Underpass decision shows lack of commitment



We have been repeatedly promised by County Council officers that the new southern bypass would include an underpass so that Stuntney and beyond are not cut off from Ely by it. This is a problem that the villages around Ely all suffer from and so ensuring it was avoided with the new bypass seemed like progress and forward thinking.

Unfortunately it seems that was all hot air and when it comes down to it the County Council’s commitment to cycling in rural areas is pretty non-existent.

From Cambridge News:

Councillors met yesterday (February 9) at Cambridgeshire County Council’s environment and education committee. They voted to recommend work on the cycle underpass cease after it was revealed the work to build it would be far more expensive and difficult than previously expected.

It had previously been thought the underpass would cost £30,000. Final estimates, however, placed the overall figure at more than £1 million over the initial budget.

This might seem like a sensible decision without some context.

Firstly, the County Council is supposed to be committed to sustainable transport and encouraging cycling in particular.

From the County’s Local Transport Plan [PDF]

Countywide, we will continue to push forward in making sustainable modes of transport more attractive by continuing to develop sustainable networks for walking and cycling, making it easier for people to change between modes of transport and working with bus operators to provide high quality bus services. In addition, we aim to improve the environment and safety for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, in accordance with our user hierarchy and focus on raising awareness of the transport choices available, including the health and environmental benefits of cycling and walking. This will include work with local planning authorities to ensure provision for sustainable modes that form an integral part of new developments.

Secondly, the cost. £1 million sounds a lot (which it is) but, it’s less that 3% of the cost of the bypass.

Thirdly, the crucial nature of the underpass. It’s the best solution for all road users. It provides a safe way for pedestrians, cyclists, mobility scooter users etc to cross the new bypass without affecting the traffic flow. The Cambridge News mentions a “safe crossing” being planned. If this doesn’t include traffic lights then it’s not a safe crossing and will leave those who live in Stuntney and beyond cut off from Ely.

From this report in the Ely Standard we’re told:

[Brian Stinton, team leader for major infrastructure and highways]’s report noted that current cycling usage is low – around 45 per day- and even with improvements this is unlikely to grow significantly.

This logic beggars belief. The County council has spent lots of time and resources asking what puts people off cycling and the answer is always the same, lack of safe routes. Brian’s logic here is that low usage caused by a lack of a safe route justifies not building a safe route. We note that no evidence is given for his assertion that “this is unlikely to grow significantly”.

This is a fundamentally short-sighted decision showing that the Councillors have little commitment to sustainable transport in rural areas.

We’d like to know:

  1. If there’s not going to be an underpass, what kind of safe crossing is going to be provided?
  2. Are the promised improvements around the station we’ve also been promised going to happen?
  3. How many other schemes we’ve been told are on the cards will be shelved in a similar manner?

The County Council really needs to demonstrate that its commitment to cycling and other forms of sustainable transport extends beyond routes in and around Cambridge.

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