25. April 2014

No cars for students in Cambridge

Cambridge is a bicycle-friendly city. And as I have learned recently, students at Cambridge University are usually not allowed to keep and use cars.

Clearly, there are huge differences between cities when it comes to cycling. Cambridge seems to be one of the cities that are very friendly places for cyclists (and friendly for visitors who want to try the famous punting on the River Cam). One actually does not need to go to Cambridge in order to obtain an impression about cycling there: an image search on the web reveals an incredible number of bicycles in front of the railway station.

However, what I learned from a friend is that students in Cambridge are generally not permitted to have their own cars. According to this university website, there is a 10 mile ban for the use of cars by students around Great St. Mary’s Church. There are certain exceptions, as usual. In addition, the UK has a tax exemption scheme for cycles. So clearly, some efforts are under way to make more people use bicycles for transport, and to make cities better places to cycle.

But what makes a city a good place for cycling? For me, this is first and foremost a safety issue. Sharing space with cars is very uncomfortable, and I have to admit that my first trip in London (which is a little bit bigger than Cambridge) with my bike was not exactly comfortable. Part of my discomfort is certainly just because I am not used to drive on the left-hand side of the road. I haven’t completely made my mind up about cycling in London (impossible to say this after my first attempt).

How do our cities look like in the future? How do we want them to look like? I certainly hope they will become a lot more bicycle-friendly. Bicycles take up less space. Cycling is free exercise. Cycling does not contribute to air pollution. Cycling gives you 24/7 mobility. There are many advantages, so why hasn’t cycling been the success story it could have been in many cities in the last decades?