Sam Davies

Small steps in encouraging active travel

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.

Sam Davies


  • Perhaps a solution would be a small multi-storey car park to serve areas like streets off Mill Rd where cars have to mount the pavement to park and which are unpleasant to walk or cycle down. It would be expensive but would result in much pleasanter streets which could even get some vegetation.

  • I now almost never cycle into the city due to bike crime. Twice I’ve had my bike stolen, both times from under a CCTV camera. The second time was from Park Street car park where there was an ‘official’ cycle park and CCTV everywhere. The Police were utterly disinterested both times and only my insurance company bothered to look at the video, where it discovered that the thieves took 10 minutes to cut my bike free of its lock.

    Cycling into the city is a mugs game until bike crime is sorted out. I can’t be donating a bike every year or two.

  • A survey covering Cambridge & South Cambs with 1,300 responses? That’s fewer responses than you received in votes when you were elected! I think the biggest inferences from such a survey are
    a) it shows nothing at all about the travel habits/needs/intentions of most of us,
    b) many people don’t trust council-inspired surveys
    c) Sustrans isn’t skilled at running meaningful surveys

    I agree (from general observation) that the majority of frequent, commuting cyclists are from the upper income brackets, young, fit, & male. The reasons could be complex, but common sense says it’s because skilled jobs (software engineering bering a good local example) tend to have looser dress codes, flexible start times and smile on working from home (on rainy days, say).
    Cycling and (to a lesser choice) bus travel aren’t a feasible “choice” for the majority. Cycling is difficult, and (regular, daily) bus travel is generally expensive, unpleasant , often infrequent and not even widely available.

    Don’t worry if you missed the latest survey, there’ll be another one along soon.

  • Laughed out loud, honest!
    Look what popped into my FaceBook feed after honest!) writing my earlier comment:

    “We are developing a renewed plan for better transport in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.

    The Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) will shape the future of transport in our region. This consultation is your chance to have your say on the plan. Your views will help shape the final version of the LTCP.

    It is quick and easy to tell us what you think. You have until the end of the day on 4 August 2022 to do our simple survey. Just click ‘Have your say‘ to get started. You can also send your comments to us via

  • Our area contributed to a little film with RNIB & Camsight (I am a member) about pavement parking as we have narrow pavements and children, buggies, wheelchairs, those with sight loss/mobility aids/wheelchairs/scooters and children learning to ride/scooter were telling us they were having difficulties

    Of course as a local issue we were able to call on our Independent Queen Edith Councillor as it was a issue impacting on both those that live here and those that travel through for work, treatments, meetings etc. Immy 🙂

  • One way to stop pavement parking is to ban parking on one side of the road, leaving enough room for traffic and parking on the road. At least, that seems to have worked on Baldock Way near Morley School.

  • I walk a lot in Cambridge, I am old but mobile. These are the things that I find tiresome, dangerous and downright infuriating about walking in the city starting with some obvious stuff:
    Cracked and damaged paving slabs;
    Potholes in the pavements;
    Vehicles parked on the pavement in undesignated areas;
    Trees and bushes hanging down at face level right across the pavement.
    All the above are matters for the council, and have no doubt been mentioned before. With monotonous regularity.
    Then of course there is the cyclist blight…
    Cycling on pavements where the pavement is not a shared facility
    ( incidentally, cyclists NOT cycling on the shared facility pavements is one of the main causes of the sclerotic pace of traffic in Queen Edith’s – and probably the rest of Cambridge as well. Just saying…).
    Cyclists who don’t understand No Cycling road signs (Grafton Centre for example) or simply ignore them. This is illegal, but who is policing it? Nobody, and that goes for much of the rest of the traffic chaos in Cambridge.
    Other pedestrians walking along texting and not looking where they are going, Old people are pretty much invisible and
    Pedestrians are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to moving about in Cambridge, and old people are a sub- species.
    I now carry a stick, for defensive purposes, and people tend to give way!
    So walking in Cambridge is a challenge, but don’t give up, is it is still worth doing. ‍☠️

  • I don’t… mainly because they are biased towards putting the council in the best light. Lies, damn’d lies and then there are statistics

  • On a different tack whenever there is tree work to be done there are  published  announcements warning of heavy plant being on the road, and closures etc . 

     Shouldn’t the huge building sites with huge heavy lorries with whatever deliveries sometimes on both sides of the road in rush hour and for far longer than the 10/40 minutes offloading missive have to do the same.  Then it’s possible that other road and pavement users could have a choice of using a different route.  Are pavements built to the weight of huge lorries and the tree roots adjacent also?  The pavements at rush hour tend to be cluttered with these huge lorries, and no one wants to walk in the road to avoid them when there is fast flowing traffic.

  • The survey was conducted by NatCen to get a representative sample of the populace, not by Sustrans itself. It has been standard procedure for a few decades now to use 1000 or so people to get representative data. So long as those people are properly sampled it’s a valid method and gives good results. i.e. The sample size is not a valid reason to dismiss the findings.