Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cambridge Local Elections 2016 - Summary

From a cycling perspective its a bit of a blow out. None of the parties have a 'party line' that gets us anywhere near the kind of facilities we're seeing spring up in London and, at best, we can pick out the occasional candidate who doesn't suck.

UKIP are, of course, the worst - the two respondents to Cambridge Cycling Campaigns survey are crap.

The Tories barely responded - one candidate was great, the other one half filled the questionnaire. 

Likewise, the Greens were basically not entirely sucky - one great candidate, one sucked. But I feel on cycling we ought to hold the Greens to a higher standard than the other parties they'd collectively refer to as 'grey' and I must say they're just not good enough.

Labour veered from unimpressive to lackluster.

And the Libdems? Again, one good, one 'meh'. 

One would have thought that at least one Cambridge political party would see the sense in having a party line that is unashamedly in favour of active transport. After all these years you'd think that at least one bunch of local politicians would have realised that giving cyclists everything they need is also massively beneficial to everyone else too, that less congestion, less pollution, less noise would make the city better for every single person whether they cycle or not and would, unashamedly, make the case for cycling. One would assume that the City Deal financing is an enourmous opportunity for Cambridge to quit with its smug (and I think flawed) assumption that it'll always be the UK cycling capital and get some ambition to try to go world class. But, alas, no. We're still fighting for scraps.

When it comes to local politicians in Cambridge, its still 'them and us'. And I lament that we're making no progress in making 'them' into 'us'.

I'm spoiling my ballot.

Cambridge Election Survey - UKIP

Yes, I know what you're thinking, he's going to have a go at Burkinshaw again. I didn't want to, but only two 'kippers have responded to the Camcycle survey. And he's one of them.

A brief note on the election prospects of UKIP in Cambridge: They haven't got any. They will, as ever, crash and burn. They've as much chance of winning a council seat as Leicester City have of winning the Premiership.

So lets meander down to Cherry Hinton, and see what Richard Jeffs has to say. Does he support the Space for Cycling document?
I do not fully support the guide as I feel that there are more pressing issues for local authorities to address and space is already limited, especially in the city centre. Despite investment only being around £20 per head per year in Cambridge, the death-trap "floating" bus stops and overly generous new cycle lanes do not really help in an already congested city. I do agree that cyclists and motor vehicles should only mix at low traffic speeds and volumes.
Well thats shit then. The cycle lanes we have are overly generous, the floating bus stops (just like the ones we've had for decades out in Fen Ditton without, as far as I can tell, any safety problems) are a 'death trap' and stopping people dying is just too expensive. Well whoopee do.

Getting kids to school safely?
I feel that children are safe at the moment. We must ensure that the Green Cross Code is taught, cycling proficiency lessons are laid-on, lollipop ladies are employed at crossings and free school buses are provided to and from the Park & Ride sites.
Because its 1983, of course. I mean actually making cycle provision safe and reducing the problem of parents whizzing to school in Chelsea tractors? Naaah, thats just crazy talk.

Ok then Richard, what about your concerns as a cyclist and the concerns you've got for other people riding?
My concern is that cycling is not inclusive as it requires a certain level of fitness and ability. it could be described as a sport as well as a mode of transport and people should be discouraged from using the public highways as a gym for everyone's safety, especially elderly pedestrians.
Hasa diga eebowai, as I believe the phrase goes. 

Cycling is a facilitator for many with mobility issues, and a tool to prevent too many ending up so unfit they can't get around. But this also misses the point - no one, no one has argued that we must all cycle, merely that making cycling safer and more appealing has environmental, health, congestion, cost, noise and social benefits. Cyclists are threatening to you because you see them as 'other' - and the sooner you stop projecting your own petty insecurities our way the sooner we can all get back to ignoring you.

The remainder of comments basically suggest we should get off and walk and other such crap. 

Now I was going to go through Burkinshaws responses but, bluntly, whats the bloody point? Seriously, we know he hates us. I can't condemn him more than he can himself. As in:


 Or, for that matter:


With thanks to Richard Taylor for filming these.

