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Council says Communities Secretary wrong and its policies are supported by retailers; evidence from elsewhere suggests cycling positive for shops

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles says that parking charges in Cambridge are too high and disadvantage motorists, and has suggested that prioritising cyclists over motorists favours an “elite” rather than ordinary people who want to use cars to visit shops.

Mr Pickles' comments come towards the end of a week in which he urged local authorities to do away with “Draconian” parking charges and infrastructure such as speed humps to make it easier for people to drive to high street shops.

But Cambridge City Council says that local retailers support its transport policies, which are focused on improving cycling infrastructure as well as buses to make it easier for people to get around.

The city has the highest proportion of cyclists in the UK – half the people who live there cycle at least once a week, and one in five commuter trips are made by bicycle.

Commenting on new planning guidance issued earlier this week, which is not obligatory for local authorities to follow, Mr Pickles warned that “anti-car dogma” meant that shoppers were increasingly deserting town centres for out-of-town superstores, or were shopping online.

He told Cambridge News that the East Anglian city was one of those to which his comments applied, and that while councils were free to set their own parking charges, he believed those set by the council – up to £26 for a day in a multi-storey car park was cited by the website – was too high.

“I accept there is a historic part of Cambridge that makes it not particularly friendly to cars and that’s the nature of having a very ancient city but, if we don’t put our plans together on how people live and how some of the elite think we should live, we are just asking for trouble,” he said.

“While this is not the sole cause of the high street’s problems, it is certainly a contributory factor.”

He conceded that it was impossible to destroy historic buildings to provide space for motor vehicles – little prospect of King’s College Chapel making way for a multi-storey car park, then – but maintained that cyclists should not be put first in the way that motorists have been in the past.

“What I’m seeking is not to replace one binding ideology with another, I’m asking for basic common sense and pragmatism,” he said.

Mr Pickles flagged up research from the Association of Town and City Management that claims to have found a strong correlation between the availability of parking spaces and footfall in town centres.

The body says that in viewing parking charges and fines as a means of raising revenue, they have lost sight of what the prime focus of parking management should be.

However, studies from elsewhere strongly suggest that policies that favour cycling do have a beneficial effect on the local economy.

Research commissioned by the City of Copenhagen presented at the Velo City Conference in Vienna in June found that while cyclists may spend less per visit than drivers when they go to local shops, over the course of a year, they spend more in aggregate.

Moreover, bicycles, not cars, are the most frequent mode of transport used to access local shops – but the lack of adequate cycle parking provision was a barrier to getting more people to use their bikes to go shopping.

Meanwhile, a recent article on the Seattle Transit Blog showed the startling impact of the custom of cyclists on the takings of retailers on one road where bike lanes had been installed and parking spaces removed, with revenues up as much as fourfold during the subsequent six months.

Responding to Mr Pickles’ comments, Councillor Tim Ward, Cambridge City Council’s executive councillor for sustainable transport, told Cambridge News that the secretary for state’s views were incorrect and that the council was doing the right thing in investing in cycle parking and other infrastructure.

He also pointed out that the issue of car parking in Cambridge were not typical, due to tourism and commuting; lying an hour by train from London, many residents commute to London for work, and the city is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the UK.

“If Mr Pickles is interested in the wellbeing of retailers, he should listen to them,” said Councillor Ward.

“Retailers want people coming in spending two to three hours shopping, they don’t want the car parks silting up with commuters and tourists and them not being available to shoppers, which would happen if we took the prices down.

“We are busy providing a lot more parking spaces in the city centre in the next few months, for something like 800 bicycles, and figures show it doesn’t take many cyclists to equal one car driver in terms of retail spend,” he added.

Cambridge was also visited this week by minister for cycling Norman Baker, who was there to see first-hand the city’s cycling infrastructure on the day he unveiled the government’s response to the Get Britain Cycling report. The response has met with a lukewarm reception from cyclists.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

49 comments

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cat1commuter [1422 posts] 3 years ago
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Sod off Eric! Cambridge suffers from road junctions which are unfriendly to cyclists and pedestrians because the County Council is so desperate not to reduce capacity for cars.

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theclaw [73 posts] 3 years ago
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it's because Pickles is so fat he doesn't like the thought of anybody who doesn't need a reinforced Range Rover like he does. Just because he can't get down to the shops without 2 tonnes of carbon-burning support, doesn't mean most people can't.

