Cycle Summit has car centric venue

Covered bike parking sparks Cycling summit in it’s honour.

Just when I’d calmed down and stopped spitting fire about cycling on the river, crossing Lynn Road with my kids and their bikes without being run over, how long the S106 money is taking to get actually used, Back Hill Junction stalemate, the paint around the potholes on Lynn Road being so old, it’s almost totally faded… Oh, and fellow City Councillors who stay stuff like “Cyclists should pay road tax”, I got an invitation.

An invitation to a Cycling Summit where we could get excited about next year’s Tour de France coming to Cambridgeshire, and suggest Ely to be an ideal place to get put on the route. This Summit would be full of speakers, workshops and forums where we were meant to talk about getting the next generation cycling, infrastructure, education and taking the current interest in Cycling in general to the next level.

Then I see the location. Swavesey. Where is that? I Google it. OK, so it’s a village between Cambridge and Huntingdon just north of the A14. I don’t drive, so how do I get there? Two hours by bus, no way, buses stop in Ely at  around 4pm like they do in Central America. I can get a train and take my Brompton, still an hour’s bromton ride in the dark back at 10pm and it looks pretty lonely on that busway.

I asked the Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) organiser of this event to move it to a place with a railway station, he refused, and defended the choice as less Cambridge centric and I quote “Swavesey has a huge commitment to cycling” in other words, the guided busway is being used by thousands of cyclists who don’t need the bus now that they finally have somewhere flat and away from angry drivers.

I have separated my argument into ten reasons why the venue needs to be changed:

1) Swavesey is an hour away from Cambridge, by bus or by bike. It takes 30 minutes by car and 2 hours by public transport from Ely. This makes it the preferred venue for drivers, not cyclists.

2) The event finishes at 10pm and the next bus (20min walk from the venue) is 10.52, according to an Ely Cycle Campaign member. I could arrive home at the same time of night, 00.50 if I were coming back from the 02 stadium in London A google search on guided busway timetables threw up numerous timetables and links, all different operators and different times, I really wouldn’t know what to trust, especially as the CCC timetable doesn’t even exist. I wouldn’t count on there being a train once you got to Cambridge train station at close to midnight. Access to information is frustratingly impossible to find from afar, even with the internet – it’s fine if you are familiar to the Guided Busway, but for a first time visitor, completely unknown and if it’s like anywhere else in Cambridgeshire, a 20 minute walk hoping you are going in the right direction when you get off the bus. Oh and a 20 minute walk in the dark at 10pm hoping you are going to find a bus stop and hoping a bus will actually come.

3) The organisers say that a venue outside Cambridge was chosen so as not to be “Cambridge centric”. By holding the event in Swavesey, the event is more Cambridge centric than if it was actually in Cambridge – there are trains from all over the county to Cambridge whereas the only people who would find Swavesey accessible would be the people who live in Cambridge or between Cambridge and the end of the Guided Busway.

4) The Guided Busway from what I’ve heard went way over budget and wasn’t finished on time, it happens to have a cycle way along it that, guess what…a segregated route between places is now used by thousands of cyclists every week. Are you implying that this is a good example for cycle provision?  Wasting public money shouldn’t be the best example of how to spend public money on badly needed provision between places where the roads are too fast to cycle on. Just show me a decent, joined up, well signposted dedicated cycle route that doesn’t only happen because you haemorrhage money on a guided busway.

5) One of the key aspects to a future where we are not so reliant on motorised transport is that there is integrated public transport – you can use a train and bike rather than needing to drive. They even suggested we carpool.

6) I don’t drive, I don’t want to drive, I don’t want to have to rely on lifts, a phenomenon I’ve only really had a problem with since moving to Cambridgeshire. I’ve lived in Holland and London and never was the fact that I didn’t drive really a problem. Cambridgeshire should be better than Holland, it’s flat, drier than both places and the places are all within cycling distance. Yet it’s shredded by 60mph roads, buses that stop at 4pm and a railway network that’s heaving at the seams, investment is always just on the horizon. I’ve been told I’m expected to come to this event by car. It’s a cycle summit, about a future where cycling is safe and integrated as a means of transportation. Does this not strike you as a bit ironic?

