Car free Cambridge. Why not?

At the Cambridgeshire County Council meeting this week we got a question from Dave Fox, proudly sporting an XR T-shirt, asking CCC to implement a car free day in Cambridge. The response from Council Leader Steve Count was disappointing.

Instead of rising to the opportunity ‘that’s a great idea let’s see how we might do it’ Steve instead used his answer to simply talk up the council’s progress regarding its approach to climate change. He then went on to talk about the difficulties associated with a car free day like how would people be able to travel into Cambridge. Well Steve just maybe Stagecoach would be smart enough to lay on more buses?

What makes this doubly disappointing is that in the world of business there’s a couple of very good reasons for going ahead with a car free Cambridge. And given that the County Council keeps talking about how it wants to be more business like you’d think it wuld act accordingly.

Reason number 1 is the business principle ‘do the obvious straight way’. I learnt this when I was involved in business process improvement programs when you did lots of painstaking analysis but if you came up with a change which would have obvious benefits you’d do it. Well making Cambridge car free, and presumably you’d start with a Sunday, would be win win all round because we’d be spared the pollution and the noise and the dangers associated with traffic. It would be good for the people who live in Cambridge, it would be good for those who visit and, consequently, it would be good for those who runs shops and restaurants.

Reason number 2 relates to the practice of managing change which is difficult at the best of times and when you’re out to engineer a change of the magnitude necessary to respond to the climate emergency you need all the help you can get. And that’s where signs and symbols come in. If you can move swiftly to make some very visible changes which clearly conform with what you’re trying to achieve you make it clear that you’re not just on a journey but also that you’re making progress.

Of course you don’t want to just tick boxes and thereby trivialise the challenge but we could have had a first car free Sunday in August followed by another before the tourist season ends in September Then maybe we could start planning for every Sunday  during the season in 2020 along with a number of Saturdays.

By the whilst we’re talking about signs and symbols. The record UK temperature recorded in Cambridge last Thursday was nothing to celebrate. It was a stronger than strong sign that we’re going the wrong way.

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