I attended Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee on the 2nd of July 2009. Sgt. Wragg of Cambridgeshire Police gave an update on policing North Cambridge as an introduction to the agenda item during which policing is discussed by councillors and members of the public. Following the discussion councillors vote on the local police priorities for the forthcoming period.
Prior to the meeting I had written to the City Council’s officer responsible for liaison with the police saying that I had noticed what I thought was a police RADAR speed monitoring device on a lamp-post on Water Street in Chesterton. I asked that, if that was in fact a police speeding monitor, if statistics on what had been found could be reported to the North Area Committee. Having discussed the presence of the object with Cllr Neale Upstone I copied him in on my correspondence and he added his support to my calls for an update to be given to the meeting. On Tuesday the 30th of June 2009 the council officer responsible wrote to me and Cllr Upstone to say:
Officers from the police will provide an update to the Committee on the piece of speed surveying equipment in Water Street as part of the presentation on Thursday evening.
Given that clear statement I was rather shocked then when the police presentation finished with the question of speeding on Water Street not having been addressed. Luckily I had submitted notice of a public question on speeding in case the element was omitted or I wanted to ask for clarification. I used my question to ask for a report on what the police had found, and specifically requested the number of vehicles travelling at a speed, such that they would have been prosecuted if caught. Cllr Blair, an East Chesterton Councillor, appeared annoyed by my questioning of the police and suggested I was wasting time. Despite being the ward councillor for the area where the speed monitoring had taken place, she decided not to listen to the answer. Instead Cllr Blair chatted to her newly elected colleague, and fellow East Chesterton Councillor, Susannah Kerr while John Fuller, a Community Engagement Officer with Cambridgeshire Police outlined some of the findings.
The meeting was told that the survey had been run from the 2nd to the 9th of June, for 24 hours a day. There had been 16,000 cars recorded travelling in a North Easterly direction, and only 15,000 travelling South Westerly. Only about 1% of cars had been found speeding to an extent that would have prompted police action – 195 over the week. The average speed recorded was twenty miles an hour. Mr Fuller announced that the data was accurate and there was no speeding problem in Water Street.
Clearly aware that the public perception is somewhat at odds with the data collected, Sgt. Wragg tried to offer an explanation saying that the driving looks bad as people swerve to go through the middle of the speed cushions.
At this point Cllrs Blair and Kerr had finished their conversation and Cllr Blair grandly announced that she had been aware of the monitoring because it had been announced via E-cops. She spoke about how she can drive through the speed cushions without feeling them, and asked Mr Fuller for the information on the results of the survey which he had just given the meeting (she specifically asked for the number of vehicles and the timing both of which had been given). Cllr Blair admitted she had been chatting to Cllr Kerr about something else. Mr Fuller quite reasonably did not entertain her request.
Cllr Upstone asked for clarification on what point in the road speeds had been monitored. [The box I saw was positioned on the lamp post visible in the above photograph, it was monitoring cars just after, or just before they passed over the speed cushions - which might explain the slow speeds recorded]. Sgt. Wragg confirmed this, saying speeds were monitored on the “dog leg” of Water Street. Mr Fuller though told the meeting that speeds had been measured at various points down Fen Road as well. Cllr Upstone said that perhaps thirty cars speeding per day was sufficient to be causing residents concern and therefore warranted action, with respect to fixing the speed cushions.
Mr Bond of the Old Chesterton Residents Association spoke to complain about the fact you can drive between the speed cushions; he mused on the idea of a central reservation or “central refuge” as he called it before concluding himself there was not enough room for one (the road is fantastically wide!). Mr Bond also queried the fen’s capacity to swallow-up a thousand cars a week as indicated by the police’s statistics, he said this threw doubt on the statistics and suggested the police ought look into it.
Cllr Blair, who was now paying attention, asked the County Council liaison officer who was present to chase up the county council to get their officers to check the cushions had been properly installed. Back in 2008 Cllr Upstone used the freedom of information website WhatDoTheyKnow.com to ask if the cushions had been properly installed, he was told they had been installed as specified, but that the exact location of each cushion had not been specified.
The new County Councillor for Kings Hedges, Andy Pellew asked about requests for streets to be surveyed could be sumbitted. He suggested Kings’ Hedges Road and Northfields Avenue as locations where he would like to see such monitoring. Mr Fuller reported that there were 12 boxes in the county, and that new requests were easy to add to the list and were got round to fairly rapidly. The committee agreed that they would like to see speed monitoring in these locations, and following that decision Mr Fuller asked for more details of where on these roads. The Kings Hedges City Councillors McGovern, Pitt and Upstone requested monitoring of Kings Hedges Road at both the Cambridge Regional College / Arbury Road end, and at the other end towards Milton Road. On Northfields Avenue they requested monitoring on the bend before and after the underpass.
I had asked that the results of any speeding surveys be routinely added to presentations given at area committees and/or included in the neighbourhood profiles. Mr Fuller stated that the results of all surveys “were available”, quite where he thinks they are available I do not know. I would certainly be interested in receiving a copy of any written report on the data collected; it would be interesting to see if there really was a second location on Fen Road surveyed – perhaps they picked the spot as traffic slows to cross the level crossing?
Cllr Blair complained that Sgt. Wragg had used the name “Arbury Park” and not “Orchard Park”. Cllr Blair has embarked on a one-woman campaign to reverse two thousand years of history and remove the name “Arbury” from the site of the Roman Arbury Camp in North Cambridge. (Sgt. Wragg also often refers to “The Arbury” too, presumably when he says that he means Arbury ward as a whole; I’m sure the name isn’t going away).
Overall I think it was a very useful public question; it has resulted in councillors being able to ask for, and receive an assurance they will get, speed monitoring on other roads in the area. Experience at the other area committees has shown that once speeding problems have been identified councillors can use that to make dealing with speeding a police priority, or use it to request changes to the road environment. The question of if the speed cushions on Water Street have been correctly installed has also been re-opened.
Before leaving the issue of speeding Cllr Blair and Mr Bond discussed the problem of speeding down Green End Road, and round the corner where it meets Scotland Road. The priority is not continuously with traffic on Green End Road but with traffic from Scotland Road, Mr Bond explained that too often people don’t stop.
I hope my detailed reporting of this exchange, and others, will inform Liberal Democrat voters in East Chesterton how their representatives are behaving.