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Saturday 16 October 2010

Cambridge Trip

As many of you may have noticed from an earlier post of mine, I have recently been to visit a friend in Cambridge. Whilst I was there I was shocked at how prevalent the bicycle was as a means of transport. Based on what I saw I'd guess a modal share of 10-12% which is unprecedented in the UK of the 21st century. This is despite a lack of any real pro-cycling intervention, sure there are painted cycle lanes and ASLs as in Manchester, but there is no proper infrastructure. The main differences are that everyone cycles, so motorists expect to see cyclists more and there is more cycle parking around because of the demand. The popularity of cycling in Cambridge could be due to the affluent university culture, or perhaps due to the number of historical buildings which have prevented the spread of car-centric traffic planning such as the wide, fast modern roads you see in Manchester.

Pairs of bicycles locked together in gardens and outside terraced houses are a common sight in Cambridge.

Traditional English roadsters from the era of rod-brakes are a very common sight.

Every available object is covered with locked bikes. Bikes left leaning against walls and locked through their frame were also a very common sight.

Pashley bicycles are very popular in Cambridge, although the Princess outnumbers the Roadster by around ten-to-one.

The Raleigh Twenty is also very popular here. Cambridge definitely has the highest usage of internal hub hears and mudguards I have seen in the UK, which is odd considering the reputation the UK has for its lack of rainfall.

Obligatory touristy photographs.

Re-assuringly, Cambridge isn't all picturesque.

What I have learned from looking around Cambridge is that you don't necessarily need to invest in cycle infrastructure to get people cycling. It can also be done by not increasing the capacity of motorised traffic the roads can accommodate, making it a pain to drive. people will see that there are better options and take them. People always say that cycling could be a lot bigger if there was the political will to build things such as segregated Dutch-style infrastructure. The political will to do this is always absent. Cycling can also be encouraged by doing nothing to increase road capacity or traffic flow, letting motorists create gridlock and subsequently finding a better way to get around. There isn't the political will to do a lot of things which would make life better, but I genuinely believe that there might just be the political will out there to do nothing to make it better.


  1. That looks like the life - floating along on a punt (Not today mind - a bit too chilly for non-exercise)

    Regarding the number of bicycles - it's similar in York in a sense, in that cars haven't exactly been encouraged into the city walls. Sure I've read something about Cambridge somewhere, about a conscious restriction on developing the roads to retain the character of the place.

    In any case, it looks very pleasant :>)

  2. @ian

    The conscious restriction on road development sounds about right, although it was probably born out of things such as concern over property prices rather than a desire for ethical transport. The only downside is that parking there muse be a nightmare.

  3. The only downside is that parking there muse be a nightmare.

    ...which redresses the balance a bit ;>D


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