What type of people walk and cycle the most? And what measures can we take to make it possible for more people to walk and cycle?
This week saw the publication of the Greater Cambridge Walking and Cycling Index 2021. You can read the 24-page booklet here. It has been produced by active travel campaign group Sustrans on behalf of the Greater Cambridge Partnership and is based on 1300 survey responses from Cambridge city and South Cambs residents.
It’s an interesting read, although I am concerned that presenting aggregated results across these two very different geographies may be obscuring differing attitudes, needs and opportunities in each. I have raised this with Sustrans and I hope they will be able to come back with disaggregated data in due course.
A couple of things particularly caught my eye. The first was the breakdown of walking and cycling frequency by socio-economic group. In both cases, rates among the managerial/professional group (A/B) are twice as high as among the skilled manual occupation group (C2). Semi-skilled and unskilled manual occupations, homemakers and people not in employment (D/E) fall in between the two. This suggests that finding solutions to the needs of the C2 group is going to be a particular challenge when it comes to the details of the ‘carrots and sticks’ intended to reduce vehicle usage within the city.
The other thing I found most interesting was the graphic below, which says that the second most important change that could be made to encourage walking would be a reduction in pavement parking. Remember, the 68% quoted is for Greater Cambridge as a whole; I suspect the rate within the city itself would be even higher.
In light of this feedback, it’s all the more frustrating that there just doesn’t seem to be an effective way to get on top of the problem. Is this an issue of lack of powers or resources (or appetite)?
I find it particularly mystifying that it is so difficult to deal with pavement parking when it is directly related to development projects. Going back to last week’s theme of ‘happy path’ assumptions – if a developer submits a Traffic Management Plan which is clearly unrealistic in deterring pavement parking, how robustly is this challenged?
And how high does the threshold for action have to be, in the face of repeated evidence that the Traffic Management Plan is being breached?
Surely the City Council’s ownership of the planning permission process should give it more leverage in this regard. The evidence of the Sustrans report is that residents would welcome a harder line.
Staying focused on the local
A Cambridge City councillor’s duties are laid out very clearly in this document. They are explicitly concerned with local activities, for example “as a member of the council you will participate constructively in the good governance of the City”.
During my first year as a Councillor, I noticed several motions being presented for debate at Council where the outcome or action desired took the form of writing a letter to a government minister to object to (or support) a national government policy.
These debates always struck me as extraneous to the actual business of the City Council, and shrinkingly unlikely to achieve any change.
I recognise that some councillors from political parties feel that when residents elect someone from a party, as part of the deal they support that person drawing attention to that party’s social or economic policies. However, as an independent councillor, I was not elected with any such mandate. I was elected solely to represent the interests of the Queen Edith’s area – and when it comes to national social or economic issues, I know that our residents do not have a single view.
So from now on, I am going to abstain on all motions which relate to national social or economic policies rather than local council responsibilities. I think that in general, this is what local residents would expect from a non-aligned councillor.