So, how 'bout that UKIP then? I'm left with the impression of watching a political movement thats like a fart who's too-old to be out partying with kids in a night club, pissed out of its skull in the corner and yelling barely coherent abuse inbetween bouts of trying to hold back waves of nausea, and as you walk past all you can think is 'look at the state of that' A movement made up of people so inconceivably stupid that they think its a good move to diss cyclists, who are half of the population of this city, in a survey specifically intended for circulation to cyclists. A group of people so amazingly set in their ways that they can't and don't even want to imagine a world where respecting people who simply choose to travel a different way is normal.

Are you or have you ever not despised a cyclist? Then don't vote UKIP.

Cambridge Election Survey - Green Party

Continuing looking at the parties here one at a time, next in the list is the Greens. They've got one councillor here and didn't have such a bad showing in the General Election. 

Sadly their Kings Hedges candidate hasn't responded, so I'll go the other way this time and head straight towards town. Arbury is the next ward... 

Stephen Lawrence is their candidate, and he's a supporter of the Space for Cycling document - pointing out that routes should be complete which is good. But then when asked what he'd do for kids getting to school?
Practical "ride test" with Council workers and council officers, together with kids and their parents.
Well that sucks. And blows. At the same time. Is that it? No 'lets give them great facilities', no 'lets get them excellent safe routes'. No. Lets train the kids because nothing encourages cycling like teaching kids what they want to do is dangerous.

His response on keeping cycling facilities good during building works is likewise muddled, but he does understand the problems of getting big bikes through chicanes and he's picked out a cracker of a junction that needs improving with Arbury Road/Milton Road (without telling us how) - and his imagination re. how cyclists are impacted by residential/commuter parking goes no further than charging for parking. Lacklustre would be too generous here - and you call yourself Green. For shame.

Lets go back down to West Chesterton and see what John Bachelor has to say.  On 'Space for Cycling'?
I fully support 'Make Space for Cycling'. I think the key principle for West Chesterton is in the title - there needs to be space for cycling of a sufficiently quality and quantity. For example, the City Deal proposals for Milton Road suggest a cycle lane less than 2m wide, significantly less than the 2.5m recommended for a route of this type (allowing overtaking without disrupting the flow of vehicular traffic). There are better solutions which provide enough space for cyclists as well as pedestrians, vehicular traffic and plants.
Spot on. 10/10. Go to the top of the class.

Getting kids to school?
The plans for cycling provision need to provide wide lanes which must be separated from the road so that cyclists of all ages and abilities can feel safe. Ultimately measures such as improved cycling provision, a congestion charge and changes in parking restrictions would decrease the number of vehicles on Cambridge's roads. 20mph zones would also improve safety. These measures would greatly improve the safety of both walking and cycling to school.
Bloody hell. I mean, whats going on, two decent candidates in this city? In the same election campaign? 

I really don't need to go on - his responses (except perhaps regarding parking where I feel he's missed the point) are superb.

Now one would think its a no brainer, that greens would be good on cycling, but as ever they're a mixed bag. Look at your green candidates closely and question them closely - and you might have a cracker. Or you might have someone like this Stephen Lawrence chap. 
 

Response to 2016 Election Surveys - Conservatives

Tories don't do so well in Cambridge these days, and while they're still pretty big on the County Council they are, for the most part, about as popular as herpes in Cambridge. But this isn't about party loyalty - this is about what their candidates have said in response to the Camcycle eleciton survey. 

So lets see who answered... Kings Hedges, nope. Arbury, Nope. West Chesterton, East Chesterton... Seriously you guys? No one? 

Right lets go through alphabetically... AHA! Newnham. Thats one... And Queen Ediths, thats two... OK, thats enough to actually respond to. 

Looks like the Tories know they're on to a hiding to nothing across most of Cambridge and just can't be arsed.

So Julius Carrington in Newnham  wholeheartedly supports Space for Cycling - which is good, and gets that real segregation should be away from motorised transport and pedestrians. Brilliant. 

