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.