Cambridge Science Park Station Objection Letter

In mid August, we sent a formal objection to the planning application for Cambridge Science Park Station:

Cambridge Cycling Campaign strongly supports the principle of a new railway station on the Ely railway line between Chesterton and Milton, but are formally OBJECTING to the planning application because of the proposed cycling provision for people on bicycles is far below our expectations.

In summary we have serious concerns over access to the station, mainly from Nuffield Road, Moss Bank and the lack of consideration for bicycles accessing and crossing Milton Road. We also have concerns with movement of bicycles through the site, the bicycle parking facilities, the station building, and the lack of consideration for the wider issues that will be caused by increased use of bicycles in this area.

  • Access routes to the station are poorly designed and we believe will not cope with the expected volumes of traffic that this development will bring.
  • Details of how access to and from the station to Milton Road, both to access the Jane Coston bridge and the cycleway to Histon and Orchard Park are very concerning, in particular the route along Cowley Road.
  • Crossing from the station to the Science Park will require significant delays if the existing signal timings are used, deterring people from walking or using a bicycle safely.
  • We are concerned about how access to the station platforms will be done using a bicycle, and whilst we accept that the lifts may be larger, cannot find any details of how bicycles could be wheeled up the stairways.
  • We have noted that number of cycle parking stands in the supplied drawings are below those stated in the planning application summary, and have concerns about the roof structure.
  • There is no ambition in the planning application to providing space for a “cyclepoint”, which could clearly be a viable business at this location, especially considering the remoteness of the low density Science Park.
  • We also have concerns that the provision of bicycle infrastructure does not take into account a possible significant increase in bicycle traffic to and through the station area, and therefore propose a bicycle-bypass behind the station building to reduce conflicts at the station square.
  • We also propose a number of additional locations where we believe that existing problems for people on bicycles will only get significantly worse, and where signage may be needed from further afield.

These are detailed below.

For the purposes of this response, we are labelling the cycleway alongside the busway as the “Ø3 Cycleway”, and the terms clockwise is towards the south at this location, and anti-clockwise is towards the north.

 

Access Routes to Station

The main bicycle access routes to the station appear to be from: Moss Bank, via the Bramblefields Nature Reserve, Nuffield Road (near the access road to the allotments), Nuffield Close, Milton Road, and Cowley Road. We have concerns about each of these that will be detailed below.

1.    Moss Bank: The access from Moss Bank to the Ø3 cycleway appears to be very narrow with very tight corners that require a greater than 90º turn. We consider this a very important link in the strategic bicycle network with the provision of a bridge across the river and the linking up of the Chisholm trail and an orbital route around Cambridge.

The turning radii that are used for the vehicular access to the car parking area do not have a similar constraint. We therefore request that this access is designed for high volumes of bicycle and foot traffic, a minimum width of 5 metres through the corners, and greater turning radii to enable bicycle traffic to negotiate this area safely. Sight lines for this junction should also be considered, perhaps by enforcing no parking in the turning area at the end of Moss Bank.

We are also concerned that when traffic is queuing up at the level crossing on Fen Road, there would be no safe way to access Moss Bank on a bicycle without dismounting and walking a possibly long distance along the pavement. We would therefore like to see dedicated segregated bicycle infrastructure between Moss Bank and Water Street.

2.    Bramblefields: We understand that many people would prefer that cycling through the nature reserve is not encouraged. We support that, although cycling should not be banned it should not be signposted as a cycle route. The best way to reduce cycle use is to ensure the routes via Nuffield Road or Moss Bank are more attractive, being lit and of a high standard as well as properly signed.

3.    Nuffield Road: The main access from the west of the site would probably be via Nuffield Road. It appears that the cycleway crosses the main vehicular access to the allotments, and then a few metres later ends at a T-junction with Discovery Way.

We do not understand why this access cannot be shared with the cars turning into the existing fenced access area for the allotments, and the bicycle and pedestrian traffic continues to the Ø3 cycleway. This would also place the bicycle traffic at the corner of the bend in Nuffield Road allowing much better visibility of the high speed trade vehicles from the industrial estate. This ‘shared route’ would also allow more space for the proposed landscape features rather than be a concrete jungle.

As noted above, the turning radii from this access route to the Ø3 cycleway should be designed for typical bicycle commuters, the cycleway should be wider at this location to allow for more space for merging movements, and the junction should be a ‘Y’ junction with one arm for clockwise traffic movements and the other arm for anti-clockwise traffic movements.

Given that Nuffield Road may become the most significant access route for people in Chesterton, we would also like to see significantly improved quality of bicycle infrastructure from Nuffield Road to Green End Road.