Getting kids to school? 
I can only speak from experience when my eldest son began cycling on his own to is primary school. I think parents and schools can play an important role to provide help, support and advice. We had Outspoken recommended to us and he took part in their excellent training so I would like to see cycle training freely available across the City's schools. I also insisted that he did "time in the saddle" and before he was allowed out and about solo we took trips across the city, ensuring he could handle some of the City's cycling challenges. I think many more parents would let their children cycle to school if they felt it was safer. If children could get at least 80% of their route via a separate cycle path I think that would have a big impact. Dame Sally Davies CMO points out that children who cycle to school are fitter and concentrate better, so we need to make it safe and get them out of cars! As for secondary school in Sept he has strict instructions to keep clear of the county's second worst cycling junction by the Royal Cambridge Hotel!
Well, ok. I'd put more emphasis on infrastructure and less on training, but I don't particularly disagree.

Whats your experience riding and concerns for you and older/younger folk riding?

Growing up in Cambridge we couldn't afford a car and I can remember our family of 6 traveling round the city likes ducks in a row. My 83 year old father still cycles daily but I worry that drivers seem to be less not more considerate of cyclist and it will be an accident not old age that will gets him in the end. I am lucky enough to have a road bike and mountain bike when I want to hide from 3 scream kids but my favorite is an original Dawes Galaxy plus wicker basket which is hands down the perfect Cambridge bike. My biggest concern is that one or all will be stolen at any point! As mentioned my eldest cycles to school and my two little one are still building their confidence but I would not repeat my childhood ducks in a row due to the increased level of traffic, narrow cycling space on road and limited cycling space off road. My wife is a worried cyclist so she will be signing up for Outspoken and will also be doing the family cross Cambridge cycling challenge !
Well I can't edorse the Dawes love (reliable, dependable, lots of other words ending in 'ible) but otherwise, yeah, I get all of that. 

And the rest of the questions? Well, bluntly, from a cycling perspective this might be the best candidate we've seen in Cambridge, at least from these responses. His responses to the Smarter Travel survey are also fine.

So how about DEB Manas in Queen Ediths?

Does she support Space for Cycling? Well, yes, in her(his?) ward. She wants cycle routes, she rides around a bit... And thats it. Thats all she's answered.

Well on the whole we've got a mixed message from the Tories. One candidate is awesome. One is, well, ok. And none of the others answered. Can we say that the Tories are worth voting for on cycling issues from this? No. We can say that one Tory is good on cycling.


 

Response to 2016 Election Surveys - Liberal Democrats

They got a damn good kicking in the general election of course - and recently lost their overall majority on the City Council too. But they remain the very clear second-placed party in Cambridge, and had the Greens not challenged them so hard in the General Election they might have held on to Cambridge. But lets see what they have to say on cycling.

Our Kings Hedges candidate hasn't replied to the Camcycle survey - nor indeed have I heard a peep out of him in the campaign. I'm almost down to the river before one of them has bothered - Shahida Rahman in East Chesterton.

Does she support 'Space for Cycling'? Yes, and she's given us a clear example of where she'd apply it. Simple, clear, excellent.

As for kids cycling to school...
There should be more safer routes for cycling to school. This would encourage more parents to cycle to school with their children.
It can be a dangerous place outside schools for traffic, particularly cyclists. Cars should not be allowed to park very near the school and mounting on kerbs. At the moment, this has proven hard to enforce as well as the 20mph rule; for the former I will push the Cambridge Joint Area committee for more enforcement of yellow lines and a more transparent way of setting where enforcement resource is sent.
I’m very keen to get parking controls in place, around Chesterton Primary School in East Chesterton as well as make the route to that school safer via the Lib Dem project 'Green Up Green End Road' part of the City Deal to redesign Green End Road.
School children are less experienced in being aware of cycling hazards. It is very important for all children to be able to cycle to school safely and conveniently.
Flat out the best answer I've seen to anything yet!

