Campaigning to be your Mayoral candidate

I’ve been a Cambridge City Councillor since 2018 and I am looking forward to standing again for the council at the next election, in May 2021. 

However I have also put myself forward to be the Labour Party candidate for another election taking place at the same time, the election for the Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority.  

The combined authority was established in 2017, with a wide range of responsibilities including promoting local economic growth, developing transport infrastructure, housing – especially affordable and council housing, skills and apprenticeships.

If I am selected as Labour candidate I will propose policies for the Combined Authority that the region and each of the seven local authorities will benefit from, and if elected I will deliver these policies, honestly and transparently.  

As an executive councillor in Cambridge I have been working on the shared local plan for Greater Cambridge. As an architect I know that the new plan has the potential to transform how we build new homes and communities. At the same time, I have the vision to improve how we provide spaces to support existing and new businesses and organisations. 

As we develop our plans together, we need to be mindful to reduce our carbon footprint and ensure that we all understand the consequences of our decisions. As a Labour Mayor I will stop the Combined Authority making things worse and take actions to control our negative effects on the climate and biodiversity crisis.

As a Labour Mayor I will commit to build new homes, create opportunities for jobs, and make sure every young person has an education that is right for them. The next generation need homes to live in, jobs they will enjoy, and infrastructure that supports them.

We don’t just need more homes, we need great new homes, particularly Council homes.  To be serious about climate change, we also need a plan to improve what we already have.

And of course we need to acknowledge that Covid 19 has forced us to adjust our living, working, and learning patterns. My manifesto will be visionary in reacting to the new situation whilst tackling inequality, and promoting infrastructure and a working transport system.

If selected by Labour to stand for Mayor you can expect to hear a lot more about my plans.

Room With A View

I get to use an attic room overlooking King’s Parade, and it is a great place to view all very many ways this significant Cambridge street is used: for protests, for dancing, singing and busking, for weddings and funerals and picnics both on the wall outside King’s and, more recently, on the college’s lawn. 

I often get my phone out to photograph the comings and goings of people but also the rain, sunsets and birds. Some I post up on Twitter with or without comments, but mostly they get left in my cloud storage. 

Today I photographed some dancing, singing, a bubble machine, families with dogs, some drummers, all in blue and silver glitter with flags, bunting and banners. A protest about the threat to water, and the climate crisis.  Both things I am very concerned about.  

The group behind it was Cambridge XR, and once they had assembled there were some speeches. About the climage emergency. About Black Lives Matters as well. Taking the knee and silence.  All on the green in front of King’s College, while the sun shone and a group of brass instruments played loudly further down the street.

After a short while the group reassembled and moved on, while continuing to protest while dancing and singing. I posted a couple of photos and quoted the banners, and referenced Cambridge XR. 

I don’t support any form of violence, but I do support freedom of speech and peaceful protests. I campaign for equality, to protect biodiversity, nature and to mitigate the climate crisis. 

I’m not a member of XR but I can see the impact they have had on the conversation about the climate crisis. The younger people are speaking out and I am trying to listen. 

We Need Safe Junctions in Trumpington

If you shop at the Waitrose in South Trumpington, or pass it regularly on foot, cycle or by car, then you may have noticed how hard it can be to turn into or out of the site, and how badly positioned the traffic lights are.

The issue of safety at the junction was first brought to my attention during my campaigning in 2017 and 2018, when I heard from several families with small children about their concerns. It’s not just that the road is inherently unsafe as cars approaching from the south can always turn into the junction, but it’s also impossible to teach young children to cross the roads safely as there is no safe way to cross here.

There are often queues building up to get into the carpark, and then a rush to drive over during the short period when the cars have the right to cross. And the visibility for cars turning in when coming from the M11 junction can be an issue if not kept under control.

When the junction was built, long before the thousands of homes in Trumpington Meadows and the new junior school, it was a minor inconvenience as it was only really used by people walking to Monsanto or cyclists heading south.

However, it is now part of a major thoroughfare.
There are many families who live in old Trumpington who cross twice a day to go to the Trumpington Meadows Primary School.
People who live in Trumpington Meadows use this route to go to the Clay Farm Centre, and the recreation ground.
Then there are visitors who go to the successful Country Park or want to walk over to Byron’s Pool Local Nature reserve.
And of course, the Harston – Trumpington cycleway also uses this route.

With so many more people using the junction, it has become a real concern, and not just because of the way cars turn into the site. Last week I heard a really worrying story from a local resident about a father and son who were heading south and waiting to cross.

A bus was pulling out but did not have enough time or space to leave the site, so ended up blocking the pedestrian route over the junction. The family crossed in front of the bus, with the father leading the way. The lights went green and the bus pulled forward without the driver noticing that the young son had not reached the safety of the crossing island.

As a result, the boy was trapped between the railings and the departing bus, and ended up bruised, and in shock. It could have been so much worse.

It’s clear that as well as some traffic control we need a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists before someone is seriously hurt. Having worked closely with local residents to support the campaign to put safety measures in place along the guided busway, I hope we can pull together similar support here.