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cat1commuter [1422 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh, and one thing Cambridge City centre doesn't suffer from is a lack of footfall on its streets. You can hardly move on the pavements on a Saturday.

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jarderich [94 posts] 3 years ago
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Blimey - first to comment. Do I get a prize?

If parking restrictions were lifted in Cambridge the city centre would grind to a halt.

The fact that 50% of residents are cycling at least once a week might give some indication of how Mr Pickles views might go down in Cambridge.

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Chuck [588 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh, Eric Pickles. Please just stop.

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jarderich [94 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh, it appears I took too long writing my comment.

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Hoester [68 posts] 3 years ago
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IMO, Cambridge has painted itself into a infrastructural position where it has little choice other than to favour cyclists.

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panyagua [12 posts] 3 years ago
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Hoester wrote:

IMO, Cambridge has painted itself into a infrastructural position where it has little choice other than to favour cyclists.

Yes, those pesky medieval builders and their narrow streets... couldn't they have foreseen that one day, fat people in large metal contraptions would want to leave them all day taking up public space, free of charge, and make the streets wide enough to accommodate them?  102

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sidesaddle [91 posts] 3 years ago
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OK whiners. You have all got cars. Would you take the Cervelo to Tesco? The moral high ground here is perhaps a little crumbly?

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bigbluebike [17 posts] 3 years ago
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Fatty pickles could do well to actually visit Cambridge based couriers Outspoken Delivery who do amazing things for local retailers and assist with deliveries for 3 national delivery companies. These guys have seen the restriction on vehicle movements is an opportunity to grow a business whilst helping promote cycling. Beneficial all round. Go and speak to their clients and see what they say!

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 3 years ago
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sidesaddle wrote:

OK whiners. You have all got cars. Would you take the Cervelo to Tesco? The moral high ground here is perhaps a little crumbly?

Ummm

Yes - I have a car
Yes - I cycle my road bike to the local Morrisons - regularly
No - I don't have to take moral advice from someone who acts as an apologist for our pathetic excuse for politicians

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Dr. Ko [204 posts] 3 years ago
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No, I'm snobish, I would rather ride for a chocolade to Paul Young with a steel frame:
http://innercitymobility.blogspot.de/2011/07/london-fuel-supplies.html  1

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Hoester [68 posts] 3 years ago
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"Yes, those pesky medieval builders and their narrow streets... couldn't they have foreseen that one day, fat people in large metal contraptions would want to leave them all day taking up public space, free of charge, and make the streets wide enough to accommodate them?"

I was thinking about issues such as the positioning of 'out of town retail parks' within city limits, resulting in ineffectual park and ride public transport during peak periods etc. (particulary from the east side of the city). Thanks for jumping to the conclusion that I was talking about the historical centre of the city though, and making a witty(?) remark about your incorrect assumption. Par for the course on other forums, why don't we try to keep this one a cut above the rest?

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crazy-legs [882 posts] 3 years ago
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sidesaddle wrote:

OK whiners. You have all got cars. Would you take the Cervelo to Tesco? The moral high ground here is perhaps a little crumbly?

Maybe, maybe not. No, I wouldn't take my high-end road bike to Sainsbury's but what I do is factor in a supermarket trip when I need to use the car so that (wherever possible) I never need to get into the car to make one specific trip. Plan in the journey and know that if I need to drive to work one day, I can stop at the supermarket/garage etc on the way home.

My other shopping needs can be catered for by walking, train and bus (or a combination of those). No obviously I realise that not everyone has those options and if you're going to IKEA to buy a wardrobe, a bike is slightly impractical for that but we're not talking about doing *everything* by bike - even if everyone took one fewer journey by car a week it'd make one hell of a difference.

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mrmo [2093 posts] 3 years ago
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sidesaddle wrote:

OK whiners. You have all got cars. Would you take the Cervelo to Tesco? The moral high ground here is perhaps a little crumbly?

Like most people i do have a car, but because i live in a town i happen to live near some shops. I know this sounds odd and that most politicians live in rural retreats, i hear that Tuscanny is quite popular? However i also have two functioning legs, you know if you look below your gut those sticky out things, you know the ones that you use to push the pedals in the car.

However they also have another function, they allow you to walk!!!! bet you didn't know that.

Because i live in a town i am only 1/2mile from the local Tesco, you may have seen the big red white and blue signs as you drive to Fortnum and Masons? They sell food and stuff in there, in case you ever wondered.

