Favourite low-traffic neighbourhoods: Leys Road/Highworth Avenue

Welcome to a new blog series in which we plan to highlight some existing low-traffic neighbourhoods around the region and how they are quietly appreciated by people in the area. Get in touch and tell us about your favourites (ideally with photos!) – what do you value about the low-traffic neighbourhoods near you?

Leys Road/Highworth Avenue

By Matthew Danish

woman in mobility scooter navigating between gap in planters
A simple gap between planters creates a safe and accessible low-traffic neighbourhood.

This is my favourite low-traffic neighbourhood, even though I don’t live there, because it provides a brief but welcome relief from the currently dangerous conditions that we would also like to see fixed on Arbury Road. To get to this low-traffic neighbourhood, I have to brave a part of Arbury Road to reach Leys Road but once I make the turn it’s like entering a different world, leaving the impatient drivers of Arbury Road behind. At the heart of this neighbourhood is a modal filter that was originally installed around 50 years ago and has recently been refurbished. It’s very simple, a gap between planters in the road, but it makes a huge difference by preventing rat-running and it also adds a bit of greenery to the street scene.

Thanks to this modal filter these streets offer a leafy and calm route for many children going to and from schools like Milton Road Primary school as well as many other people walking and cycling in the area. Of course, there are also many residents who live on these streets and drive cars, and they can easily access their properties from one street or the other, but that traffic is minimal.

A person using a handcycle and a person using a wheelchair using the Highworth Avenue modal filter
The modal filter between Leys Road and Highworth Avenue was recently refurbished and is fully accessible to people riding larger cycles or using mobility aids.

After 50 years it’s easy to take such quiet streets for granted but we really must be more vigilant because there is a small minority out there who want to see these planters removed in order to pump car traffic down more streets. For example, a vocal opponent of proposed safety measures on Arbury Road wrote last year that she would want:

A one-way system at the east end of Arbury Road enabled by the reopening of Leys Road/Highworth Avenue […] Traffic from the West would be two way until it turned right into Leys Road. It would then flow towards the Elizabeth Way roundabout onto Milton Road.

a man carrying children in a cargo cycle through the modal filter
A popular route for the zero carbon school run could be under threat if local opponents of low-traffic neighbourhoods get their way.

If it sounds like a nightmare straight out of the 1960s, that’s because it would be: a heavily-trafficked gyratory system involving Arbury Road, Leys Road and Highworth Avenue, not too dissimilar from the motor-centric morass at Mitcham’s Corner. I hope it never comes to that.

Quiet streets like Leys Road and Highworth Avenue are the bread and butter of Cambridge’s safe cycling and walking network and it’s important that the people in charge understand that, and work to improve and expand these neighbourhoods to help even more people. As the election season has commenced, please check out our election survey answers when they are posted online, and be sure to ask candidates your own questions when they come knocking on your door. Leys Road and Highworth Avenue are in the Chesterton county division and we will have answers from candidates running in that race on questions like how they would fix safety issues on Arbury Road and Union Lane. Times like this are important for ensuring that safe conditions for cycling will still be protected and enhanced in the coming years and for future generations.

Please tell us about your favourite low-traffic neighbourhood and share why it’s important to you.