Cycling on Stourbridge Common with Cllr Martin Curtis

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013. 1:09am

The leader of the County Council, Cllr Martin Curtis, is to speak at the Friends of Stourbridge Common AGM on Friday the 13th of September 2013 on the subject of cycling on the common.

I cycle almost daily on the common, it lies between my house and Cambridge city centre, if I’m opting for a low traffic riverside route (which I usually do).

I think there are three current significant cycling related issues with the common which I hope Cllr Curtis will consider as he prepares for his speech:

  1. Cows The cows on the common are boisterous and often run around making cycling across the common feel dangerous. A couple of times recently I’ve turned around and not crossed; and on others I’m constantly thinking of a plan to escape from a stampede (I’ve considered ditching my bike and jumping on a boat). I think the City Council ought require docile cows (such as the older red polls on Midsummer Common) be grazed in high traffic areas. See my video above and a 2010 news article: People must be warned of cattle dangers.
  2. Linear defect in path along trench line

    Linear defect in path along trench line by Stourbridge Common water point.

    Badly repaired trench by the water point I have reported this issue on FixMyStreet writing:
    A trench was dug behind the water point on Stourbridge Common across the path. The path was badly reinstated and has now sunken along the line of the trench.

    The path is popular with cyclists, many of whom get a significant jolt as they cross the feature.

    You don’t have to spend that long standing by the trench to hear jolted cyclists swearing as they hit the feature. (There is a similar problem on Jesus Green.) The City Council need to ensure those working on the commons put them back in an acceptable state afterwards.

  3. Bridges Cllr Curtis’ administration is supportive of the Chisholm Trail which includes a new bridge next to, or even suspended from, the railway bridge. This is excellent. The arrangements for cycling on the existing bridge are controversial though with the ward councillor for one end of the bridge, Ian Manning, claiming local residents want cyclists to get off their bikes. I have opposed this and disagreed with Cllr Manning’s summary of his meeting:

Wider issues include:

  • Promotion of recreation cycling; I would like to be able to cycle across Ditton Fields into Fen Ditton without having to lift my bike over a gate; and I would like the footpaths downstream, and in the wider local area opened up to bikes too. Not via any surfacing just though bike friendly gates and a removal of restrictions.
  • The improvements to Riverside which the City Council have started, to connect Stourbridge and Midsummer Commons with a high quality low traffic cycle route need completing.

A Private Event

Unlike the Friends of Midsummer Common or Jesus Green Association AGMs there are no indications the Friends of Stourbridge Common event is open to the public.

There are no details on the Friends of Stourbridge Common website as to how those interested can even become members, those interested are asked to “enquire”.

I am disappointed that Cllr Curtis has decided to speak at an event which is not open to all. If he wants to speak on the subject of cycling on Stourbridge Common I’d have liked him to attend the East Area Committee to do so in public. I would be interested to hear Cllr Curtis’ views on cycling on the common, but as I am not a member of the organisation I will not be able to.

I wonder if users of the common are those represented by the Friends of Stourbridge Common or if it is a mis-named group and it’s actually an association of neighbouring residents (and perhaps given its events, environmentalists) ?

There are no names of individuals associated with the Friends of Stourbridge Common on their website and I have never seen them represented at public council meetings.

Since the organisation started in 2010 I have not seen any notices on the common itself relating to its activities.

As Julian Huppert was the founder chair of the Friends of Stourbridge Common (when he was collecting memberships of things and positions prior to becoming a candidate in the parliamentary election); I had wondered if its prime purpose was to assist him in becoming the Lib Dem candidate.

Cllr Curtis’ Focus

The event is the first appearance I’m aware of that Cllr Curtis has made in Cambridge, outside Shire Hall, since being elected leader of the County Council.

Given Cllr Curtis’ massive responsibilities I find it odd that he has chosen to talk to a select group about such a niche subject as cycling on a few hundred metres of paths across a particular common.