And her main concern for people older and younger cycling?
 Cars parking on the cycle lane. This means we have to manoeuvre to the main road which isn’t safe at all. They feel unsafe doing this. I believe that more action should be taken to stop people parking their cars like this. Cycling in busy traffic can be difficult too. I am particularly concerned when my children bike during these times. As explained in Question 2, children are less experienced in being aware of cycling hazards.
Again, excellent answer.

Her answer to what to do with more bike parking in the city centre is reasonable but rather uninspired, but she's the first candidate I've encountered with a policy method for fixing cycle access during construction projects, which is impressive. I'm also delighted to say she really gets the question about the kind of thing that obstructs bigger and non-standard bikes and has a clear example of something in her ward she'd want to address and she's very clearly picked out what kind of junctions she'd like to improve (although I'd like to hear how she'd do it). 

But all in all, an excellent candidate. Really, one of the best sets of responses we've seen in Cambridge. You can also see her responses to the Smarter Transport Survey here.

Now it would be asking a lot for all of the LibDems to get cycling right - but lets pick the next one we find. Lets go the other way this time and head in to Castle ward, where we find Mike Argent.

Does he support Space for Cycling?
Cambridge lends itself to cycling, as usually the most convenient and easiest way to get around and is something to encourage. But the needs of cyclists have to be held in balance with the needs of other road users.
 Errrm... So that would be no then? I mean, you're saying you want to balance the need for cyclists to use facilities that won't kill them with the needs of other road users? Nope. Bugger off.

Kids getting to school safely?
I'm not sure there is an actual problem -- beyond the general issue of congestion. What is your evidence for there being a problem?
Oh, ok, your answer to that is to tell children to go play in the traffic. Great. Nice one mate. Next time your'e passing, just... keep passing, will you? He also doesn't think there are problems for more vulnerable cyclists (older or younger folk). His answer on city centre cycle parking isn't so daft and does at least acknowledge the fact that one of the great things about cycling is locking up wherever you like - but I can't relate to his view that there's always somewhere to park - I've lost track of the number of times that just hasn't been the case.

And the rest of his answers... he doesn't get that there's a problem with access while building works go on, doesn't really understand the issue with parking affecting cycling on residential streets, and doesn't get that sometimes daft chicanes and dismount signs really mess things up if you're on a cargo bike.

I'd go looking to find his responses to the Smarter Travel thingy, but I don't respect him enough to make that worth my while.

So there you have it - two LibDem candidates, one excellent and the other a complete waste of space - the Liberal Democrats have a serious identity problem going on here, and you'll only really know whether they've a clue on cycling issues if you look very, very closely at what they say. Well, I suppose 1 out of 2 ain't bad. Actually, no, what am I saying, its terrible.  

Response to 2016 Election Surveys - Labour

I don't have to travel far to find a Labour candidate who answered the Camcycle survey - sitting councillor Nigel Gawthrope has answered (the only one of the 5 Kings Hedges candidates who has!). 

So, does he support Making Space for Cycling?
Yes, I support the guide, though on balance I think it's easier to apply it in the design of new developments rather than redesigning Kings Hedges. I would like to see much more investment in providing good cycleways along the lines of the Dutch model.I would also like to see improvements in the general maintenance of pavements and road surfaces.There are far too many hazards for pedestrians and cyclists at the moment caused by the lack of maintenance and poor condition of the highways
Errm... So yes he does, sort of, but this is a complete cop out. No one, no one, has or will suggest redesigning Kings Hedges, merely that some of the roads therein could be changed a little. Thats all Making Space for Cycling is - and instead he's waffling on about  new developments? Sorry mate, we're not all moving to new developments so unless you're going to support safe cycling space where we live, you're not supporting us. At all. We've got major road re-designs on the cards in the ward, especially on Arbury Road - why aren't you yelling from the roof-tops that you'll make that road safe for cyclists? Why aren't you pushing for excellent facilities so we can ride out from this ward all the way down Histon Road or Milton Road to the city centre without mixing with really hostile traffic?

His comments on the question about school kids (some improvements on Arbury Road, dealing with rogue school parking, train kids) are cut-and-paste enough - I might have hoped that he'd want to extend the goal of getting great cycle routes to all schools, but never mind.



