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Living Streets Cambridge report says just 6% happy with conditions for pedestrians



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The just-published Living Streets Cambridge report reveals a mixture of concern, confusion and despair at the state of the city’s pavements.

A Cambridge street - expect eroded pavements, broken kerbs, and road tarmac in a state of advanced disrepair
A Cambridge street - expect eroded pavements, broken kerbs, and road tarmac in a state of advanced disrepair

Living Streets Cambridge is the local branch of the national Living Streets initiative, a nationwide organisation dedicated to “creating a walking nation, free from congested roads and pollution”.

The Cambridge pilot survey which began in late 2020 involved 313 survey responses received by the end of March 2021.

“Living Streets Cambridge has been active for about six months,” says chair David Stoughton. “We have about 30 people involved and it’s steadily rising – we’re now looking more actively for members, but most of our time has been spent on this survey.

“We were quite pleased with the response, though of course it’s a self-selecting group, that is people who are interested in walking on pavements.

“We live in an era where active travel is being promoted, and walking is a very important part of that, so we looked at factors including pavement quality, the volume of traffic and air quality, and only 6 per cent of respondents say they’re happy with things as they are.

Mill Road, where even the warning signage is broken. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mill Road, where even the warning signage is broken. Picture: Keith Heppell

“I’ve always felt pedestrians are under-represented in Cambridge; it’s all about cars, buses and cyclists. Pedestrians tend to come right at the bottom of any list of considerations, partly because of the lack of a voice.”

The online survey was looking to define two things: why people walk, and what they think about the state of the pavements.

The report, written by Linda Jones, reveals that 30 per cent of people walk to work, and 73 per cent also go shopping on foot. In addition, 93 per cent walk as a form of recreation, and 74 per cent walk to local amenities or to go to a social occasion.

That’s question one, but the second question is far more complicated, not least because walking presents obstacles – for instance, putting broadband wiring in, gas works etc.

“We asked about a number of aspects of pavement quality,” David continues, “including potholing, the number of trips on broken pavements they’ve had – many of which are not officially reported – and the effects of pavement parking, which in some areas such as Mill Road is really bad.”

The results show:

 62.9% are not ‘generally happy’ with their experience as a pedestrian in Cambridge; 5.4% are happy

 90.7% are concerned that pavements are ‘sloping, uneven, cracked or potholed’

 71.5% complain that pavements are blocked by parked vehicles

 62.6% complain that pavements are blocked by waste bins

 41.5% object to traffic signs and street furniture obstructing pavements

 53% say hedges protrude on to pavements

Some of the issues affect other communities.

David Stoughton, chair of Living Streets Cambridge, with report author Linda Jones on Mill Road. Picture: David Johnson
David Stoughton, chair of Living Streets Cambridge, with report author Linda Jones on Mill Road. Picture: David Johnson

“Cycling infrastructure is also not being properly maintained,” notes David. “New infrastructure is put in and then not properly maintained, which makes the problem more expensive in the long run, rather than having repairs and maintenance ongoingly, which could be cheaper.

“It’s better in the centre of town where the tourists go, but that’s not to do with the active travel of residents.

“Cambridge has many claims to be one of the UK’s leading cities so it’s sad that what I think of as the city’s hinterland is not attended to at all. The quality of life doesn’t match the rhetoric.

But that could all change. Next up for Living Streets Cambridge is being part of a walk-to-school campaign in the autumn, and David is keen to look into play street options after that.

“I’d like to look at play streets, in Petersfield for instance, which has very little open space, so where do young children go?”

Pavement parking on Mill Road – zero consideration is given to walkers who have to negotiate such hazards daily
Pavement parking on Mill Road – zero consideration is given to walkers who have to negotiate such hazards daily

Where traffic, polluted streets and congestion are concerned, Living Streets Cambridge is keen to emphasise it is a consultative body rather than an activist one.

“Change needs to be done in collaboration,” concludes David. “The council needs to both lead and be in the loop.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “Our highways team carries out regular inspections and maintenance on paths, roads, verges...

“When necessary, the inspectors raise orders for repairs as stated in the county council’s Highway Operational Standards document. We also respond to reports from the general public and we encourage anyone who sees issues or defects relating to the public highways, including pavements, to report them using our online reporting tool.”

Find out more about Living Streets Cambridge here.



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