Statement on the temporary suspension of the Church Street modal filter in Chesterton

Last year the county council consulted on a set of schemes called the Cambridgeshire Active Travel Schemes programme. These schemes were funded by the Department for Transport as part of the Active Travel tranche 2 COVID-recovery response.

website banner for Cambridgeshire Active Travel Schemes
The consultation webpage from 2021, promising that the schemes would be reviewed for further development by then-Chair Cllr McDonald and Vice-chair Cllr Bird.

One of the agreed schemes is a modal filter on Church Street in Chesterton, designed to improve safety and accessibility for people walking and cycling on this popular route to the river.

Our guide to making a consultation response┬árecommended that people should support this modal filter because it ‘would stop drivers from shooting through the rather narrow Church Street and Chapel Street and therefore would open up more space for safe walking and cycling in what is a fairly busy route for people accessing the Riverside walking and cycling bridge.’

diagram of Church Street bollards and planters
Diagram from the 2021 consultation materials

After consultation, the schemes were taken to members of the Highways and Transport committee of the county council, to be finalised and agreed in January 2022.

Implementation finally began, at long last, this October. We strongly welcome the installation of the planters and bollard which looked exactly as proposed by the county’s consulted design.

view of installed planters and bollards with two people cycling on the road past the bollard
The installed modal filter on Church Street in late October 2022

A couple of weeks after the installation of the modal filter on Church Street, we learned that the parallel section of High Street was to be closed entirely for one week as sewer pipes were installed for a nearby housing development.

Road closure signage and barriers behind some cyclists riding on the road
Chesterton High Street, early November 2022

Unfortunately, either the diversion signage was inadequate or simply ignored by many drivers, therefore many attempted to rat-run through the small residential streets before realising that it was no longer permitted by the barrier. While this situation was inconvenient for drivers and poorly signed by the county, it did protect the local residents from having the full blast of High Street traffic bearing down on streets that are rather narrow and poorly-suited for large amounts of motor traffic.

planters on road shown with temporary give way to oncoming traffic signs and a missing bollard
Arrangement of planters and signs on Church Street, early November 2022.

On 1 November, the county removed the bollard and placed ‘give-way to oncoming traffic’ signs in front of the planters. This opened up a rat-run again for motorists via the narrow and historic streets of Old Chesterton. However, following the completion of the roadworks, the bollard and modal filter is expected to be restored on Friday evening.

Earlier this week, we received the following enquiry from a Cambridge News reporter:

Gerri Bird and Baiju Thittala Local Councillors have been successful in petitioning for the removal of the bollard in place on Church Street to enable cars to be able to move through the village whilst the road closure is on in the High Street. Would Camcycle be able to comment on this development?

Residents are now campaigning for complete removal of the Chapel Street prohibition of vehicles order and planters/barriers. They are angry that they have spent money on schemes that are causing more congestion more generally in the city. What justification is there for making it harder for residents to move around the city, what purpose does it serve?”

It is disappointing that a journalist would ask such a leading question as ‘What justification is there for making it harder for residents to move around the city‘, embedded seemingly with an inherent judgement that residents only move around by car and not by walking or cycling. Even in Cambridge, in the year 2022, we still have to deal with such biases against active travel. As of late October, visits to the Church Street site showed that many people were easily moving around the city, using modes such as by foot, cycle and mobility scooter, and they were safer before the temporary removal of the bollard in November made their lives harder. Under normal conditions, the High Street is the suitable route for motor traffic through the area. We understand the expediency that led to the removal of the bollard as an alternate route for motor traffic while the High Street is closed, but we look forward to the return of the safety scheme as soon as possible.

This was our response to the reporter (and you can read the final article here):

Modal filters are put in place to improve road safety, reduce congestion, prevent rat-running and improve accessibility for those walking, wheeling and cycling. In this case, the majority of people using the street are walking or cycling, and the barrier stops drivers from rat-running through these narrow residential streets which creates a dangerous environment for many people in the street. This scheme was designed and consulted by the County council last year, and it was approved by the County Highways committee, which included Cllr Gerri Bird as a member at the time. We understand that the bollard has been removed temporarily during the major road works taking place on the High Street.”

We encourage supporters of the Church Street scheme to email policyandregulation@cambridgeshire.gov.uk citing ‘PR0821’, which is the reference for the traffic regulation order. The deadline for comments is 14 February 2023. Feel free to copy in Camcycle at contact@camcycle.org.uk with your messages.