Cambridge has a long history with two-wheeled transport. Great things have been done to support, promote, and encourage it. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) seeks to improve it. In addition, Cambridge has well-run and funded pressure groups to promote it.

Two-wheeled transport is space efficient. It can promote mental health and wellbeing. It has many things going for it.

However, in Cambridge, two-wheeled transport is only OK if it is the right kind of two-wheeled transport. Luckily for us, knowing if we are good or bad users of two-wheeled transport is simple.

Does it have pedals?

Suppose the answer is yes, welcome—a welcome with open arms and a healthy pat on the back. The Zone agrees. The Zone supports your choice and right to use a pedal cycle. Pedal cycles are an excellent means of getting from A to B if you can use one.

With the development of E-Bikes, or to give them their legal title Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPC), it’s easier than ever. You can zip around silently at your legal limit of 15.5 mph without pedalling. But they still have pedals, so they are the right kind of two-wheeled transport.

If the answer is no, the welcome is somewhat frosty, to keep things polite.

What about other forms of two-wheeled transport in Cambridge that don’t have pedals? There are two, E-Scooters and motorbikes.

E-Scooters, or micromobility devices

Cambridge is currently running a trial of e-Scooters operated by Voi. They are very popular. These trials examine if the Government should make e-scooters legal, naturally only after creating a regulatory framework to manage them. These are orange and approved; you need a provisional driving licence to use one.

It should be noted that an e-scooter is speed capped the same as an EAPC. As silent as an EAPC. It can sneak up and startle you, the same as an EAPC. Even Cambridge’s largest cycle pressure group, CamCycle, agree that micromibility devices are good. Although they caveat that they are only OK providing cyclists are put first.

Fourth, the introduction of micromobility devices should not have a detrimental effect on the usage and accessibility of cycles.

Motorbikes – and why doesn’t the GCP like them?

The GCP also agree that it’s not OK if it doesn’t have pedals. The proposed Sustainable Travel Zone (STZ) treats a Moped or Motorcycle the same as a car for charging. Unlike all the other schemes in the UK.

A motorbike is a space-efficient means of transport and produces a fraction of a car’s emissions. They are time efficient for many journeys too. The STZ wouldn’t need rear-facing ANPR cameras, so cheaper.

What is the GCP’s justification for this? We shall turn to the GCP’s “Technical Note: Discounts, Exemptions, Reimbursements and Charge Levels” document. There are a couple of reasons provided.

Potential adverse impact (safe and attractive for cyclists)

no significant impact on congestion reduction, sustainable travel or air quality and safety benefits

Technical Note: Discounts, Exemptions, Reimbursements and Charge Levels, page 19

We shall gloss over the fact that a motorbike is not safe or attractive to a cyclist. Just because one type of road user doesn’t find another attractive would seem wholly inappropriate to base such a decision on. That is discrimination in its most basic form.

Congestion seems a possible reason, after all they will take up the space needed for the cycles and the buses. The GCP want us to move to cycles and cargo cycles for moving stuff around. So then, how does a motorbike compare to a cargo bike?

Kawasaki 1000sx is 210 x 82.5 x 119 cm (L, W, H)
Babboe Curve-E cargo trike from Outspoken cycles is 215 x 84.4 x 110 cm (L, W, H)

Those with a keen eye will notice they are almost identical, with the motorbike being smaller in width and length than the cargo bike. The Zone muses that the congestion argument is moot, but the GCP and cycle lobby’s mind works in mysterious ways.

The Safety benefit is, believe it or not, by excluding them, they won’t have accidents.

We also have a written response to a question in a council GCP meeting that justifies this.

The principle of the pricing structure is to reflect the impacts of vehicle size and likely impact on congestion, pollution (air quality) and carbon emissions. Whilst motorbikes and mopeds could be perceived as smaller and lower emissions than cars, there are potential risks in terms of the safety, noise and conflicts with other road users if these proliferate as a result of a lower charge level. This is particularly true in Cambridge due to high cycling levels. For this reason, we are proposing that the charge for the vehicle group is the same as cars, particularly given the significant increase in people walking and cycling following the introduction of the

Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly

The noise issue is simple. There are legal limits for motorbike noise. They are in The Motor Cycle Silencer and Exhaust Systems Regulations 1995. If that is a concern, then perhaps some enforcement of the law is called for?

So let us see if the Zone reads this right. If people choose to use a lower emission, more space efficient form of transport, that is not OK? One that can also promote mental health and wellbeing. Why?

Safety seems to be a biggy, in combination with the conflicts with other road users. The conflict issue seems to be with cyclists; they share the same road space and the numbers are expected to explode.

Let us look at what motorbike riders need to do before they can legally ride one, compared to the other two wheeled road users.

Motorbike riderCyclist
Since 2001, anyone wanting to ride a motorbike must undergo Compulsory Basic Training (CBT).

The CBT involves a theory test with off-road and on-road training.

Not only that, you must pass your full moped or motorcycle test within two years or either retake CBT or stop riding.

To get a full licence, you must be at least 24 unless you have passed additional tests.

There are four different categories of actual licences. You can read about them by clicking here.

As a general rule, motorbike riders are pretty opposed to anything that would cause them to fall off. It hurts for one. It’s expensive too to get things repaired. It increases the cost of legally mandated insurance. All in all, falling off is not an intentional act of a motorbike rider.

Part of the training every rider receives includes hazard perception and avoiding them. Could the training be better? No doubt, advanced rider training is a great thing. However, any form of training is an improvement from nothing at all. Furthermore, a motorbike has a much smaller frontal than a car, so a motorbike can more easily avoid a cyclist than a car. They even have the road space to do so and remain in their traffic lane.

The Zone accepts that there will be motorbike riders who “push the boundaries” of acceptable behaviour. When caught, they will be dealt with according to the law. You can also report these bad apples. Motorbikes have a convenient identification plate on the back to make that easier.

The Zone, to keep things fair and equitable, also acknowledges that there are some bad apples in the cycling community too. Whilst the majority, the Zone is informed, abides by the Highway Code, some don’t. The common gripes are the ones who run red lights or join a major road from a minor road without looking. Zoom around at night without lights, despite legally needing them. Ride up the inside of vehicles indicating left. Ignore cycle lanes that have been built at a huge expense.

So why does the GCP dislike motorbikes?

The Zone mulls over two possible reasons; you may see it differently.

  1. If people start to use them more, they don’t make money.
  2. They are simply not the right form of two-wheeled transport for Cambridge.

The Zone also suggests, should the GCP’s STZ proposals be taken forward, two additions to the GCPs plans.

  1. That some form of training for cyclists be made freely and easily available in Cambridge, ideally mandatory, though that is impossible to enforce.
  2. A local bylaw mandates the use of cycle helmets. With the expected explosion of cycle use and a void of any basic awareness or training needed for cyclists, accidents are going to happen. Especially if they will be riding in all weathers.

The Zone would encourage motorbike riders to speak out over this matter too.