Camcycle supports COVID-19 measures for Mill Road and calls for amendments to improve safety, air quality and disability access

Camcycle acknowledges and supports the recently released County Council plan to safeguard public health using an experimental bus gate and multiple pavement expansion schemes on Mill Road. The road is an important community hub and retail area; however, it lacks adequate pavement space to facilitate the social distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new proposals will address this issue and provide space for people to pass safely through and to access local amenities – vital for restoring businesses as lockdown eases. The measures will ensure traffic levels stay low, and in doing so allow a faster bus route between Addenbrooke’s and the city centre.

This will facilitate an increased service frequency to compensate for the lack of capacity on individual buses. The temporary and experimental nature of the order used to implement these schemes is important, as it gives scope for continuous re-evaluation and improvement for up to 18 months. After analysing the presently available information, Camcycle has noted several items that we believe need clarifying and acting on as the scheme progresses.

Firstly, we strongly believe that the ANPR bus gate (and supporting legislation) should be adapted to allow blue badge holders through. Whilst all of Mill Road will remain accessible to motor vehicles, we believe it is reasonable to help shorten some journeys for people who must drive for disability or health reasons.

In a similar vein, car parking should be provided at carefully selected locations along Mill Road and on side streets for those who need cars for larger shopping trips or to move large items – this should include a reasonable number of blue badge and short-stay spaces. If possible, cycle parking that is currently installed on the nearby pavement should be re-installed on the carriageway adjacent to these new car parking locations.

As is common in other similar schemes appearing around the country, tree boxes should be included in the works. This will help further improve air quality on the road and provide welcome shade in warmer weather. These planters should be located in the road to avoid obstructing pedestrians and could be used to demarcate the aforementioned cycle parking, car parking, and loading spaces.

We would also like to see more formal pedestrian crossings put in place along the whole length of the road, and at side streets if possible. These could be located with the kerb buildouts to minimise crossing distance and would include dropped kerbs for accessibility. Dropped kerbs should also be installed all along the road to facilitate easy passing of queues by pedestrians where buildouts are not possible.

Widened pavements will allow more space for pedestrians to maintain safe distances when passing and businesses to expand their footprint for customers shopping, eating and queueing.

Much comment has already been made about the long-term future of these schemes. On this, we reiterate that during the pandemic they are vital to allow Cambridge’s businesses and communities to recover in a safe manner – hence the accelerated timescale. Experimental schemes always come with a consultation period that begins immediately after they are installed, and we intend to respond to these consultations with our comments, both positive and negative. If the schemes are unpopular or failing, then we expect that the changes will be undone at the end of the trial period.

We hope this will not be the case however, and look forward to engaging with all community and business stakeholders to design and implement permanent schemes that build on the successes and rectify the mistakes.