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?
As a Labour campaigner and now councillor, I’ve always been clear that I support the EU and voted to remain in the 2016 referendum. I have said many time that I would work hard to minimise the negative impact of Brexit on Trumpington and the whole of Cambridge. While leaving the EU now seems inevitable, there are many issues to consider.
First, it seems to me that there’s a strong case to investigate the 2016 referendum, and that the Electoral Commission is not equipped to do this. In August over 50 MPs and peers wrote to the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency asking them to investigate the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns, and I support this too. If an investigation discovers that the referendum was compromised then we have to ask whether we want to rerun it under more careful supervision, or not.
It would be simplest if the Article 50 process could be paused until these investigations were complete, but the political reality is that this is very unlikely to happen – neither the British government nor the EU27 seem to see it as a possibility.
Since it seems unlikely that there will be an investigation, we should ask what else can be done.
There have been changes to the executive of the City Council and on August 15 I became Executive Councillor for Streets and Open Spaces. As a result I’ve stepped down from the the Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee and the Housing Scrutiny Committee.
This is an enormous privilege. I look forward to ensuring that all allotments are in full use and the streets and toilets are clean – as well as delivering Labour’s vision for Cambridge, tackling climate change and making the city cleaner and greener.
Last week I spoke out at the South Area Committee, the group which brings together councillors from the south of the city, about the need to make the guided busway safer. It’s an issue that was often raised by local residents and something I feel strongly about as a cyclist whose family use the path regularly.
The issue was highlighted by Josh Thomas in his report for the Cambridge Independent, published yesterday – and then this morning we heard the dreadful news that a pedestrian had been hit by the wing mirror of a passing bus. Fortunately it seems that the person involved was not seriously hurt, but it highlights the dangers of having fast-moving buses in close proximity to pedestrians and cyclists.
I will be exploring the best way to ensure that we’re all safe on the busway, whether through a fence or other measures.
I am very honoured to have been elected to represent Trumpington on the City Council – thank you to everyone who voted for me in what was a nail-biting election. I’d also like to thank my mum, who showed me what a strong woman can do from an early age.
Sometimes local councillors get elected and then disappear for four years, expecting to be re-elected because they wear a certain colour rosette. Sometimes they move to Scotland! I promise that I will not be that kind of councillor. I’ve been talking to thousands of you in the past 18 months, and I know your priorities: tackling congestion and traffic, improving public transport, fixing broken pavements, making sure that new communities have the facilities they need.
Some councillors promise the world and say that they will sort out every problem and issue. I will be honest with you from the start: I may not be able to fix everything. But I will take every single person’s problems seriously and do everything I can. If I can’t get something done, I will continue to campaign for change, and I will always get back to you and explain the situation.
Some of the issues we face in Newtown – such as congestion, pavements and social care – are County Council matters, and your existing Labour county councillor Linda Jones has been working hard over the last year to make improvements. Others are city issues, such as safety, refuse collection and planning. Now Linda and I can work together as a team on city and county issues to identify and deliver on your priorities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.