Its his answer to the next question, namely "What experience do you and your family have of cycling? Do you have any different concerns about younger or older family members cycling than you do yourself?" that really gets my goat:

I'm afraid the only cycling I do is my daily commute to work, which is in the city centre. I do this for speed and convenience.I don't often use my car to come into the city centre, I invariably use public transport. When I do cycle to work one thing that annoys me though is other cyclists and pedestrians wearing headphones, oblivious to their surroundings and a hazard to other road users
Hang on a minute... What? Your were asked about your biggest concern about older or younger folk riding and you bellyache about people riding with earplugs? Seriously? Get a sense of perspective. You're more bothered by a guy with ear-buds on a bike than someone in a car? You. Are. Wrong.  What a dreadful, dreadful example of crass cyclist myself attitude. In fact I'm so disgusted by this I almost don't want to continue - but lets soldier on. 

Does he have ideas for more city centre bike parking? No, but he wants to blow Labours trumpet about what they're doing and the inevitable re-development of Park Street that might (but probably won't) get us more bike parking. He's in favour of developers not messing up bike access during construction but hasn't given us a clear idea how he'd do it. He can't name anywhere that it would be hard to take a non-standard bike (laughable, the ward is full of such poor access points for bikes, literally full of them) but confusingly he does name Arbury Road in this context - why he thinks thats hard to get even a wide bike down when he's ignoring all the railing-chicanes that prevent the ward having excellent bike permeability I don't know. He makes encouraging noises about Mitchams Corner, but doesn't tell us how he'd change it. And his comments on antisocial parking making cycling hazardous don't really go far enough - he's ignored the endemic problems of pavement parking and blocking of cycle access across the ward.

But, heck, maybe the next ward will have a better Labour candidate. The Arbury candidate hasn't responded, so if we head down towards the Cam we encounter Margery Abbett in East Chesterton.

Space for Cycling? Yes. Simply put. Although I'd like to hear a little more about how she'd show this support.

Getting kids to school?
I would like to see more children walking or cycling to school. If cars were not allowed in the vicinity of schools then it would be a safer environment for children and this might encourage parents to allow children to cycle.
Wow. Simple, effective, workable. Great.

On her own cycling experience and fears for others who are young and old, sadly she's not really answered what those fears are - although she's a fan of training. Slightly disappointed by this answer. She's also not really got ideas on where more bike parking can be put in town (is it really that hard? Am I the only one who sees the spaces where we could put more bike locks?). And, sadly, no detail on how she'd maintain cycle access during building projects or the problem of access for non-standard bikes (and how cornering on a tricycle relates to this question in any way is lost on me).

Her comment on which junctions need fiddling with is fair - but information on how she'd change them would, again, be welcome. And, sadly, her answer on parking and cycle safety? Meh. Bit of a non-entity of an answer - seriously, I don't care about resident consultation schemes, I care that you put the safety of human beings going from A to B above the convenience of commuter parking, and I'm disappointed that Labour candidates don't feel that the safety of children riding bikes to school is more important than whether a residents group give enough of a damn about parking issues to make a fuss.

So - on the analysis of these two Labour candidates, it would be foolish to suggest that Labour are pro-cycling. They're not. Even a bit. 

Election Surveys 2016

Well, its that time again. When, briefly, local loliticians pretend to believe that their positions are in any way affected by what they say or do and aren't just a knee-jerk response to whichever political parties are most hated nationally, through a local-preference filter that makes Red, Blue or even Yellow rosettes an inevitability.

Yes. Contain your excitement. Its local election time.

As I have before, I thought I might go through the different parties and decide where a cyclists might sensibly place a vote if choosing solely on matters related to biking. As a resource for this I'm using the Cambridge Cycling Campaign survey, and the Smarter Cambridge Transport survey. I'll try to pick two from each party, and I'll start with those closest to where I live.

So lets do this in the order in which they appear on the City Council - lets start with Labour in my next post...