Calls for a ‘car free day’ in Cambridge

PUBLISHED: 16:32 27 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:03 28 April 2018

Traffic congestion, East Rd. Picture: Keith Heppell

Traffic congestion, East Rd. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Take our poll on the idea of showing what city would be like without “toxic fumes” and traffic jams snarling up streets.

James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, isn't convinced by the idea of a car-free day in Cambridge. Picture: Richard MarshamJames Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, isn't convinced by the idea of a car-free day in Cambridge. Picture: Richard Marsham

A petition, started by campaign group Cambridge Commons, is calling for Cambridge to join London in holding a car free day on September 22.

The petition reads: “Everyday, people across the country are being poisoned when they go out into our cities and towns – shopping, working, meeting, enjoying themselves. We are breathing in toxic fumes from emissions from cars, buses and other motor vehicles that kill and seriously damage our health.

“Cambridge can be a beautiful place to live in and enjoy. But the menace of air pollution is unseen. We must find ways of alerting everyone in to the hazards that envelop their lives.”

The campaigners say having a car free day in Cambridge city centre on September 22 would help show how people can get by without using cars, and would illustrate how much nicer the city would be without traffic clogging it up.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council has already said there needs to be a limit on petrol and diesel vehicles’ access to the city centre, and has said 2018 is the year Cambridge needs to have a serious discussion about whether cars should be able to access parts of the city.

However, James Palmer, mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, had reservations about the idea, saying there needs to be a viable public transport alternative to the car before banning them from the city centre.

Mr Palmer said: “I can understand London having a car free day. They have a magnificent underground system that does allow people to get in and out of the city without having to rely on the car. We are not quite in that position in Cambridge.

“It would cause an inordinate amount of trouble and we would have to think very carefully where we would stop cars going in. We would have to think about how people would get to and from businesses.

“Cambridge has significant problems and is entirely reliant on the surrounding villages. Looking from the outside, people may think it is a lovely idea. It would work if you live centrally.”

Mr Palmer said, however, that he would be “keen” to look at a car-free city centre should an underground “metro” system be built.

“To do something like stopping all the traffic in Cambridge without having a world class solution would not work,” he said. “When the underground is built, I will be keen to look at it at that particular time.”

Previous attempts to limit vehicular access to the city centre, such as the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s (then City Deal) 2016 calls for “peak time congestion control points” have been met with resistance.

You can read the petition here https://www.change.org/p/cambridgeshire-and-peterborough-cambridge-car-free-day-petition

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