With 25 percent of commuting trips made by bike, Cambridge is often held up as the most cycle-friendly city in the UK. But one of the city’s top businessmen says more should be spent on cycling provision, and especially on cycle parking.
Dr David Cleevely is the co-founder of Cambridge Angels, one of the investment groups that have driven the city’s growth as centre for high-tech start-ups in areas such as computing and biotechnology. He told Gareth McPherson of Cambridge News that the city’s cycling reputation is a key reason why businesses invest and tourists visit.
But he thinks the city needs to invest more in cycling, which he says is “as much a part of Cambridge as punting or the view of King’s College”.
“Separating bike and vehicles is the top priority.” he said. Cllr Ian Bates, cabinet member for growth and planning on Cambridgeshire County Council says that is “no easy task in an ancient city like Cambridge.”
Dr Cleevely told the Cambridge News: “The city - speaking for the people who live, work and shop here - is pretty well in favour of cycling. After all, over 20,000 people use a bike regularly to commute.
“But there’s not enough money being put into it - everyone can see the poor state of cycle paths, and there’s not enough new investment. Nor is there enough parking for bikes in the city centre. And as for the station - what a message to give to visitors. We need more spaces and better management.”
Bike parking at Cambridge railway station
“If cyclists used cars instead we would have 24-hour grid lock. If more car drivers cycled we’d have fewer jams. Cycling is as much a part of Cambridge as punting or the view of King’s College.
“We should encourage cycling as a great way of getting around - far better than a car! After all the city is, mostly, flat - it’s ideal.
“And for visitors and investors the idea of being able to cycle in Cambridge is hugely positive - let’s keep it that way.”
Dr Cleevely pointed out that some of Cambridge’s cycling facilities were so poor that “they could not have been design by someone who rides a bike.
He said: “The council need to think bike first. Separating bike and vehicles is the top priority. And no one should design or approve a cycle route unless they have cycled along it several times and thought about what it’s like being on a bike.”
Dr Cleevely’s remarks add to the long-standing belief in some quarters that Cambridge cyclists ride in spite of the city’s cycling facilities, not because of them.
3,000 space multi-storey cycle park
Councillor Bates responded that the council — which has been accused of being a car-parking company with a sideline in municipal services — was “committed to investing in cycling”.
He said “A cycling projects team is in place to develop and implement projects and to put together funding bids. By 2015 there should be some segregated cycle lanes on a few key routes, improved useful cycle links and junctions and a new 3,000 space multi-storey cycle park at Cambridge station.
He added: “We are grateful for the positive feedback on the recent work to benefit cyclists at the Catholic Church junction and we will continue to do everything we can to improve conditions for all road users, but achieving segregated provision for cyclists and car drivers is no easy task in an ancient city like Cambridge.”
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.