7) This event should be accessible to all who have a vested interest, that includes women like myself who need to get home late at night, there is a massive short fall in disabled accessibility too, again there are many disabled cyclists. This is part of the agenda but will there be representatives who should be coming actually able to come? Why a week day evening finishing at 10pm? This should be a weekend and finished by 6pm so people can get home, especially if they aren’t within a 20mile radius of Cambridge – this event was for the entire country.

8) Swavesey may be a great place to cycle and I quote “it has a great commitment to cycling” to but does the Summit involve a bike ride tour around Swavesey? No thought not. Besides, there is no cycle provision to speak of actually in Swavesey and nothing to suggest that this village is any different to any other in the area cycling wise. There is some covered bike parking, is this what we are coming to see?

9) Cambridge itself has some semblance of integrated public transport, be it a tad difficult for the first time visitor and if the papers are anything to go by, there is a war going on between all the road users. I personally prefer cycling in London to Cambridge despite having been hit, knocked off, cardoored and bottom slapped while cycling in London. However, the rest of Cambridgeshire might as well be the 1980’s but will more traffic and less buses, surely Cambridge that is part of the 21st Century would be more appropriate?

10) I moved to Ely because it is on a railway network and I don’t drive, if you hold an event intended to encourage the use of cycling and the reduction of reliance on motorized transport, surely it’s more than an inconvenience to expect everyone in Cambridgeshire to drive? More short sighted and car centric.

We requested the event be rescheduled and repositioned anywhere within the region that could be accessed by train with a 5 minute ride, preferably in walking distance of a train station.

Cambridge Cycle Campaign have already written to the CCC officer who organised the event to say that they wont be going unless a more suitable venue is chosen. I really wanted to go and only would boycott it if others did. This might be what’s happening.

I don’t think I’m being unfair, I don’t drive and find too often Cambridgeshire County Council ignore the fuel poverty in this region – I can’t afford a car or to drive and if I had the money I wouldn’t spend on a car. Every week I read in the local papers of deaths on Cambridgeshire roads. Any bus company or train company would be shut down with a safety record like the roads have. I want to look into a future where we reduce our reliance on the car and I really don’t have any confidence that the County Council have even entered the 21st Century.



13 thoughts on “Cycle Summit has car centric venue

  1. My brother often organises events and conferences. The first question anyone ever asks him is ‘what about the parking?’ The majority of the population have become completely dependent on their cars without really thinking that there might be an alternative. It’s idiotic. The think they’re free and yet they’re always so worried about where on earth they will park.

    Good luck with getting the venue changed. It’s an idiotic decision to hold a cycling conference somewhere only accessible by car. Unless, being very cynical, that’s the whole point.

    1. How about Hiunchingbrooke School, Huntingdon as a venue, 5 minutes from Huntingdon Railway Station and in terms of transport networks probably more central County than Swavesey.

  2. I don’t disagree with your views on the location, but I do think your approach is all wrong. Items 1 and 2 (the same really), and 7 have any validity 7 is the crux.

    Given your view, if it was held in Ely and I lived in Swavesy you may not agree, ah! but Ely has a railway station! what use is that if you live in any one of the hundreds of locations that doesn’t. Someone is alwayds going to be a long way from somewhere.

    If I sound annoyed at your response you would be wrong, I would be the first to fight for your right to complain, but not for your right to rant.

    It may be that the venue needs to be changed but being bullish and agressive may not be the right approach!

    1. Hi Paul,

      It might not be clear in the post but we asked for the venue to be changed to somewhere near Cambridge Station as it has good public transport links for the whole county. We wouldn’t expect an event like this to be held in Ely.


    2. I moved to Ely because I don’t drive and I value the fact that I can get around using the railway (if I could afford it, but that’s another story, at least I have a family railcard). If I lived in Swavesey, I would do so offsetting the fact that property might be cheaper than a town on a railway but you absorb the difference by needing to drive more. At least that’s what I assume people do. This is less realistic now that train fares are so horrendous but it used to apply.
      You’ve heard of the Cambridge effect, it’s the villages a couple of miles outside Cambridge where property is affordable and you can cycle into Cambridge.
      I am angry, it’s a vegan party in a cheese factory, and this isn’t the first time CCC have put something that should be accessible by public transport and bike in such a venue. Dozen’s of Ely Childminders (myself included) were up in arms that the course we all had to do to keep our registration was in Over. We all said what??? why? complained about dangerous fenland roads and car shared. The same officer said I could have used the guided busway but considering it was snowing and I had no idea where I was going and it meant a 20 minute walk once the bus dropped me in Over, I still found the whole thing pretty insulting, as did the other childminders who would be much happier either driving somewhere more familiar like Cambridge or being able to go on the train with me.
      I don’t know if you’ve lived here all your life or similar places but I’ve spent much of my life in places that don’t assume you have a car and after 7 years up here it’s really starting to chafe.

