[A]NDIE HARPER: As I mentioned, we’re talking about disabled parking bays this morning. Are there enough in the County? Or maybe there are too many. Are we getting the balance right? In Cambridge the City Council is considering turning some blue badge bays into cycle parking. Councillors discussed it at a meeting this week, but deferred approving the plans so there could be more time for consideration. Well Labour City councillor Gerri Bird was at the meeting, and opposed the move. Gerri, good morning to you.
GERRI BIRD: Good morning Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: So what was up for discussion precisely Gerri?
GERRI BIRD: OK. What they want to do is we lose one bay in Peas Hill, disabled parking bay. But I think it would end up with two, because we should have five there. Around Guildhall Street there’s double yellow lines, so disabled people with blue badges can park there for up to three hours. Then they want to go to Jesus Lane, and get rid of two bays there.
ANDIE HARPER: Right.
GERRI BIRD: Which usually holds about nine. Now Jesus Lane is always full with disabled people parking there. Completely. You can never park there. Peas Hill is getting more of a problem, because it’s already been cut down, because they’ve been doing some work there. And now they want to cut it even further. And what bays are left at Peas Hill, they want to move further down outside the Arts Theatre, where you’ve got that turning circle …
ANDIE HARPER: Right. Yes.
GERRI BIRD: .. right next to the loading bay with all the lorries.
ANDIE HARPER: So it would be very difficult for the lorries, and indeed for the people wanting to park as well. I’m looking at the figures. Jesus Lane according to the Council has six spaces. Guildhall Street has two. Peas Hill has four. So you’ll lose a couple of those at Peas Hill, a couple out of the six at Jesus Lane, the ones in Guildhall Street.
GERRI BIRD: Yes.
ANDIE HARPER: But there are for instance ten on Kings Parade. There are others dotted around, admittedly only three at Round Church Street, Trumpington Street two places, and so on. So there are a couple dotted around the centre of the city in a number of streets, aren’t there?
GERRI BIRD: Oh yes. Very true. Over the years we’ve lost .. in the last few years we’ve already lost fourteen spaces. Now, a lot of disabled people perhaps only come to the town centre to go to the market square, go to Marks & Spencer, places like that. OK? And then go off.
ANDIE HARPER: Yes. I am with you. And even Trumpington Street could be too far. We have a regular listener who gets in contact with us, and he tells us .. and he’s in a chair .. and he says I never go into the centre of Cambridge, because of the parking situation. So how many people are being put off?
GERRI BIRD: Well that’s right. There’s going to be loads. And disabled people want the right to go shopping like anybody else. Also Andie, we’ve got the market square, which is a pedestrian zone. If you’ve got a blue badge and a pass, you can go and park there. But the County councillors decided to move the barrier area, so now you can’t swipe your card if you’re in a car and use a wheelchair. So you’ve lost your independence there. So you can’t park there.
ANDIE HARPER: Now we’ve also been told that there are lots of places available in each of the indoor car parking. Forty three Grafton East. Twenty seven Grand Arcade. Take a mortgage out you’ll be able to go there. Queen Anne Terrace twenty seven. So there are a lot of spaces provided in these indoor car parks. Do they present a particular difficulty?
GERRI BIRD: Now, the Grand Arcade car park doesn’t have enough for a start, because if you go along there at busy times, you can’t get parked. So you’ve got that problem again.
ANDIE HARPER: Yes.
GERRI BIRD: And also it’s a long way for people to walk.
ANDIE HARPER: Yes.
GERRI BIRD: When you’ve got a disability.
ANDIE HARPER: And you have to wait for a lift or whatever, as opposed to the rest of us who can just run up and down the stairs.
GERRI BIRD: That’s right. And then if there’s the lifts are not working, you’re stuck. So all we’re aksing is please leave the disabled bays alone. They’re used constantly. It’s not as if they’re left and nobody uses them. And also, you know, I’m not against cyclists, but I,m only asking for us to have the blue badge spaces left. I’ve already started a petition Andy. You know what I’m like with petitions.
ANDIE HARPER: (LAUGHS) You’ll be having me signing it soon.
GERRI BIRD: Yes. Yes. Within less than an hour I’d already got forty signatures.
ANDIE HARPER: So a lot of people obviously are supportive. You do mention cyclists, and that’s what these spaces are required for. Is there a feeling on the Council that there isn’t enough places for people to put their bikes up?
GERRI BIRD: Yes. They want these new kind of racks.
ANDIE HARPER: Right. Oh I see.
GERRI BIRD: And there’s going to be four hundred and twenty four around the city altogether, which is a lot. And then they’re taking the disabled people’s independence away. I can’t make them out. We were supposed to be all happy with the disabled, you know, what they’ve done in Paralympics and everything like that. And then in the next hand they’re taking it all away from us again.
ANDIE HARPER: So what’s the situation now? As I said in the introduction, it’s been deferred to allow more consideration. What are you hoping for next?
GERRI BIRD: Well I’m hoping that we get the right consultation done, and the equality impact assessment done. That wasn’t done very well. And then hopingly they’ll then decide that they won’t take them away.
ANDIE HARPER: Right. Yes.
GERRI BIRD: Watch this space Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: What’s the time scale for this then?
GERRI BIRD: I presume it will be at the next meeting.
ANDIE HARPER: Right.
GERRI BIRD: Once I’ve got the date of course I’ll let you know.
ANDIE HARPER: Indeed. OK. Gerri. Good to talk to you. Thanks very much.
GERRI BIRD: OK Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: Cheers.
GERRI BIRD: Speak to you soon. Bye.