Anyway because i live near a food shop i can walk to the shop and buy the food i need, If i feel lazy or need loads i get the shop to deliver it, not sure if you have ever heard of online shopping and the internet, you really should investigate it, makes life much easier.

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cat1commuter [1422 posts] 3 years ago
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sidesaddle wrote:

OK whiners. You have all got cars. Would you take the Cervelo to Tesco? The moral high ground here is perhaps a little crumbly?

I live in Cambridge and do all my shopping by bike. The nearest Tesco is just across the river, over a nice new cycle bridge. I use a large courier bag, and have a flat bar singlespeed town bike. I use my car to shop at supermarkets about half a dozen times a year.

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Nixster [365 posts] 3 years ago
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No sympathy for Fatty Pickles but this statement is not true. I've been involved in designing traffic schemes, cycleways, bridges etc for Cambridgeshire for a decade and there has been a consistent trend of re-assigning road space to cycles and pedestrians away from cars.

It may not be perfect and you may not like the balance the way it is now but when you consider that the whole historic core of Cambridge used to be open to car traffic and compare that to how it is now I think you'll agree things have moved on.

And £26 to park is expensive (I know its much cheaper in the P&R sites - funny that) even if it doesn't stop people queueing for 20 minutes to get into the Grand Arcade car park.

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panyagua [12 posts] 3 years ago
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Hoester wrote:

"Yes, those pesky medieval builders and their narrow streets... couldn't they have foreseen that one day, fat people in large metal contraptions would want to leave them all day taking up public space, free of charge, and make the streets wide enough to accommodate them?"

I was thinking about issues such as the positioning of 'out of town retail parks' within city limits, resulting in ineffectual park and ride public transport during peak periods etc. (particulary from the east side of the city). Thanks for jumping to the conclusion that I was talking about the historical centre of the city though, and making a witty(?) remark about your incorrect assumption. Par for the course on other forums, why don't we try to keep this one a cut above the rest?

I apologise if I jumped to the wrong conclusion, but you didn't give much away with your original post. At least my response has prompted you to back this up with a bit more detail on what you were getting at, so I'd like to think my contribution wasn't entirely worthless, even if its wittiness was questionable.

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Dr. Ko [204 posts] 3 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

Because i live in a town i am only 1/2mile from the local Tesco, you may have seen the big red white and blue signs as you drive to Fortnum and Masons? They sell food and stuff in there, in case you ever wondered.

Fortnum&Mason? Good selection of teas, difficult to park - even a bike! Either chain to the railing or fold up and take inside. In that respect a Tesco could be an easier choice.

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giff77 [1266 posts] 3 years ago
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Finally. I'm recognised as one of the elite rather than a pleb  36 16 4 thank you 'Lord' Pickles  19

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mr-andrew [300 posts] 3 years ago
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Can't we launch him at Syria and kill 2 birds with one stone?

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karlowen [65 posts] 3 years ago
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Who elects these idiots?

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karlowen [65 posts] 3 years ago
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Although, Counciller Ward is clearly a man of sound mind.

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cavasta [216 posts] 3 years ago
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mr-andrew wrote:

Can't we launch him at Syria and kill 2 birds with one stone?

Not sure we've got the military hardware capable of such a mammoth undertaking.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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Anyone interested in Pickles rise to power and how a man so corrupt and inept has managed to reach such high office should read The Pickle Papers
Its all available online
http://www.1in12.com/publications/archive/thepicklespapers.html
Which is nice.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 3 years ago
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I think out of town shopping centers and on line shopping is a trend with roots way deeper than "parking charges" Furthermore how can a policy be elite if it targets 50% of the population who rides a bike? That sounds like the exact opposite of elite

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Al__S [1224 posts] 3 years ago
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Cambridge has an abnormally high shop occupancy rate in the city centre and large queues for the expensive car parks. Those two factors tell you how wrong Pickles is.

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Simmo72 [648 posts] 3 years ago
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Nothing like a bit of self interest so the fat f*** can park up right in front of Gregs to get his daily yum yum fix.

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Simmo72 [648 posts] 3 years ago
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We could strap 2 hercules together, that might just do it. Imagine the crater he would make, we'd feel the aftershock here.

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Simmo72 [648 posts] 3 years ago
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The only bit that has an ounce of sense is reassessing some speed humps. There are some near to where I live where even crawling over at 10mph feel like its knocking the suspension int next week, too harsh. Of course when on the bike I enjoy flying past everyone crawling along.

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