Thursday 24 January 2013

Gritting Cyclepaths

Looking at the gritting map of Cambridge for 2012 shows this map [Full PDF] or the JPG version below.

This may get updated, check the Cambridgeshire County Council site here.

This looks fantastic compared to the rest of the country that has limited cyclepath gritting if any at all. Certainly our sister town of Oxford has no cyclepath gritting despite cycling in the area of 15% of all journeys. Cambridge does have the highest cycling modal share of any city in the country, in the area of 25%. It has decided that cyclepaths do need to be gritted and has picked the above routes.

The gritting plan, based on the above map, looks good but is quite peppered with holes.

In response to this tweet from Lib Dem County Opposition Leader Kilian Bourke I've put together a few people's experiences. This is a very small glimpse into experiences, there are many more. Most of these are comments after supposedly cyclepath gritting has taken place on Wedbesday 23rd Evening.

View Gritting Issues in Google Maps

So there are quite a few paths that simply aren't being effectively gritted. I'm not saying gritting isn't happening, although I suspect that's the majority of occasions, but simply it may not be effective.

There's lots of examples of problems with supposedly gritted paths, but even more from paths that aren't included for gritting where they see a high level of use.  It seems a little silly to grit a few paths but then leave a lot that have high use. It's like saying to people driving, you can go down the street until halfway, then you have to stop, park up and walk the rest of the way.

There are also many paths here with onward ungritted connections on a short distance to further networks. I think the idea is that people cycling should adapt their route to that which has been gritted. However, many links, like the Milton Road bridge, it's the equivalent of telling someone driving they need to use the M11 to get from Trumpington to Granchester. Quite ludicrous.

Of course, what is good is that the County Council has recognised that Cambridge is a city that has a lot of people that choose either walking or cycling as a way of getting around. If this is a desire to be sustainable or not, it doesn't matter, it benefits ALL local residents. However, the plan to make this continue during all weathers seems to be quite flawed. It needs to be improved to benefit ALL local residents, and that includes people who drive in Cambridge (of which I'm one, very occasionally).

One issue that arises when the cyclepaths aren't gritted is that people resort back to their cars (as this tweet suggests). Although it mentions getting public transport, it needs to be pointed out that most people (last survey, 82%) who ride a bike also own a car. They choose not to use them so they don't add to local congestion and pollution, as well as knowing it'll be quicker for them and they get healthier as a result. So the question is, do people who drive want an extra 20% more cars on the roads, when it's already difficult to move both through congestion and adverse weather conditions?

Another issue is that people that continue to cycle are forced off the cyclepath and into the road. As this tweet says, this also creates conflict with people driving. So the second question is, do people who drive want more conflict with people cycling? To emphasise this, it's also a common sight to see people walking in the roadspace next to ungritted pavements (even on Hills Road!). Some people feel they are safer here with traffic than on the ice. So, it's not just people cycling, people walking have big issues with this inability ot follow a large part of the population's transport mode choice.

We are often told that local council workers cannot work due to the ice. Of course it is sensible to stop working in dangerous conditions. And the next logical conclusion is surely if icy paths aren't safe for workers to work on, they aren't safe for residents to walk or cycle on.The driver here may well be that employment law implies a higher degree of worker responsiblity than responsiblities towards the town's residents.

The other issue is that of cost. But just how much is spent on gritting cyclepaths in Cambridge compared to roads? With a transport modal share of over 20%, surely asking for 10% of the budget isn't unfair. In sure that'd be enough to assist on pavements for walking as well.

In conclusion, a mark of 4/10 is probably appropriate for Cambridgeshire County Council's cyclepath gritting. That may be higher than the 0/10 that pretty much the rest of the country gets, but it still has the tagline "go back and try again", with an encouraging smiley face.