Monday, December 10, 2012

Cambridge a victim of its own cycling success?

Friday, 16th November 2012: Occasionally I find myself driving somewhere through choice rather than cycling. In general, if I could cycling would always be my first choice of transport – either just cycling or neatly integrated with other forms of transport – such as the train or bus or plane.

Although I have more than 1 bicycle (more than 5+ even) I don’t have a cargo carrying bike and at least for now I probably won’t be getting one. Which means that using the car is the easiest answer.  So on this Friday I found myself driving to Newmarket rather than pushing off early.

Even when driving I tend to take notice of the cycling facilities when visiting other towns and cities. Certainly when I visit London the number of Boris bike stations always amazes me. I also tend to think why don’t I then use them and the answer comes down to my inability to navigate the streets of London. Yes I could use my phone or Garmin GPS – but that needs preparation…

Other places such as Ely surprise me when I see how the cycle routes seem far and few between – yet at the same time there seems to be a healthy number of people who cycle to the station, or rather park their bikes at the station. What I also like is that most of the cycle parking is inside the station and accessible and quite a lot is covered. It also seems to me that they have managed to keep extending the amount of cycle parking offered ahead of the demand. (Something that Cambridge Railway Station has failed spectacularly on – although that is set to change.)

I quite often cycle to Ely and then catch the train or vice versa. Generally for some strange reason when I combine cycling and using the train for my transport I still like to have a decent cycle ride. What is also great to see is that Ely also has a Cycle Campaign Group which shows that there is demand for better cycling facilities and people who are prepared to stand up for it.

This is where I have to plead guilty to being one of those people who tend to stand and shout on the side-lines (Blogspot) rather than those who generously give of their time and actually to some real  and active campaigning.

So it does please me when I visit other places to see evidence of cycling. Although a bit unfairly I tend to think of Newmarket as a one road town. Newmarket does lie on NCN 51 part of the National Cycle Network. You can even see the route pointer in that post.  Here is the CycleStreets Newmarket website if you want explore further. There is also a rather pleasant cycle ride called the Jockey Trail cycle ride that I can recommend.

Whilst the cycle parking in Newmarket isn’t full it is used, and by chance there was even a cyclist passing when I took the picture.

Cycle parking Newmarket High Street

This bike had seen better days – it looks as if the tires tyres needed sorting.

Old Bicycle – Newmarket High Street

So why the title about Cambridge, well Cambridge has much better facilities for cyclists than many places from solar powered lights on some cycle routes through to a couple of cycle parks in multi-storey car parks.  However I have a theory – a small section of society is prepared to cycle whatever the challenge – whether it be dodgy roads or dodgy motorists.  However if you really want to cross the Rubicon and get a much larger percentage of society switching to cycling as a mode of transport then it is not just about adding more low quality cycle routes. You really do have to offer better quality routes, routes that don’t treat cyclists as second class citizens.

So although the good news is that “£2million transport boost set for Cambridge” which means “New cycle route set to be built in Cambridge” it needs to offer higher quality in order to get more people to switch.

Interestingly a Times survey suggests that Cyclists put separate lanes at top of their wishlist. Which does not surprise me the unfortunate trends are that the roads are getting more dangerous for cyclists, whilst I know that cycling is still a safe and beneficial activity that doesn’t alter the perception of means streets for cyclists.  Streets on which 117 cyclists have been killed so far in 2012. Which means, in my opinion that the bar rises as cities gain some level of success.  The other factor is of course as more people cycle then so should more tax dollars (alright pounds) go towards supporting that section of society.

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