Is Peterborough’s cycling ban forward thinking or small-minded penny pinching?

Bridge Street
Bridge Street

This column is dedicated to Mark Booker and his friend who, a few weeks ago, cycled through Peterborough on their way from Southend to Bridlington along the national cycle network, writes Peterborough Civic Society’s Toby Wood.

How do I know this? Well Mark wrote to the Peterborough Telegraph and had a letter published on 5th July bemoaning the fact that he and his friend were each fined £80 for cycling in Bridge Street.

Dear Mr Booker, take it from us – this is an issue that has been dividing opinion in Peterborough for many years. Just mention cycling in Bridge Street and you’ll guarantee a right old rumpus.

We in Peterborough Civic Society want to promote and celebrate our city. We care about preserving the best from the past, want to make the city attractive and welcoming in the present, and are constantly thinking about how the city can be improved in the future.

Mr Booker – let’s look on the bright side. You may take a crumb of comfort from the fact that you have helped to create employment for some who work in Peterborough. As a further article in the same paper stated on the same day as your letter was published, ‘all of the money gathered goes to enforcement firm Kingdom’. The leader of our council, John Holdich says, ‘we don’t make a profit from this – we don’t break even.’ Yet, later in the column, the council refused to reveal the figure of ‘how much money has been raised through the fines’. All very odd.

Herein lies the problem for Peterborough. On the one hand we want to promote ourselves as welcoming, enlightened and forward-thinking. On the other we come across as small- minded, penny-pinching and indecisive. The Bridge Street cycling ban is rooted in the mists of time when, legend has it, a previous leader of the council (possibly in Roman times) ‘nearly got knocked over’. There are many other controversies and questions that remain unanswered in this city and many of them need urgent attention. Will the North Westgate development actually happen? When will our new university be built, what will it specialise in and where exactly will it be situated? All of these questions, along with many others, continue to exercise the Civic Society.

Mr Booker, you were magnanimous enough to state that ‘Peterborough clearly has good things to offer’. The Civic Society would like to offer you and your friend a little something by way of a tiny compensation. Please contact me via email (see our website address) and we will send you two free sets of our new Peterborough in Detail greetings cards as a minor recompense for your bad experience.

Peterborough Cathedral has just produced a new visitor guide and very handsome it is too. It costs £6.00 and is available from the Cathedral shop. It’s one of those publications that looks and feels good and oozes class. Not surprising really since it is produced by Jigsaw Publications from Norwich, the same folk that produced our very own Peterborough in Detail book a few years ago. However, if rumours are correct and the Cathedral is in serious financial difficulties, I strongly suggest that readers visit as soon as possible before the guidebook is rendered useless due to the building being sold and converted into yet more flats!