Azara Blog: City Centre Cycling Ban

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Date published: 2005/01/18

The Cambridge Evening News says:

The cycle ban in the centre of Cambridge is to be lifted, the News can reveal.

The unexpected announcement was made at a joint county and city council meeting on Monday.

The ban on cycling during the day in the city centre was highly controversial when it was first proposed and it had to go before a public inquiry before it was finally put into force in 1993. It is currently in effect between 10am and 4pm.

Now councillors say the time has come for a rethink.

They have agreed to suspend the ban this summer for up to 18 months and then decide on a permanent policy after a public survey.

Lib Dems and Tories on the Environment and Transport Area Joint Committee joined forces behind the plan but Labour councillors were up in arms over the proposals, saying it was a case of testing the scheme "by trial and bloodshed on the streets".
Coun Julian Huppert, Lib Dem county councillor, said: "It is a very tough problem in a historic city centre such as Cambridge to try and find a way everybody can fit in."

"There is a simple answer - make Cambridge bigger and make the roads wider - but assuming we don't have the budget to move all the colleges around we will have to consider a scheme like this instead.

"Let's see what happens. If it turns out there is a high accident record at the end of the trial period then it will transpire that I'm wrong and it won't be safe to go ahead with it permanently.

"But if we see few accidents then I would hope we would go ahead with it. The only way to test something of this magnitude is to go ahead with it and see what happens."

A typically flippant set of comments from a typical Cambridge politician who thinks he is too clever by half. The best thing that could ever happen to Cambridge would be the abolition of the Cambridge Environment and Transport Area Joint Committee.

The city centre ban only applies to a couple of roads near the market but not all roads near the market. It does not apply, for example, to Trinity Street or King's Parade, because student cyclists would just ignore it anyway in their rush to get to lectures (apparently there is not such a rush to go back the other way). The ban on Sidney Street is ignored by many cyclists already. Indeed many cyclists cycle up that one-way street the wrong way, and similarly also Trinity Street, and this is even more dangerous for pedestrians.

The basic problem is that a large fraction of cyclists misbehave, whether or not there is a ban. But removing the ban will only encourage them to misbehave further. Pedestrians do not have any organisation pushing their interests (although there are plenty of rich pedestrians who live near the centre of Cambridge who are happy to express their opinions as individuals). On the other hand the Cambridge Cycling Campaign is a vocal and typical special interest pressure group pushing the cycling agenda. Special interest groups should normally be ignored when instead of informing policy they advocate it.

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