See Also

31 comments/updates on “Cycling on Stourbridge Common with Cllr Martin Curtis

  1. anadapter

    I’ve hardly ever cycled or walked across there but I do know that if confronted by ‘galloping’ cattle, you should shout at them. They should stop. That’s what I’d do.

  2. Gareth Rees

    Have you actually had any problems with the cows (other than being scared by their running about)? I’ve cycled across Stourbridge Common twice a day for the last three summers and never had any trouble from them, but you might have had a bad experience?

    On Green Dragon Bridge, the bridge is wide enough for cyclists to share it with pedestrians. The problems are at the junctions at either end, so surely the sensible thing to do would be to redesign the junctions so they can be used safely? At the moment Green Dragon bridge is the last walkable/cyclable bridge over the River Cam before Baits Bite Lock, so it’s a key link on the shortest route between large parts of north Cambridge (East Chesterton, Fen Road, Kings Hedges, and the Science Park) and east Cambridge (Barnwell, Fen Ditton, and the airport area). Even after a new bridge is completed Green Dragon bridge will still be attractive for many journeys.

    There’s room at both ends for better junctions. For example, at the Water Street end, why not give traffic coming on/off the bridge priority? The greatest volume of traffic on Water Street comes over the bridge so it makes sense for traffic continuing across Water Street to give way.

  3. David

    The path which connects Oyster Row to the Green Dragon Bridge is a key link in the route from (south)east Cambridge to the jobs around the Science Park. It’s been in a very bad state for years and isn’t gritted in the winter.

    The cows on Coldhams Common are even more terrifying as they have long horns which could easily impale someone!

  4. Cab Davidson

    Terrifying? The cattle with horns? They’re completely placid beasts. Utterly harmless.

    Don’t go yapping at them and keep your dog on a leash and they’re no trouble at all.

  5. Yvan

    MroooOOOoooo… I used to cycle through there every day. Like Cab, I like the cows and enjoyed cycling past/around/through them (I’m quite happy to cycle through grass to go around a few cows). They seem utterly harmless. I grew up in countryside Australia, even had our own horses at one point, so I suppose I’m a little used to livestock and the “scary cows” thing might be a “cityfolk” problem. How about “cow education sessions” – I’d be in support of cyclist/cow meetings with an aim towards resolving the differences between these two groups of Stourbridge Common users. (Probably have more success than resolving differences between cyclists and drivers!)

    Agree that the shoddy trench could do with patching up – as could most of the actual roads around here. Badly filled and covered holes and trenches seem to plague Cambridgeshire. Think the holes and bumps on roadside cycleway are more of a worry though. (Why is doing the job properly in the first place too hard?)

  6. Al__S

    I’ve never had an problems with the cattle- the Stourbridge Common herd at the moment includes the same breed as on Coldhams Common, mixed with Belted Galloways- though the other week I was using the path from Riverside to Oyster Row. As I came around there, the herd were drifting across the Green Dragon to Oyster Row path, along which a lady was cycling, when a couple of them for no apparent reason started running and bucking about. There were no dogs around, she’d done nothing out of the ordinary, and she was thankfully not hit. But it was scary to watch, and no doubt terrifying to be caught in- she had cows bolting across the path both in front and behind.

  7. Cllr Ian Manning

    You may disagree with my summary of a meeting you didn’t get all the feedback forms from, but please stop presenting my position as wanting to ban cycling across the Green Dragon Bridge – I don’t want to ban cycling across the GDB, and I said this clearly in my reelection campaign.

    1. Cllr Ian Manning

      Can’t seem to reply to your comment.

      Quote from my answers: “The majority of considerate cyclists and pedestrians should not suffer because of the actions of an inconsiderate minority.”

      I made it clear in all my election literature that I did not support banning cycling, but that I’m listening to concerns some residents have. I’d upload a copy of one of them, but there is no function here to attach stuff.