    3. But if you live in Swavesey, chances are you have access to a car. If you don’t you will at least be familiar with the non-car options for getting to/from Swavesey, and you’d likely have trouble getting to such an event wherever it was held in the county apart from your own village.

      Whatever your method of travel there are options for getting to central Cambridge. The same is not true of Swavesey. It is a bad choice of venue. The fact that it is a cycling promotion event is what makes the choice laughable.

  3. My point is that you have a valid argument, but it has been watered down by an aggressive approach that has lost sight of the argument. Its okay to be angry, its often the only way we get things done, but the anger needs to be left at the door when dealing with issues with people. Your strong argument is lost in Rant-slation

    Nice and simply all that was needed was this is in a location where most people from areas such as Ely, Linton, etal would find it impossible to get home on public transport due to lack of late night connections. This means that it may not attract those people who have the a vested interest and is unlikely to achieve its aims.

    On a different note, I live in Sutton and intend to go myself. I have a 2 bike cycle rack on the back of my car and will cycle from Longstanton. If you wish to cycle to Sutton you can do the same and as it will be late I will take you back to Ely bike and all.

  4. I don’t think it’s a rant at all. It’s a number of points that explain why it’s a bad location. Obviously CCC don’t get it as it’s the second event in a short time in the middle of nowhere as Christine explained above. What they don’t understand is that we’re not cycle campaigners because we like the green fairies, we’re cycle campaigners because many of us don’t have a car and we don’t have any other choices but to cycle and to take public transport.
    We made the nice and simple comments on Twitter and the CCC officer sent some condescending replies, especially about us car-sharing – which again just shows that they don’t get it at all. Therefore, a long blog post which hopefully explains things and maybe next time they’ll think things through a bit more or perhaps even ask people first which venue would be convenient for them.

  5. Or maybe they will dig in and stand their ground feeling that whatever they do they are attacked. Neither approach is correct. to make change perhaps we have to influence and bring people along with us and not hold them at gunpoint with threats and boycotts.

    They are last resorts, what have we done as first resorts? Have we said, “thank you for this initiative, we have some concerns, can we meet and discuss these and perhaps offer some insight as to the problems we consider may occur.”

    Because we ride bikes and because we don’t have cars, does not give us special privileges, we can feel proud that we are contributing to a beneficial future we can work towards it, but we cannot ride roughshod over others in the process unless we want to lose or put back our cause.

    1. That’s pretty much exactly what has happened: We asked nicely on Twitter, saying it’s difficult for us to get there, could you please change the venue. The discussion ended with CCC saying ‘no we won’t change the venue – end of discussion’. CamCycle then said they won’t go because it’s inconvenient for us and many others. Our post came after all that.

      I just find it very impolite of CCC. I organise a lot of events and the first thing I ask my customers is WHERE and WHEN is convenient for THEM. They are my guests, I invite them so I find it’s my duty to make sure it’s best for them. I don’t tell them ‘this is how it is, take it or leave it’ and then expect anyone to come…

  6. I’ve not ruled out going, we will discuss it on Monday at our monthly meeting. I rang, and wrote to the organisers as did a number of other people, they had already told us there was no room for changing the venue.
    In 1980 I sat on the back of a tandem in traffic watching cars spew leaded fumes in my direction, I was 10 years old. I will never see the appeal of relying so heavily on cars. We have one as a family and it gets used alot more than I’d like mostly because there isn’t a practical way of transporting our kids beyond the boundaries of Ely.
    I hoped that this recent wave of political interest in the practicality and potential of cycling that’s been recommended by numerous respected and recognised sources for decades might be the beginning of something different to token 2 meter bike lanes and helmet initiatives.

  7. Isn’t the simplest / cheapest option for CCC to hire a bus to move people from Ely/March/Wisbech, etc especially for the event?

  8. For those interested, we’ve managed to rustle up a car and driver, so 3 or 4 of the campaign members will be able to attend.

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