4.    Nuffield Close: An access at this location would provide direct access to the industrial estate and is considered a valuable addition for the permeability of movement in this area. We have a concern that the current turning area is used primarily for the parking of vehicles and not to provide easier turning movements. We therefore request that double yellow lines are used to prevent the parking of vehicles across this access point.

5.    Milton Road: Milton Road, and its associated shared use underpass, provide the only direct route from Cambridge to the business parks to the north of the old railway line. At the moment this route is dominated by slow moving traffic with little provision for bicycle movements.

For example, there is no way to access the Ø3 cycleway anti-clockwise when travelling south-east on Milton Road. We do not see any evidence that this will be improved with the extension of the cycleway over Milton Road. Provision should be made for bicycles turning from Milton Road into the Ø3 cycleway from both directions of travel along Milton Road.

6.    Ø3 Cycleway: The cycleway continues over Milton Road yet no provision has been made for people on bicycles to perform this movement quickly and easily. The proposals force bicycles going south to wait for a probably very slow toucan crossing, blocking the footpath for those who have chosen to walk to work, and then cross a two stage junction, first over Milton Road and then a second over the busway itself.

7.    Cowley Road: This road today is hostile to bicycle traffic. Given that we cannot see any proposal for high quality provision for bicycle traffic along Milton Road that would allow somebody on a bicycle to access the Ø3 cycleway, and the only other access route to the new Science Park Railway Station is via Cowley Road, we have to question the traffic forecasts or safety audits that could allow the proposed design for Cowley Road to be put forward. We would like to see that Cowley Road is fully re-engineered to be a high quality route, with a 6.5m vehicular carriageway, 2.1m cycleways on each side separated with a curb or green separation, and a 2m footpath on each side.

If the redesign of Cowley Road is not viable, then we would like to see a high quality cycleway created on the south side of the First Public Drain. However, this would require a two-way cycleway to be provided from the end of the First Public Drain to the car park, around to the Ø3 cycleway and also to the northern cycle parking area.

We note that whilst the Cambridge Business Park is only 250 metres away from the station building, the only way to access it is to travel to Milton Road and then along Cowley Road or the Ø3 cycleway, a distance of approximately 1600 metres. We would therefore request that figure 29 in Transport Assessment is redrawn to consider this lack of permeability. Whilst we understand that an access route from the business park to the station cannot be forced upon a private land owner, we would request that pressure be applied on these owners to provide such access, or that a condition on any future planning applications on this business park require that access is provided. It should be noted that a cycleway along the side of First Public Drain would be needed to facilitate such an access point.

8.    We note that the traffic analysis has calculated the waiting times for cars negotiating the various traffic junctions, but are concerned that no similar analysis has been taken for the waiting times for bicycles. This is a serious omission and we would welcome the production of this data so that we can review it. We believe that a 90 second wait time will encourage people not to wait for the lights. We would therefore request that the maximum wait time for bicycles at this, and any other major junction with lots of bicycle traffic should be a maximum of 30 seconds.

It is noted that when a bus arrives at this junction, the traffic lights turn immediately to red – there is no apparent waiting time. Why can this not also be applied to crossing bicycle traffic?

Going north, the bicycles first have to look behind them for a bus, then negotiate a difficult 90º turn, following by waiting with other people on bicycles or on foot for the slow toucan to allow them to cross. We believe that this is inherently the wrong design for a potentially critical junction in this strategic cycleway.

Other busway cycleway junctions take a different approach; for example at the Histon Station Road junction, bicycles go directly across the junction effectively separated from the foot traffic. We would suggest that such a design would be much more suitable in this location.

Given the separation of bicycle traffic and foot traffic that is desired, the scheduling of traffic light phases for these movements can also be optimized to move the most number of people in the shortest amount of time with the minimum of delays. For example, pedestrians could be given just 5 seconds of green time, whilst cyclists could be provided 10 seconds since they can move quicker; cyclists could be given a very short additional 10 seconds of time at periods through the cycle time to reduce the waiting times.

We would also like to see a full analysis of the delays at all the traffic junctions. The best way to increase the attractiveness of walking and cycling is to reduce the delays to an absolute minimum. It has been calculated that to cross from Cowley Road to the Science Park entrance on foot or by bicycle today requires between 75 seconds and 188 seconds. We do not consider that the transport analysis has considered these movements in any detail except to characterise them as “far from significant”. The expected 10 minute walk to the Science Park would be increased by 25% due to the traffic light phasing. We cannot accept that this is far from significant.