      Your comment about fence sitting is disingenuous. I would much rather take a considered view of things than either a) stick with my own views regardless or b) *just* go with what some residents are saying.

  8. Cab Davidson

    Unless you’ve approached far, far too close then a bullocks having a bit of a run about or prancing about the place like the youngsters they are will not be a problem. They don’t want to run in to you any more than you want them to do so. Yes, this does mean you may have to take your bike on the grass to get round them or tell them or wait for them to move out of the way – thats what happens on a grazed common. And I have no problem with that.

    Many times I’ve been out walking in the countryside, with a footpath going through a field of young cattle, and they’ll run about the place. Its not an issue, its what they do. Way back as an undergrad in Lancaster one of the routes in to the University was used by a farmer to get his Fresians in to milk – if you were heading in early you’d be stuck on your bike in a bunch of curious dairy cattle who each want to come and see who you might be.

    If we’re going to have a city with lovely sights like cattle wandering on the commons we have to accept they’ll act like cattle.

    1. anadapter

      Cab is right, David. If you’re not being silly round cattle, you should be fine. Let them know who’s boss if they get agitated. Try and avoid being slobbered all over if they’re curious. (Ick.) It’s not difficult.

    2. Cab Davidson

      Because some breeds have horns. They’ve got horns because no one has bred that out of the breed in question – its really just a historical curiosity in modern cattle.

    1. Rad Wagon

      I ride regularly across Stourbridge Common. Most of the time it’s a great place to ride and share space with others outdoors. I slow down for dogs as they can be unpredictable and I’d really, really hate to hit anything, let alone a dog! I see quite a few other people riding doing the same. I often share a smile and “thanks” (in both directions) with owners.

      I’ve no doubt there are some people riding who don’t share this communal sense of good behaviour. But, I do see similar from dog owners. Dog owners, for the own pets benefit, should always be in control of their dogs, whether on a lead or not. I’d certainly suggest Clair is one of these considerate owners, and we may have shared a good-natured meeting as such!

      Sometimes this simply isn’t the case, I had it just today. Of course I slowed and took great care around the dog, despite the owner shouting from 50 yards away to little effect. By law, all dogs must be under control in public.

      I’m not going to fall into the trap of saying “Many” because I’ve not done any kind of study including not slipping into confirmation bias. And I might suggest Clair hasn’t either. So, perhaps sticking with some facts might help. Clair has a anecdote of bad behaviour, as do I. We know some people do not understand the communal sense of good behaviour. Some are on bikes, and some are dog owners. Let’s get them both to understand sharing our outdoor space.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Manning (Liberal Democrat, East Chesterton) spoke at the meeting:

    As I was observing through the window I couldn’t hear what he had to say. Perhaps some meaning can be extracted from his hand gestures?

    I believe Cllr Manning was introducing the primary speaker, council leader Martin Curtis.

  10. Cllr Ian Manning

    Richard the meeting was an open, public meeting – and I personally invited you in once, then checked it was public and invited you in again.

    I’m flattered by the attention though! ;) I don’t really understand why you filmed me….

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      The meeting was not advertised as an open public meeting. While Cllr Manning did encourage me to go in, as he was doing so he said he wasn’t sure if he was even a member of the Friends of Stourbridge Common.

      I was not seeking to gain access to the meeting myself; I wanted to highlight that it was not a meeting advertised as open to all.

      Holding private meetings is not a problem, particularly if its a group of people talking about arranging nature walks or discussing what they’ve seen on the Common. Where the organisation seeks to influence the spending of public money and the management of the publicly owned space then I think it is right to take an interest in who they are and how they are operating.

      I have questioned why Cllr Curtis decided to make a rare speech in Cambridge, on a matter of public interest, at a private event rather than a public meeting (local “area committees” are held regularly and he could have attended one of those to share his views on cycling on the common). I think Cllr Curtis is a big enough beast that he could have made a condition of his attendance public access to at least his speech, and I hope he will consider at least seeking such terms when he is invited to other events around the county as council leader.

