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Beware the pitfalls of consultations, says Vanessa Kelly

16 October 2015
Vanessa Kelly, Cambridgeshire’s Project Officer – Cycling
Vanessa Kelly, Cambridgeshire’s Project Officer – Cycling

 

Cambridgeshire County Council’s reallocation of road space for bus and cycle routes has sparked fierce opposition from a ‘hardcore’ of residents. The construction of segregated cycle lanes and bus stop bypasses on Huntingdon Road and Hills Road in Cambridge has angered some locals despite a thorough consultation process, says Vanessa Kelly, Cambridgeshire’s Project Officer – Cycling. 

She points out that the council engaged “early on” with a wide range of stakeholders such as residents’ associations and bus operators. Also, a stakeholder group was formed with council members, cycling campaign groups, road safety and public health. “We went to public consultation with three design options. We held public events, produced questionnaire leaflets and a fly-through video.”

Almost 900 people from across the city, and beyond, responded to the consultation for each scheme, with 75% to 80% in favour of improvements, says Kelly.

“Engagement with disability groups meant the design of the bus stop bypasses was changed to accommodate shelters on the bus boarder.” But, says Kelly, “a hardcore of local residents remained unimpressed by these changes”.

Once the changes were implemented the objections intensified, Kelly says. “Cambridge is a city full of academics, lawyers and well-connected retired folk with time on their hands. We are accused of not consulting or updating residents enough, of avoiding residents’ meetings, of endangering cyclists and pedestrians during construction and of workmen not working.”

The experience has prompted the council to re-appraise its consultation process, says Kelly. “In future we will contact residents directly affected by changes to the road layout; we mustn’t assume they will engage with the process. We will still need to resist some demands for compromise and rash decision-making as many problems turn out to be exaggerated.” 

Vanessa Kelly will be sharing her experiences on managing consultations at Intelligent City Mobility

 
 
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