and massive trouble from residents. What we're getting is better than we have now; still crap though.

Face reality folks, this is a country where even trivial improvements in cycle infrastructure are seen as controversial. We're not looking at a complex mixed transport system with some people who walk, some people who cycle and some people who get the bus, or even one where cycling is a widely respected way of getting around. It is an entirely car-centric culture. Read between the lines of this article for the numbers:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/aug/31/we-cyclists-are-so-cool

More than half of those questioned do not approve of measures that make cycling better at the expense of motoring; taking road space away from cars is not something that the British public are happy with. You can physically do it, but politically it cannot be done. It isn't something the British will stomach. More drivers than not would oppose measures that slow them down, even if those measures would encourage cycling.

We're right to demand more and better cycle facilities but politically thats such an uphill struggle that we also have to do something in the mean time. We're right in the mean time to encourage people to ride assertively on the roads. You can (and should) continue to make the argument that cycle facilities need to be way better than they are, but please, we (those who ride in a vehicular fashion) are not the enemy.

Witch Hunt! Burn the Vehicular Cyclist!
cabd
It seems to me that the whole phoney war between vehicular cyclists and segregationists is going nowhere fast. And it bothers me.

There are not two philosophies here. Both 'sects' want to be allowed to use the road. Both would maintain that you need good facilities if you have them at all. Yet there is a lot of venom between bloggers and twitterers on both sides. And its a pointless waste of effort.

Here is what everyone agrees on:

Cycling is a great way of getting around - its fun, efficient, healthy, and clean.
Cyclists are not always accorded the legal protection or the respect they deserve.
Cyclists should be allowed to ride on the roads or they may instead choose to use any other facility that is there and legally accessible.
Encouraging more people to cycle is a good thing.
Most Western countries have an essentially car-centric culture; within this culture the steps needed to get more people cycling are difficult.
Bad segregated facilities can be a disincentive to cycling.
Good segregated facilities may encourage more people to cycle, although they may not necessarily reduce the accident rate (whether they do or not, and opinions differ, all agree that this is actually a more complicated issue than it would initially appear).

We ALL agree on those points.

What do the 'segs' and 'non-segs' disagree on? Errm... Not that much. Non-segs argue that the presence of a bad cycle lane encourages many motorists to be aggressive to cyclists who aren't using them, meaning that you can be caught between a rock and a hard place. And, besides, it should be your right to use the road. Non-segs argue that if the facilities are good enough you'll get more cyclists out, hence you get 'safety in numbers', and besides, if the facility is that good you'll probably want to use them instead of the road anyway.

Segs then point at Copenhagen and Amsterdam and say that they've got great facilities there and loads of bikes so facilities make more cyclists. The non-segs then counter that we'll not see facilities like that here until we get a culture change, and we won't get that until we get more cyclists hence we have to encourage people out on to the roads we have already.

Now I can see both arguments. The truth is that the two are not mutually exclusive; both can be correct. Both probably ARE correct; better facilities means more people feeling safe to cycle  which means more good facilities and the cultural change that is needed to get better facilities in the first place... Or is it the other way around? 

I'm bored with this phoney war. And so is the Peoples Front of Judea. Quit it.

Guidance for motorists overtaking me
cabd
1. If I can reach you, you're way too close.

2. If you pass in such a space that were I to fall off you'd hit me, then you are too close.

3. If you have not traversed on to the other side of the road or at least well into the next lane, then you are too close.

4. That isn't me hitting the side of your vehicle to mess you up or annoy you. Thats you passing so close that you have hit me; if you've hit my outstretched hand then you are too close.

5. My road position has got nothing whatsoever to do with safe passing distance; whether I'm six inches from the kerb or right in the middle of the road, safe passing distance remains exactly the same. You can't justify closer overtaking based on road position of the bike. You may believe that the cyclist is in a wrong or inappropriate road position. You are not only wrong (really, I proimise you, you're wrong) but you're being a complete ass if you believe that this makes it okay to endanger someone.

6. If you have to gun your engine to overtake in a short space before a red light/traffic etc. then don't do it. It isn't worth overtaking just to stop right away, nor is it safe to pull straight back in front of the cyclist in a short space.

7. If I'm in front of you and keeping pace with the traffic, it gains you nothing to try to get into the space I'm leaving in front of me, and in fact it's risking my life for you to do so. Don't.

8. Speed humps weren't designed to slow me down, because I'm not the one killing people by going too fast. They were designed to slow you down. So don't dash hard to get past me before the first one, as I can assure you that down any stretch of road with loads of speed humps I'm not the one holding you up.

9. You see that pavement? It isn't for overtaking me on. Nor is the one on the other side. Nor is it there for me to be on, even if some crazed bureaucrat has painted a bike on it. Its still a pavement.

10. A white line of paint is not relevant to safe passing distance. The cycle lane does not provide a magical force field, you can't pass closer because of it. In fact you may see me riding outside of the cycle lane to remind you of this; sorry, but basically all of you get this wrong, so if that cycle lane is narrow, I (and all of the other cyclists who think it through) am going to be outside of it. Yes, I know, all eight of us or so going along behind the Grafton centre yesterday were outside of the cycle lane. And yes, I know, you were annoyed. But have you maybe thought that you should stop to ask yourself why we're not all in the death lane?

11. I do not disappear as soon as your bonnet/cabin comes level with me. You can pull in again when safely past me. And not before.
11.a...and this is especially true if you're turning left, as this kind of cutting up kills a lot of cyclists.