  11. Richard Taylor Article author

    Since the meeting I was told a poster was present on the common. I have now been to read it and found it states “all welcome” :

    poster advertising meeting

    I looked on the noticeboard a number of times in the run-up to the meeting specifically for a poster which might tell me about who the meeting was open to; but I did not see the poster until after the meeting.

  12. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have posted a longer video from the evening, including a good chunk of Cllr Curtis’ Speech:

    It has emerged via Twitter that Cllr Curtis discussed “the proposed orbital bus route in draft transpt strategy” which I believe refers to the possibility of the guided bus route following the railway line across the common.

  13. anadapter

    Commons have cattle. They poo. What else are they supposed to do? (Or where else, perhaps.) Just think of it as a test of your cycling skills! As to a GB route, I hope they don’t mean one across the common. That would be vandalism.

  14. Martin Curtis

    Richard, I am rather concerned about your comments. I was asked if I would come and speak at the Friends of Stourbridge Common AGM and as I had space in my diary I chose to do it. I like doing events such as this they are an extremely friendly way of getting out to meet and talk to people. It was nothing major or significant, just me doing something I like to do, which is take part in things that help me to better develop my knowledge of our County – because it helps my decision making and my thinking. No, I didn’t put any conditions on my attemdance, it was the Friends’ AGM not mine and if I start laying down terms for such invites people won’t want to invite me. As has been pointed out, there was no reason for you to stay outside. I thoroughly enjoyed last night, they were a nice group of people who were not afraid to challenge me – something that I really like.

    The issue about the bus was very much an aside to other issues that were discussed. Te issue was a concern that was expressed about the proposed route of an orbital bus that is, apparently, included in the local transport plan. It was raised before I was even introducced as a speaker and when I stood up to speak I said I would take it away and look at it.

    I have done a number of things in and around Cambridge since May, in fact I was at Cherry Hinton Library today for another major political event – the opening of their community hub.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      I’m just a regular user of the common who is interested in proposals and developments related to it.

      My interest in the Friends of Stourbridge Common was increased by their listing of Cllr Curtis as a speaker; I’d have liked to hear about any plans and ideas at an early stage to have an opportunity to comment on, and shape, them.

      Other green spaces I’m interested in; Midsummer Common and Jesus Green have friends groups which the council has permitted huge influence; eg. through attendance at secret “working group” meetings within the council, and having input to policing arrangements for events. The Jesus Green association controls a notice board on the common and jointly with the council applied for a major lottery bid for work on the common. If the Friends of Stourbridge Common were to be given such influence and power then I would campaign for it to run openly.

      The Cambridge News article on proposed spending of £15K on more mud for Stourbridge Common reported :

      The idea for a scrape came from a resident at an area committee and as been developed in conjunction with the Friends of Stourbridge Common

      If an organisation is having significant impact on how a public space is being changed and how public money is being spent I think it needs to be run openly (or councillors need to exert strict control on what is delegated to the group).

      Many East Chesterton meetings, such as the ward based policing meeting, a meeting on the parking restrictions on Church Street, and various meetings about Fen Road have not been open to the public; also the City Council gave a presentation on the local plan to the private “Old Chesterton Residents Association”. I would like to see more open, public, deliberation on decisions affecting the area, and better use of the democratic North Area Committee.

      While Cllr Curtis isn’t receptive to my suggestion; I have previously managed to change the personal policy of the then Cambridge City Council leader who couldn’t defend attending the only public debate he spoke at, with officers and the relevant County Council Cabinet member, on the congestion charge to a group who charged the public £11 for entry.

  15. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cllr Curtis has clarified on Twitter that he was talking about an orbital “hopper” bus and not a guided bus over the common:

    I can’t imagine the relevance of the hopper bus to the common.

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