ANDIE HARPER: Bye. So that’s councillor Gerri Bird, Labour councillor Gerri Bird. What are your thoughts on this? No, it’s not a matter of having a go at cyclists, or putting cyclists against disabled people. Surely to goodness, we’ve got the wit in a city like Cambridge to come up with a facility for both sets of users. .. In a moment of two we will be talking to another councillor on this very subject.
[A]NDIE HARPER: Back to our top story about disabled parking provision across the county, and in particular plans to cut spaces in Cambridge city centre to create more space for cycle bays. Tim Ward is the Liberal Democrat City councillor for Planning and Sustainable Transport. Good morning to you.
TIM WARD: Good morning.
ANDIE HARPER: So we just heard from Gerri Bird. She thinks that this cut in parking bays for people on the street, rather than in the indoor car parks, is unnecessary. What’s your thinking behind it?
TIM WARD: What we’ve done is asked officers to go away with a very aggressive target to look for a very large number of bicycle parking spaces in the city centre. And they found a lot, and some of the proposals were necessarily somewhat controversial, because there is no space in the city centre, as you’ll see if you look around, that isn’t being used by somebody for something. So it’s a question of balancing needs. And at the Committee, most of the proposals were approved, and some were rejected, and some were put off until the next meeting in January for some more work to be done. And those included two proposals where a very small number of disabled parking bays are involved. And the one outside the Guildhall in particular is very complicated, because that area is used for delivery for the market, delivery for the theatres, as well as disabled parking, bicycle parking, and a pavement cafe. Now the officer proposal there involved losing one disabled parking space, which according to the County Council statistics, is not essential, though we understand that other people disagree with that. If you just left that disabled parking bay in, then you would lose twenty eight bicycle parking spaces. And you can tell by looking round that area that those definitely are needed. Now it’s possible that as a result of the extra work officers might be able to come up with a scheme that retains the disabled parking space, and doesn’t lose all twenty eight bike parking spaces. That’s the sort of thing I’m hoping for, but as I said, it’s a very difficult area, so it might not be possible to achieve that.
ANDIE HARPER: You say a survey and assessment was carried out. Are the disabled parking bays well used? Or are they left vacant, therefore you felt it quite right to put cycle parking there in place of them? How much use is there for the disabled parking bays?
TIM WARD: The County Council’s figures show that in Jesus Lane they are not fully used. Now we did hear at the Committee from somebody who said that when they tried to park there once there wasn’t a space. But nobody has ever been guaranteed a parking space for anything anywhere in Cambridge. It is the case at the moment that cyclists are not guaranteed spaces. Ordinary motorists aren’t guaranteed spaces. The car parks can be full. And disabled drivers are not guaranteed spaces. But as there is this discrepancy between what the County Council have said and what people are reporting, we want to have another more detailed look at that, and see if it’s right.
ANDIE HARPER: You say there is a demand for cycle spaces in the centre of the city. Why? Because cyclists are far more equipped to walk from further out than are disabled people. Therefore if the cycle spaces were further out on the edges of the centre of the city, well then those people, who are obviously fit enough to ride a bicycle are fit enough to walk. I walk. I park at Queen Anne Terrace, and I walk across Parker’s Piece. I don’t expect to park in the middle of the city. So why is it that you’re worrying about people on bikes, and not people who are disabled?
TIM WARD: I’m not refusing to worry about people who are disabled. as I have already said, there are competing needs here, and the right balance has to be struck. We did have this consultation. As I said, the result of the consultation was that some were approved, some were rejected, and some are deferred to more work. And that is exactly the result you would expect from a genuine consultation.
ANDIE HARPER: I know that there are many many disabled parking spaces in the indoor car parks, but they can be an obstacle course for the able bodied, can’t they? And in the most part, it does require some walking afterwards. So whilst I appreciate that there are plenty in these indoor places, surely to goodness we should be catering for disabled people who we know don’t come into the city because of problems with parking.
TIM WARD: That is correct, but we do not need to retain any disabled parking spaces that are not used. And at the moment we have a conflict of information about that, and that needs to be sorted out.
ANDIE HARPER: So that’s what you’re going to be looking at, is it? Jesus lane and Peas Hill.
TIM WARD: That’s right.
ANDIE HARPER: Because straight away I had reaction from one person, saying I can never park in Jesus Lane. You’re saying there are spaces available. This person is saying ..
TIM WARD: I’m saying those are the County Council’s figures.
ANDIE HARPER: Right.
TIM WARD: They don’t watch them twenty four seven of course. But they do have people going past regularly. And as I said there is never going to be any guarantee that anybody can park anything anywhere.
ANDIE HARPER: Did you ever find out exactly who these people who are cycling into the city are? because there’s a feeling that they may be foreign students, tourists, people who just come in and out occasionally.
TIM WARD: The figures were in the Committee report. There were three groups that were identified. There were people coming into work which was the largest group. Slightly smaller were shoppers. And then there were still thirty odd per cent who were Other, who weren’t classified in any more detail. So the foreign tourists you’re talking about or foreign students, would be in that other group.
ANDIE HARPER: Right. OK. Because we must always remember that we should be catering for people who live here and have to go about their business, and as I say, feel excluded ..
TIM WARD: You may take that view. Yes. We take the view that all users of the city needed to be catered for.
ANDIE HARPER: Thank you very much for talking to us.
TIM WARD: No problem.
ANDIE HARPER: And we’ll follow the story with interest. That’s Councillor Tim Ward, the Liberal Democrat City councillor for Planning and Sustainable Transport.