See: http://livecambridge.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/crossing-milton-road-3-minutes-of-your-life-you-wont-get-back/

 

Station Building

We have no comment on the visual appeal of the building, but do have concerns over the provision of lifts and stairs within the station building, the bridge, and the association platforms

9.    We welcome the provision of lifts that bicycles can be pushed into and pushed out in the same direction. The lifts are described as being able to accommodate two bicycles and owners, however we would have preferred to have available the dimensions of these lifts so that we could determine the claims made. We request that the dimensions of all lifts be provided.

The main building lift appears to be larger than the two lifts for each of the platform islands. However, without documentation that states the size of this lift we cannot determine if four bicycles and owners could fit into this lift as would be expected given the two platform island lifts could deliver arriving passengers in such a quantity. We request that the dimensions of all lifts be provided.

10. If the lifts are out of duty, or a very large number of people arrive or wish to depart from this station at the same time with bicycles, we are unsure if there is provision for wheeling channels in the stairways throughout the building. We request that wheeling channels are provided on all public stairways.

Where wheeling channels are provided, we would request that these channels are of the highest quality and in suitable locations on the stairways. We are willing to be consulted on the correct approach to these channels. We do not want to see a repeat implementation of the useless channels originally provided at the main station.

 

Cycle Parking

For the proposed scheme to be successful, we would expect to see an over supply of bicycle parking spaces, however we have a couple of concerns over the number and the design of the parking structures.

11. The accompanying documentation estimates the number of bicycle parking spaces at 1000, yet we can only discover 443 sheffield stands to the south, and 50 to the north. This would provide only 986 bicycle parking spaces. We request that the full 1000 bicycle parking places be provided.

12. We have been concerned that many people from the north, for example Milton, would find it easier to park their bicycles to the north of the station building and therefore reduce the conflicts in the main square with people accessing the station from other forms of transport.

We would therefore suggest that as much additional bicycle parking is provided on the north side of the station building as is physically possible to fit in. We do not believe there is any detriment to over supplying bicycle parking at this station and therefore request that as much space as possible is allocated to this land use.

13. We are concerned that people arriving at this station from elsewhere will have only two possible ways to access most of the nearby businesses: by bus or by taxi. A railway station in Cambridge, especially one that is significantly remote by walking to most surrounding businesses should be able to support a small bicycle rental facility.

Given that there are projected to be 238 taxi pickups daily at this station, even if a small number of these were encouraged to use sustainable transport, this facility would be viable. This facility could also help repair bicycles, sell bicycles and associated merchandise. We therefore request that space is provided either within the station building itself, or in an adjacent structure to provide a “cyclepoint”.

14. The southern cycle parking area appears to have a roof over it, but we have not been able to determine if this is going to be a water-proof structure, or just a structure to mount solar panels onto. We would prefer that the structure does not channel water into people’s bicycle baskets or seats when it rains and so should be fitted with gutters attached to downpipes at all lowest edges.

15. Whilst the plans show that bicycle parking would be provided by Sheffield stands we are concerned that we have heard that the cycle parking may instead be provided by either “high density” cycle parking facilities, or by “double decker” stands. Whilst these may be useful for some people, there are many people that find such high density or double decker stands difficult to use or impossible to attach their bicycles onto.

We therefore request that all the bicycle parking facilities when the station is opened should be Sheffield stands. If this proves to be insufficient, then additional bicycle parking can be provided by converting some Sheffield stands to higher density or double decker stands gradually over time. To help this, we would request that as part of the cycle parks operation, regular surveys of the number of bicycles parked at the station are performed and additional cycle parking provided to ensure that at no point is the use of the cycle parking stands greater than 90%. It will also be important that the roof over the cycle parking is high enough to enable the provision of double decker stands at a later date should that prove necessary.

 

Permeability of the site for those on foot or bicycle.

The key to the success of the station is the permeability of the new station area to people using sustainable modes of transport. We believe that many people crossing this site will not be stopping at the station, but instead just moving from Abbey, East Chesterton or Barnwell Road to Milton or the Science Park and Business Parks. This route could be made significantly more attractive than the existing route along Green End Road and Milton Road.

16. It is unclear how somebody who has parked at the south side of the station building and upon arriving back by train would travel through the site towards Cowley Road and the village of Milton. We would like to suggest that “behind” the station building, between the building and the railway tracks, there is sufficient space to provide a “bicycle bypass” of the station square that would allow safe movement of bicycles across the station site. We cannot emphasis enough that such a route designed in from the start could have clear benefit for people crossing the site on a bicycle without forcing them to cross possibly significant pedestrian traffic in front of the station building.

