$6 Congestion Fee To Supercharge Cycling In Cambridge, England’s Most Bicycle-Dense City

Cambridge residents have until just before Christmas to decide whether the city should introduce a London-style congestion charge for motorists.

A Sustainable Travel Zone would extend three miles out from the center of this famous university city. It would cost $6 to travel by private motor vehicle within Cambridge between 7 am and 7 pm on weekdays.

London’s congestion charge was introduced in February 2003, leading to the number of people entering central London by car during the morning peak falling by 45%. Cycle use exploded after the introduction of the motoring fee—cycling on main roads rose by 4% in the three years before the charge was introduced, rising to 37% in the three years following.

In Cambridge, cycling—with a 43% share of work journeys—has long been a popular form of mass transit. Cambridge’s historic town center contains many streets of historical importance, often dominated by cars even though their use for work journeys is relatively low, with a so-called modal share of 25%. Cambridge is 323rd out of the 348 English and Welsh local authorities for levels of car ownership.

The body behind Cambridge’s proposal for a congestion charge is the Greater Cambridge Partnership, made up of local councils, the university, and businesses.

The charge would be introduced in 2027 following a program of improvements to the bus network. The $6 charge would apply to petrol and diesel cars and electric cars. Motorbikes would also be subject to the charge.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership said the charge would lead to “traffic reduction.”

Cambridgeshire County Council, the local Highway Authority, would be responsible for implementing the charge.

Cambridge has been home to the prestigious University of Cambridge since 1209. In the early 1900s, the University created the Special Pro-Proctor Motor Vehicles, an official that prevented students from owning cars within ten miles of the city.

This position existed until recently, and even now, students have to apply for University Motor Licenses with only a few such licenses granted. This restriction on motor vehicle use in Cambridge is one of the reasons for high cycle use by students and academics in the city.

Neil McArthur, a vice-chair of the Cambridgeshire Residents Group, which opposes the Sustainable Travel Zone, said that introducing the congestion charge would damage Cambridge.

“The town is going to become a ghost town,” he claimed.

Roxanne De Beaux, executive director of Camcycle, the local bicycle advocacy group, said a Sustainable Travel Zone for Cambridge would be “transformative for people in the area.”

“With fewer cars on the road and more space for protected cycle lanes and safer junctions,” she added, “more people can choose to ride for their daily journeys.”

Along with other bodies, Camcycle created the Cambridgeshire Sustainable Travel Alliance to advocate for the congestion charge.

Residents have until December 23 to respond to a public consultation on the plan.


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