It’s hard to know where to begin after reading the deeply objectionable remarks about Trumpington made by newly-elected LibDem county councillor Barbara Ashwood, reported in today’s Cambridge News. They reveal a set of attitudes towards the people she is supposed to represent that I find deeply depressing and worrying and that run completely counter to my views. They also seem to be based on hearsay and prejudice, with no supporting evidence.
I am sorry that Trumpington residents find that they have replaced the absent former LibDem Donald Adey with someone who seems to have no real understanding of the issues facing us and seeks to create social division by claiming – without any evidence – that newly arrived residents are responsible for problems in the ward.
I am also sorry that the real challenges that Trumpington faces as a result of rapid expansion will be overshadowed by this sort of ill-considered comment. We do have problems, because the ward has grown massively and this places a great strain on transport and other services. We have issues because we have less to spend after years of Tory and LibDem led cuts in public services as a result of the false narrative of austerity in public funding. And we have issues because many people are struggling, and some are failing, to keep their lives together.
Yesterday evening, FeCRA (Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations) held their annual general meeting, which was followed by a talk from Professor Robin Hambleton about the inclusive approach for design of cities and a panel discussion on ‘How can Cambridge grow in a way that will make it Inclusive?’
I was invited to join the panel and delighted to be involved with this important event along with Daniel Zeichner MP, Chair of Woodland Trust Baroness Barbara Young , the Chief Executive of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust Prof Brian Eversham, and Meredith Bowles of Mole Architects.
FeCRA represent 97 local residents’ associations and community groups across Cambridge, and at the event the chair of the meeting, Wendy Blyth, ran through some of their achievements, from questioning the County Council about procedure when ancient hedgerow was removed for a new cycleway, coordinating feedback on a space survey of Cambridge city centre, and organising a celebration of 53 new trees planted along Hills Road among many others.
It’s been an exciting morning for me, as along with my fellow councillor Anna Smith I’ve been attending the Cambridge Half Marathon, and watching thousands of dedicated runners take to the streets of Cambridge.
I’m the executive councillor for streets and open spaces, so my team has a lot of work to do getting things ready and clearing up afterwards, and I was really pleased to be able to thank them for all they do.
As well as saying a few words as the runners assembled, Anna and I got to mark the start of each stage of the race with a klaxon, and I’ve also been at the finish mark to cheer the runners as they arrive and present them with their prizes.
The sudden death of my fellow councillor and Mayor of Cambridge Nigel Gawthrope has left me shocked and saddened. Nigel was a committed and dedicated ward councillor, an enthusiastic and energetic Mayor, and a supportive friend to all of us who worked with him. I would like to send my condolences to his family.
As a newly-elected councillor Nigel offered me a great deal of support, and I learned quickly from him that you should not be intimidated by the complexity of council proceedings or the formalities of office, but should just get on and do the best job you could – while enjoying yourself wherever possible.
I was lucky enough to accompany Nigel on a range of official engagements, such as the official opening of Stourbridge Fair and the Mayor’s reception for the Christmas lights, and it was always clear just how much he enjoyed being Mayor and how much energy he put into the role. He understood that as Mayor he could bring attention to issues and causes that might otherwise not get noticed, and he was dedicated to doing everything he could for those who needed help.
I was honoured to serve with him on the City Council, and I know that all of my fellow councillors will work to ensure that Cambridge delivers on the promises he made to those he represented in King’s Hedges and throughout the City.
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.
It’s hard to miss the growing number of cargo bikes in Cambridge, being used to ferry everything from children to shopping to deliveries around. They use a lot less energy than cars do, and take up a lot less space, and I think they are a really valuable alternative means of transport.
Like many car owners, I’d like to use my car a lot less, but the thought of cycling a long distance with a week’s shopping, especially when it’s got heavy things like cat food or bulky things like toilet roll, is a bit of a deterrent.
Which is one reason why I was excited to see that there’s a new generation of electric cargo bikes, offering those of us who like to cycle but could do with a little help the perfect alternative to a car.
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.
Yesterday we heard about the tragic death of a cyclist on the guided busway after a collision with a bus. This is under investigation now, and we must not draw conclusions about the circumstances of the incident, but my thoughts are with their family and friends.
It was less than three months ago that I was walking down the Trumpington section of the guided busway with four members of the highways safety and cycling team to discuss options for improving the safety of this route for pedestrians and cyclists. I had also met with one of the bus operators the previous day.
My main request was to have the speed on the buses reduced on the section from Clay Farm to where it joined the road near the station, from 53mph to 20 or 30 mph. I had calculated that this would only increase the journey time for this section by about 3 minutes. It was agreed that some visibility issues could be improved, along with highlighting the raised kerb of the track and the provision of warning signs, but the option for reducing the speed of the vehicles was not within their powers.
Some of the issues were explained to me. The guided bus tracks were on private land, speed limits could not be enforced and, most crucially, it was not a road so the police had no jurisdiction, but it was not a railway either, so the Health and Safety Executive had no jurisdiction either – there seems to be no single body accountable for safety on the busway.
After yesterday’s awful accident I think we find a way to make progress here, before something else happens. It has highlighted again how vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists can be to large vehicles that travel at speed close to the pathway. I use this route often and sometimes get frightened by the fast, heavy vehicles.
As well as safety measures like road markings, surely is it time for an accountable safety body to be put in place. What other vehicle transport system does not have this?