Laura Laker of the Guardian reports: What makes Cambridge a model cycling city?

A reassuring good new story! Go Cambridge!

On the face of it, Cambridge looks like any attractive tourist town in the UK: picturesque buildings flanking narrow streets with a few pedestrianised areas.

Exiting Cambridge train station, visitors are greeted by ranks of bicycles in improbable numbers. The racks just go on and on. A census in 2004 counted 972 bikes here alone….

Cambridge drivers are considerate of cyclists in a way I’ve never witnessed in the UK. My brief ride from the station to the centre of town, albeit along a main road, was a pleasure, with no buses driving on my back wheel and no cars revving their engines trying to overtake dangerously.

Cycling around the city centre I saw bikes parked everywhere: chained to every inch of railing and bike stand or just locked to themselves, leaning against walls.

Cambridge also has a lot of dedicated cycle parking. I followed signs to one of the city’s “cycle parks” where the ground floor of a multi-storey car park is given over to cycle racks. Here a couple of the city’s 30-plus cycle shops are based, repairing bikes on the spot and even sending mechanics out to large businesses to service employees’ bikes while they work.

It is a common myth that students are responsible for cycling numbers here. Though undergraduates aren’t allowed car parking permits unless under special circumstances, in a city of 120,000, students number only 3,500…..

“It is the ordinary people of Cambridge who cycle; it is your parents having the courage and confidence to cycle that means children have the confidence. If you don’t have parents who cycle it is difficult.”…

“Once children get to 11 they cycle to school unaccompanied in Cambridge. In fact they will probably not allow their parents to accompany them after that”…

I spoke to an 88-year-old man on a bike. Like everyone I spoke to here, he simply sees cycling as the best way to get around…

Received wisdom tells us a critical mass of cycling creates a cycling culture, andhere this seems to be the case. All around there is evidence of this, from the many cycle lanes to the large numbers of bike racks in workplaces and shopping areas; from the roads permitting buses and bicycles only, to the many one-way streets which are two-way for bicycles. And of course its careful drivers…



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