Campaigning in Trumpington

There will be elections on May 2nd for Cambridge City Council, and I’ve been out talking to hundreds of local residents about the issues that they face and asking them to vote Labour. I’m not standing this year, but I want to support our great candidates.

Normally there would be one City Councillor being elected, but after absentee former Lib Dem Donald Adey finally stepped down from his role on the City and County Councils after almost a year claiming he could represent the people of Trumpington from 400 miles away in Fife, we actually have a chance to elect three new Labour councillors – two for the City, one for the County.

And we have some great candidates: May Shafi and Matt Bird are standing for the City Council and Rob Grayston for the County.

Rob, May, Katie and Matt

You’ll be seeing us all out and about between now and the election on May 2nd – and if you have any questions about the campaign and our policies, do get in touch,

Taking Your Petition to the County Council

The petition calling for a temporary speed reduction on the guided busway in Trumpington now has nearly 4000 signatures and we are still pushing hard for the proposal to be adopted by the bus operators.

Yesterday I spoke to the County Council about the issue, as they are the authority responsible for the busway. I felt that the councillors understood the issues, and want to thank them all and especially Jocelynne Scutt for their comments.  The meeting has been reported in the Cambridge News – thanks to Josh Thomas for being there.

We have already seen some changes – the white lines and warnings on the busway are a welcome development – but we need more.

This is what I said in my allotted three minutes:

Continue reading “Taking Your Petition to the County Council”

How Can We Make the Guided Busway Safer?

The tragic death of Steve Moir as he cycled from Cambridge Assessment’s office along the guided busway on the narrow section between the station and Long Road has saddened all of us, and my thoughts and sympathy are with his family, friends and colleagues. It is the first time such an accident has happened, and it has shown clearly what many people have been saying for years: that stretch of the busway is a massive public safety risk, and it cannot be allowed to run as it does now.

Unless we act now others will die or be injured, like the unfortunate tourist who was unaware that buses ran along what he thought was a water channel and was clipped by a bus, or the passengers hurt when buses have derailed.

My view is that the single thing that would make a real difference would be to reduce the speed of the buses to 20mph in that area, at least until robust safety measures can be put in place.  The slight increase in journey times and need to rethink the timetable is surely worth it if it reduces the chance of a pedestrian or cyclist being injured or killed? If properly enforced it will also reduce the risk to passengers.

Continue reading “How Can We Make the Guided Busway Safer?”

Election Day

Today is polling day for the local elections and I’m spending the day reminding supporters to get out and vote – if you’re in Trumpington today then you may see more or another Labour supporter with a clipboard, a pile of reminder leaflets, and a determined expression!

Thank you to everyone for your support – it’s been wonderful to meet so many people during this campaign, and I look forward to the count tonight.

Katie on the campaign trail
Katie on the campaign trail

Remembering Millicent Fawcett

I was out canvassing today on the final weekend of the local election campaign, and took the opportunity to visit the blue plaque put up recently in honour of one well-known former resident of Trumpington – Dame Millicent Fawcett.

The plaque on Brookside acknowledges this incredible woman and her fight for votes for women, on the centenary of some women getting the vote – but I never forget that not everyone gets to vote, even today.

I grew up in a place and at a time when none of the adult members of my family had a vote – Hong Kong when it was a colony – and even now their votes count for little now that it is a special administrative region of China.  Perhaps that’s one reason why I value my own vote and have impressed on my daughters and all the young people I know how important it is to use their vote.

Plaque to Millicent Fawcett
Plaque to Millicent Fawcett

It’s not just about voting, it’s also about who you can vote for. In democracies it is important that we have a diverse group of elected representatives – not just women but people from different class, ethnic backgrounds and social groups, of different sexual orientation, with varying pasts and aspirations and ideals and interest, so that the discussions at councils and in parliaments and assemblies can reflect the glorious variety of the world and not just the views of a bunch of like-minded lucky people.

We need diversity so that people can bring a different perspective, one that is grounded in their life experience and valuable wherever it is heard.  That’s why I’m standing, along with the other women candidates: we want to bring that perspective to Cambridge City Council.

And I hope that all women will consider standing for other things, because nobody is going to ask us to take over from the men – we have to stand up and fight for it just as we women candidates are doing this time around.

Katie next to plaque to Millicent Fawcett
Katie next to plaque to Millicent Fawcett

Cycling in Trumpington

Every year the fine people at the Cambridge Cycling Campaign send out a survey to all of the candidates for local elections asking for our views on a range of cycling-related issues.  This year’s survey will be published on April 24 but I thought I’d share my thoughts – and some photographs I took recently while cycling around the southern part of Trumpington.

As a candidate for local government, I have spent a lot of time considering ways to make Trumpington better. As an architect, I think about the built environment, and the way that physical changes can make people’s lives better; as a regular and frequent cyclist, I have noticed a number of things around the ward that I think need to be reconsidered. As I engaged with the Cambridge Cycle Campaign about transit choice in Trumpington, I realised I had a lot of strong opinions about the state of infrastructure across our community that I wanted to explore in greater detail. This blog post is an outgrowth of that process.