Guidance for cyclists overtaking me...
cabd
1. If you're flat out keeping up with me, and you'll therefore be knackered by accelerating to get past me, and when out of my draft you'll slow down, then don't. Just don't. You'll be happier where you are in the long run, because when you've passed me, slowed down and I've gone past, you'll be too tired to keep up...
1.a...but if we're going to be going along like this for more than, say, half a mile or so, then take your turn at the front you lazy git.

2. If I'm slowing down for traffic ahead, traffic lights, etc. then the space in front of me is space I'm leaving so that we're all safe. It isn't an invite for someone I've overtaken to nip back in front of me.

3. If I've stopped at a red light, and I overtook you at pace, there is no gain for you in going past me and waiting in front of the line. I'm going to overtake you again, simply because I'm faster than you. If you do the same thing at the next red light I'm going to tell you where you're going wrong, and this will make you angry, and you'll shout at me in the mistaken belief that I care what you think. I don't, you have forfeited my respect, and I'm going to overtake you again anyway. I just want you to know why, and I want you to be embarrassed, angry or upset. I want you to think about maybe not doing it again.

4. If you overtake me past a red light and sit so far forward on the road that you can't see the lights any more, such that you don't know when they go green, you are likely as not the biggest moron on the road. Yes, that means both of you this morning. And your little dog too.

5. If you overtake me and you're going faster than I want to go, good luck to you. I'm not racing you. Just go right ahead and leave me behind. I'm going to continue at my speed, you continue at yours, and thats fine unless...
5.a...unless your bike has a basket on the front, and I'm just not being left behind by a basket.
5.b...unless said basketed bike is also a fixie, in which case I'm slowing down to let you go, because I've got a horrible feeling that you may be the kind of person to sneak in to a Kentish village at night and go from house to house leaving fake devil footprints on the lawn. A basket on the front of  a fixie? I mean, what the hell?

6. If I'm in a primary road position its because thats the right place to be. If you don't understand good road positioning, and you're such an immense idiot as to think its okay to undertake another cyclist leaving less than a couple of feet of space between you, then I might just clothes line you. Its nothing personal, and it won'd be on purpose, but I might easily just not see you, and if I'm going to indicate to turn left...
6.a...and this is doubly true when I'm stopped at traffic lights indicating left or right. How can the three of you have possibly ridden straight in to my outstretched arm?

Third best city for walking and cycling
cabd
Apparently, anyway.

http://bit.ly/cSzged

And to an extent its true. But as I keep saying, Cambridge is both the worst and the best place to cycle.

Cambridge is the worst place to ride because its got very, very narrow streets with a heavy load of traffic on them. Often the roads were intentionally narrowed such that cyclists would obstruct traffic and actually control the flow (this is the case as in past the branch of Next in the city centre). This leads to conflict; I have never ridden anywhere as angry as Cambridge. Motorists want past whether or not it is safe, and the risks they'll take are frequently worse here than anywhere else I know.

It also has dreadful policing of cycling issues. Why post a bobby in the well-lit city centre to stop undergraduates who have just arrived every year going from one well-lit location along well-lit roads to another well-lit location? They're breaking the law, sure, and you can issue dozens of fixed penalty notices, and you can have figures that show you're being tough, but really, have you made the roads any safer for anyone? Why not do exactly the same thing on some of the less well lit suburban roads where people may actually be at risk? Catch one unlit cyclist there and you'll maybe save a life, whereas I guarantee that stopping one cyclist out of a flotilla of 30 all going along Sidney Street will make no difference whatsoever. They're ALL visible there BECAUSE THERE ARE 30 OF THEM. And while you're at it, that road there is barely wide enough to drive a van down, why aren't you arresting the van drivers mounting the pavement to overtake? Oh, sorry, they're not the target of this months annual crackdown on cyclists. Or indeed the target of any meaningful law enforcement ever. I saw one of the bobbies involved in last years anual light blitz step out of the way of a van driving along the pavement to overtake cyclists...

Been intimidated by a motorist? Was it a clear case if breaking the law? Got video evidence?  Tough. If you even get Plod to look at it, it isn't important enough for Cambridge plod to even go and talk to the guy.

In short, I can't think of anywhere angrier, nastier, more ineffectively policed or more short tempered.

But there is strength in numbers. Our cycle lanes are no better than anyone elses. None that I'm aware of come up to the DoT reccomended width, and it is considered a major victory here if we can get one even at the minimum recommended width free of parked cars (such as the proposed changes to Gilbert Road), but the lanes are at least are well populated. And that helps enormously; to those who doubt the 'strength in numbers' mantra of cycle safety, I invite you to compare similar streets in Cambridge with less well cycled cities, and see how much more aware the majority of motorists are here than elsewhere. I'd sooner have them angry and aware than calm and oblivious. I've seen half a dozen cyclists crowd around a van that clipped someone in Sidney Street to ensure that the driver couldn't drive off until they were sure that the lady knocked off was okay.  I regularly see faster cyclists hang back at traffic lights to shepherd slower, more vulnerable cyclists in the traffic as lights change. And that helps a lot; for the most part the camaraderie among cyclists in Cambridge is massively helpful.

We've got a lot of cycle parking, and two good secure underground cycle locking facilities. And if you ARE assertive and willing to claim your road space where it isn't safe to overtake, the city centre becomes a lot easier to navigate.

In summary, its both a good and a bad place to ride, and I have no hesitation in going so far as to call it both the best AND the worst. Third best might be an appropriate position for it. But we should be careful with studies like this; strip away the 'cycling demonstrator' hype for a moment and ask WHY we're doing okay in Cambridge and its fairly clear that its because we've got craploads of cyclists; the underground cycle parks excluded, what has the actual cycling infrastructure in this city achieved? What real help do we get from the police and local authorities? Are we not a fine cycling city in spite of them rather than because of them? 

You are viewing cyclist_issues