Friday, August 30, 2013

Cambridge in a Pickle

When is local government not local government? – when Ministers get involved.  Apparently “Cambridge is too ‘anti-car’, says Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles”.  The Cambridge News report quotes Mr Pickles as saying:

“Town halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism.”

Whilst at the same time we have our locally elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Sir Graham Bright, cracking down on anti-social cycling ahead of a boom in tourism.

I didn’t realise just how much of a tourist attraction it was sitting in a car in congested Cambridge.  One side of our rather disjoint (IMHO) Government is telling us that new roads have to be paid for with tolls (A14 toll road between Huntingdon and Cambridge gets government backing), the other side is telling us to drop the car parking prices so that more cars clog the streets of Cambridge.

So it is fine for the Government to use pricing to allocate scarce resources, but not local councils.

Is this sound-bite politics or punishment because Cambridge City Council can’t see a rational reason for contributing to the A14 upgrade? (Both probably.) Strangely pricing is elitists when it comes to car parking, but not when it comes to using the roads.

So there you have it – the conservative approach – cheap car-parking for all – expensive roads for the rich. But what about those who use buses or bicycles? Apparently the “Bus routes to be cut back in congested Cambridge as new 20mph limit is ’too slow’”. Won’t more cars mean more congestion and even fewer busses? Or is it a case of never mind only rich people with cars are wanted in city centre shopping? Actually here in Cambridge the retailers want buses Mr Pickles.

The strange thing is that Cambridge seems to have acquired an anti-car reputation, yet trust me, the cycling provision has been woefully inadequate for a place where so many cycle to work. There have been some one-off significant investments (Jane Costan BridgeRiverside Bridge, but by and large the cycle infrastructure is piecemeal and always playing catch-up. Why are cycles parked everywhere and anywhere in Cambridge – because the Council has failed to meet demand.  Only now are we seeing more investment in cycle parking.  We have yet to see the provision of appropriate cycle parking at the Cambridge Railway Station – despite the demand from those working and studying in Cambridge.

Cycle Parking – Cambridge


Cycle Parking Cambridge Railway Station

Cycle Parking Cambridge Railway Station

Cycle/Pedestrian Bridge – to the railway Station

Cycle/Pedestrian bridge – Coldhams Lane – Cambridge

Police on bicycles – Cambridge – two abreast

Mr Pickles, people want to cycle to work and tourists want to see an historic city not one clogged by cars. Apparently “over 1,000 pupils a month injured in road accidents near schools”. At the same time we are told tat kids don’t get enough exercise and that we mollycoddle them too much. This says to me that we want fewer cars in our city centres not more. (The Telegraph has a table of the worst cities in the UK for child injuries near schools and here is the AXA Roadsafe Schools Report.)

A few recent headlines from the Cambridge News:

I guess the question in my mind is what is the evidence that Mr Pickle’s assertions are based upon?

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