Proposals for Coldhams Lane are disappointing with little improvement for walking and cycling

The Coldhams Lane/Brooks Road/Barnwell Road roundabout has long been a cycle safety black spot in Cambridge. It is a two-lane gyratory with multiple wide, gently swept entry and exit points whose sole aim is to facilitate the quick movement of motor traffic. Traversing this junction from any direction is a daunting prospect to even the most seasoned road cyclist, let alone to a family on their way to the nearby shops or church. These users are relegated to using an awkwardly arranged combination of crossings and narrow paths shared with pedestrians around the periphery of the roundabout.

The Coldhams Lane roundabout is an unsafe design that priorities the speed and flow of motor traffic.

This is why Camcycle was pleased to note a number of major redesigns presented to the county transport committee in January. Whilst these designs were not perfect – in particular, some still facilitated high entry and exit speeds – they did address the need for wide separated cycle paths and conveniently located crossings. These design features would have allowed safe and intuitive passage through the junction. We would have been happy to engage further with refining these proposals to create the best solution for all road users, however, it appears we will no longer get the chance.

Why? Because it appears that at the latest committee meeting all ambitions for good cycle and pedestrian infrastructure have been scrapped. Separate cycle paths? Gone. Reduced entry and exit speeds? Gone. Increased green space? Gone. Any illusions of designing for road users other than cars? Very much gone.

New proposals for the roundabout offer few improvements for walking and cycling safety.

In place of these earlier proposals, we are now presented with the highways equivalent of re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. At the very best, cyclists and pedestrians are offered a slightly larger sliver of shared space and some awkward parallel crossings. Of course, motor vehicles are asked to make no sacrifices – if road space has been taken from one place to make shared space, it has been reallocated from any nearby green area. Such are the priorities in a climate emergency.

These monuments to 20th-century car-centrism are put into even starker contrast when one considers that Cambridge’s first Dutch roundabout is under construction just down the road. What use is excellent infrastructure in one place if its happy and contented users are thrown into an automotive supercollider five minutes later?

When huge amounts are being spent across our region for road building programmes, why are improvements for the safety of people cycling and walking suddenly seen as too expensive?  Why does the cheaper option always involve putting the needs of motor traffic above that of cycle users and pedestrians? Now more than ever we know the dangers of skimping on public space for walking and cycling, and these proposals do nothing to fix that fundamental problem.

The revised Coldhams Lane roundabout proposals will be presented to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority at the Transport and Infrastructure committee on Wednesday 29 April.

These proposals completely fail to meet the stated project principles:

‘(a) to improve safety for all road users’ and

‘(b) to provide an improved environment for pedestrians/cyclists’.

Instead, these proposals squeeze pedestrians and cyclists into small, shared-use pavements on the edge of the scheme, similar to the terrible 1960s layout that exists today. All the proposals have multiple lanes in the roundabout with high-speed entry and exit lanes, which means that they promote motor traffic speed at the expense of human safety, and that design decision is inappropriate and irresponsible in a built-up area where there are many people walking and cycling.

We ask:

(1) The county’s hierarchy of provision is supposed to prioritise walking, cycling, public transport and then private transport last, with safety for each mode paramount. Yet, the proposed options give highest priority to motor traffic flow and put people walking and cycling at risk. Why has the hierarchy of provision been inverted in the options proposed in Appendix 1?

(2) All the proposed options in Appendix 1 are unsuitable for the coming decades and should be scrapped. New options that meet the principles of the scheme should be drawn up. Will the Combined Authority commit to detailed engagement with various stakeholders including local councillors, the officers at the county cycling team, Camcycle and other relevant parties?

(3) If additional funding is needed in order to redesign this dangerous junction properly, then why haven’t additional funds through the GCP or Section 106 agreements been pursued?

If you’d like to support our campaign for safer cycling at the Coldhams Lane junction, you can:

Read our submission to the Combined Authority.