17. At the moment it is unclear how many people would wish to cross the railway on foot, or with a bicycle, however we would expect that this number would increase over time. This increase could be because of additional train movements that close the level crossing for increased time, or with the intensification of land use in the area that typically accompanies a new railway station.

We would therefore suggest that passive provision for a second “ungated” foot bridge is designed and provided at this early stage. The installation of the necessary foundations now for very little cost would mean that this provision could be provided in the future without closing the railway for any extended period of time.

18. We would also suggest that future provision for an eastern entrance to the site be allocated in the local plan, together with sufficient land for additional bicycle parking.

 

Additional External Changes

Whilst the increase in motorized traffic has been considered in the proposed scheme, we could not find any analysis or proposed mitigation

19. The existing Ø3 cycleway junction at the northern Science Park entrance is a difficult junction to negotiate. The overgrowth of vegetation has significantly narrowed the route, and the crossing traffic at this location causes many conflicts. We would suggest that a pavement that is slightly raised above the level of the cycleway to encourage the significant pedestrian traffic from the busway to cross the route quickly so that they can safely access the Cambridge Regional College. This pavement can then continue up to the right of the gas infrastructure along the line of the old road. It might also be appropriate to have a “zebra” crossing at this location to encourage the main orbital cycle traffic to give way to the bus passengers. It may also be appropriate to move the pedestrian crossing to align with this desire line.

20. The Ø3 cycleway junction with the regional college access road (Kings Hedges Drive) is more problematic, and will become more so as the bicycle traffic along this route increases due to the new station. We would suggest that the cycleway continues in the straight line, without deviating around the gas infrastructure building into a gap barely one metre wide. Traffic lights should then be triggered automatically when a bicycle arrives, and the phasing of the traffic signals be programmed to reduce the waiting times for bicycles to less than 30 seconds at peak time, and 15 seconds out of peak times.

21. We would also suggest that the cycleway from the Jane Coston bridge to “First Public Drain” is also upgraded with the consideration for direct line of sight, minimizing bicycle waiting times, and grade separation of bicycle and foot traffic.

22. We have campaigned for a cycle bridge along the line of the railway near the proposed railway station. If this cycle bridge was to be built then the potential increase in foot and bicycle traffic from Abbey, Fen Ditton, the Fisons Estate, the proposed development at Wing and similar areas to the Science Park Railway Station and the Science Park may significantly increase.

We are also concerned that the transport assessment doesn’t have a route from Abbey over the Green Dragon bridge as a ‘preferred cyclist route’. We believe that the distance involved would be easily achieved on a bicycle and that such a route should be considered as part of the transport assessment. We also consider that people in Abbey would prefer to travel to the new station rather than travel to the existing main station.

Both of the above statements would imply that the traffic from Fen Road, via Moss Bank, and to or past the railway station may be significantly higher than those predicted. We would like to see a more thorough analysis of the volumes of bicycle traffic expected at this point, the resultant bicycle traffic queues crossing Milton Road at the Science Park junction. For example, if a bicycle cannot enter the island in the middle of Milton Road when crossing the junction and has to block the road traffic, would that be acceptable to the motorised traffic models?

 

Signing of Routes

Just as with car traffic, the signing of the new railway from points that are a reasonable cycling distance away should be considered, but we do not have enough details to determine if the proposals are sufficient.

23. We welcome the proposal to sign bicycle routes from and to the station. However, given the prominence of this new interchange, we would consider it important to sign post the station from the following destinations: Landbeach, Milton, Horningsea, Fen Ditton, Barnwell Road, Stourbridge Common, Chesterton, King’s Hedges, Orchard Park, NIAB (Darwin Green), Science Park, Histon and Impington. We would also suggest that Cambridge Science Park Railway Station is also signposted on bicycle signs from all these locations.

Conclusions

In conclusion there is much that we consider good about this application. The application has the potential to significantly reduce the reliance on the private motor car, however as it currently stands we don’t believe that the application will attract many people out of their cars and onto their bicycles.

As with many planning applications, the details are all important for those on who wish to, or will in the future, use bicycles. At this point we do not consider the details of the application will provide a sufficiently high quality of bicycle infrastructure for the Cambridge Cycling Campaign to support this application. We do not believe that our objections to this planning application would be neither expensive not difficult to correct.

We would also like a condition placed that would require all the cycle access routes and cycle parking to be available before the station opens. We believe that this is critical to establishing the new travel behaviour required to make this station a success.

We would welcome a meeting with the applicants to discuss these objections such that we could resolve these objections.