I have lived in Cambridgeshire for over thirty years and have always cycled – when I’ve lived in the City it’s been my main way of getting around. All of my family members cycle regularly and our garage is filled with bikes. I’m obviously concerned about road safety for my children, and myself as I grow older.

When I consider transit provision, my priority is to protect the most vulnerable road users, and improve their experience first – this includes pedestrians, but also the elderly, people with limited mobility, and anyone else who struggles to get around. The ward has seen major transit improvements in the last few years with the introduction of the guided Busway and new, wide pavements and cycle lanes along Addenbrookes Road, and in the award-winning design of some of the new housing estates. There is also good cycling provision from Bateman Street south to Alpha Terrace, and wide pavements along the High St.

That said, there is a dramatic drop-off in quality from Alpha Terrace to the M11 junction. There are two areas about which I feel particularly strong: first, the junction that governs access to Waitrose, particularly the right-turn lane facing south; and second, Hobson Avenue junction across the guided Busway. The right-hand turn lane into Waitrose is only long enough for about six cars to queue, creating backups that stretch north – sometimes literally for miles.

Map showing issues
Map showing issues

The result is a dangerous junction for cars and especially for cyclists (there is no pedestrian crossing, which is a separate issue), as well as traffic congestion along the length of Trumpington Road. Hobson Avenue, where a road crosses the guided Busway, is a dangerous intersection that requires a two-pronged approach: it needs changes to the signalisation and road users need to be educated about the dangers inherent in the junction. I would seek to restore priority to the Busway users. At present, not only is there a long wait for the signal to change, it is too short for anyone but an able-bodied adult to cross in time, which is also something that could be improved.

There are also many areas of Trumpington that need to be re-considered. The new junction of Addenbrookes Road and Shelford Road is disappointing because only three of the four roads are signalized – so pedestrians need to cross three roads to get across the street. There are other small changes – such as paving unpaved cycle tracks around the ward, and creating safe routes to primary schools – that could have a major impact on providing transport choice.

The crossing at Hobson's Ave should prioritise Busway users.
The crossing at Hobson’s Ave should prioritise Busway users.

As a resident of the Novo estate pointed out, many of the roads in new estates in Trumpington have not been adopted, and as a result see high traffic speeds and are becoming rat runs. There are also pedestrian/cycle tracks that, though heavily used, have fallen into disrepair, with inadequate drainage making them impassible after rain. Improving them – preferably without closing them, as that entails substantial disruption to regular users – would make a big difference to people who are car-free or experience limited mobility.

Pedestrian and cycle tracks become unusable in wet weather
Pedestrian and cycle tracks become unusable in wet weather

Ideally, the whole of Trumpington should be assessed for vulnerability, so that we can build resilience into the design of the city. The examples above are things that residents have brought to my attention or that I have noticed in my travels around the ward.

In addition to physical improvements, there are a few things I would like to see that would support better transit opportunities for all Trumpington residents. I would love to see bike racks added to Busway vehicles, preferably of the sort shown below (from Stuttgart, 2013. The more common fold-down racks only fit two cycles at a time). Adding an additional bus stop north of the turn-off to Addenbrookes would mean many more buses serving the Trumpington community. Making vulnerable road users a consideration in travel management plans (included in planning applications) would force developers and contractors to account for the impact of construction on pedestrians and cyclists, and mitigate situations where, for example, cycle lanes are obstructed by construction vehicles.

Stuttgart bus with bike rack
Stuttgart bus with bike rack

Trumpington has six state schools and seven private schools, and so cycling to and from school is a real prospective growth area in Trumpington. My first priority is the stretch of road south of Alpha Terrace, for families with children at Trumpington Meadows Primary School. Many of the children who attend the school need to cross Hauxton Road and they deserve a safe and pleasant route to school. Traffic in the Newtown area, where there are five schools, is particularly bad during school term time at rush hour. At other times of day and year, it is a relatively pleasant cycling environment.

If elected, I would seek to work with private schools to make school drop-off a safer and more seamless experience for everyone. We should work with the schools to create a better system – one that provides a more seamless experience for pupils and parents, and also helps to minimise traffic congestion for residents. In Trumpington we have both an opportunity and an obligation to address school traffic, which has an impact on everyone’s quality of life.

Adding a bus stop north of the Addenbrookes turn-off would make the buses more useful for Trumpington residents.
Adding a bus stop north of the Addenbrookes turn-off would make the buses more useful for Trumpington residents.

As a regular and frequent cyclist, I know of many places in Trumpington that could be improved for standard and non-standard cyclists alike. Each deserves individual consideration, but I would love for the ward to receive a comprehensive assessment of cycling strengths and weaknesses. In the meantime, I have learned so much from residents of Trumpington as I have been campaigning, and I have enjoyed getting a more in-depth and granular understanding of the issues that affect residents every day.

Campaigning hard in Trumpington

Lots of Labour Support in Trumpington!
Lots of Labour Support in Trumpington!

It’s just over two weeks to the Local Elections on May 3 and the last day you can register to vote – and remember that students can register and vote at both college and home addresses, and all EU citizens can vote in local elections.

It’s been great to see so much support on the doorstep in Trumpington as our campaigners go out talking to people – I hope to meet many more of you   between now and May 3.