Options for a safe, inclusive route from Grantchester to Newnham

Grantchester is located only 2.3 miles from the centre of Cambridge and 2.7 miles from Cambridge station. Many people who live in Grantchester work in Cambridge, and Grantchester itself attracts visitors from Cambridge and beyond. It is also on the desire line for people walking and cycling from places like Haslingfield, Barton and Comberton. The Meadows and the village itself are special places that are enjoyed by many and should be protected and enhanced so that they can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

We are hugely concerned that the current Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) Haslingfield Greenway proposals do little to improve the existing situation. Although significant investment is proposed for the Greenway, the designs presented will result in substandard infrastructure that is not fit for purpose and does not align with the overarching Greenway vision to make local journeys safer and easier and to deliver pleasant and sustainable routes into and out of Cambridge and for leisure purposes.

We’ve written this blogpost as a supplement to our consultation guide to the GCP consultation on the Haslingfield Greenway (proposals for Grantchester) as we believe there are better options than the one presented in the consultation.

Walking and cycling routes in and around Grantchester

Baulk Path

The Baulk path between Grantchester and Newnham

The inclusion of the Baulk Path in the Greenway scheme seems to have come about from a desire to direct people away from Grantchester if they choose to travel on part of the Barton Greenway. As the routes via Barton Road and Grantchester village are more direct, these will be preferred by users. The only way the Baulk Path will be used will be if the walking and cycling provision on Barton Road and Grantchester Road is so poor that people are left with no safe alternative. The Baulk Path section of the Greenway will require significant investment to deliver and result in unnecessary environmental damage and C02 emissions; we believe that a joined-up approach to the Barton and Haslingfield Greenways could allow this rural path to be surplus to requirement, leading funding to be redirected for the benefit of everyone.

Grantchester Meadows

Path across Grantchester Meadows

The path through the Meadows provides access to one of the most special places in Cambridge. It’s a permissive route for cycling and currently provides the only off-road route to Grantchester. The existing condition of the path is woeful, leaving the Meadows inaccessible for many people. The concern that upgrading the path will result in a significant increase in cyclists has led to the current course of action: to do nothing. The result is an unsatisfactory outcome for everyone.

We believe improving the path and access to the Meadows would benefit everyone. Improving the path would only result in additional cycle trips if nothing were to be done on Grantchester Road. The Meadows path is, and will continue to be, primarily focused on people walking. Whilst a number of cyclists may still use the route to access the Meadows directly, most cyclists will avoid this path if given an alternative that is safe, enjoyable and convenient. A small widening and a high-quality accessible surface would deliver the best outcomes.

Grantchester Road and the path alongside it

Grantchester Road

Grantchester Road is a historic country lane connecting Newnham and Grantchester. The road is typically bounded by high hedges with a narrow carriageway. Speed limits vary from 20 to 60mph; at the moment this route is not safe for people walking and many people are not comfortable cycling here.

The current GCP proposals are for a new path along Grantchester Road. It starts for pedestrians along the western side of Broadway. Within a short distance, they will be required to cross to the eastern side and pick up the existing permissive path, at which point cyclists can join the shared route. Around halfway between Grantchester and Newnham, people walking will be required to cross Grantchester Road again. The inconsistency of this route and additional crossings of Grantchester Road greatly reduce its quality and usability. We believe that the scheme as proposed will do little to help people shift their everyday journeys to walking and cycling. The route is likely to be significantly under-used as many people will choose to avoid it owing to the lack of convenience and directness.

 

Setting Out The Alternatives

Based on the above, we believe the approach of the Greenway project around Grantchester must be reconsidered. Below we set out our preferred option, alongside two compromised alternatives and the significantly compromised existing proposal.

Option 1: making good use of existing, direct routes (Camcycle’s preferred option)

  1. Implement a modal filter on Grantchester Road which could include access for buses.
  2. Improve the Meadows path, primarily for people walking and wheeling.
  3. Remove the Baulk Path from the Greenway scheme.

Restricting motor vehicles with a modal filter would open up a safe route on Grantchester Road for people walking, wheeling and cycling using existing infrastructure. It is the least impactful option on the environment and the easiest measure to implement. A modal filter could also allow access to any local bus services. We believe that this option creates a high quality and safe route that allows for the removal of the Baulk Path from the scheme and would result in many cycle trips being relocated from the Meadows path. A similar scheme in Oxfordshire, that was first trialled on a temporary basis, has recently been made permanent. A temporary trial could quickly be set up on Grantchester Road.

Rural route for active travel in Oxfordshire
New rural route for active travel near Upton in Oxfordshire, achieved with a ‘modal filter’. Image: Sustrans/J Bewley

People driving would be required to detour via the Barton Road and Coton Road roundabout. This would typically add two minutes to a journey if there was no congestion. Whilst it would slightly increase vehicular mileage, it would also incentivise walking and cycling, resulting in a decrease in the overall number of car journeys.

 

Option 2: Quiet Lanes and alternative routes

  1. Implement a ‘Quiet Lane’ scheme along Grantchester Road.
  2. Improve the Meadows path
  3. Remove the Baulk Path from the Greenway scheme.

A Quiet Lane provides a safer place for people to walk, wheel, cycle and ride horses. There are a number of Quiet Lane schemes across the UK and you can read more about them in this Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) guide. We believe that a safe Quiet Lane scheme would need to reduce the speed limit on Grantchester Road to 20mph and be accompanied by speed control measures. It should also be accompanied by an improved path through the Meadows. Without this, there would still be a significant number of people who would be excluded from cycling as they would still feel uncomfortable and unsafe using the Quiet Lane due to the existing motor traffic.

This option would be very workable, but still lacks ambition. From a driver perspective, a 20mph speed limit would make the route to Cambridge via the Barton Road and Coton Road roundabout comparable in driving time, so that Grantchester Road could in principle be redundant for cars. From a walking and cycling perspective, the Quiet Lane is less attractive than a full modal filter, so more people cycling will use the Meadows path than with option 1.  However, the combination of an improved Meadows Path and a Quiet Lane would allow for the removal of the Baulk Path from the Greenway scheme.

 

Option 3: A safe, direct and attractive Grantchester Road path

  1. Ensure the proposed path alongside Grantchester Road remains on one side only.
  2. Improve the Meadows path
  3. Remove the Baulk Path from the Greenway scheme

This option is similar to the existing proposal but focuses on the path along Grantchester Road being delivered in a way that ensures the greatest level of usability. To achieve this, the path should not require users to cross Grantchester Road. Therefore, a consistent path on either the western or eastern side of Grantchester Road must be explored.

Such a route along Grantchester Road would create a high-quality option for people walking, wheeling and cycling, allowing for the removal of the Baulk Path from the Greenway scheme. However, Camcycle believes it is still unnecessary to deliver a new path along Grantchester Road when the alternative option of a modal filter would have significant financial and environment benefits.

 

Option 4: Continue with the consultation proposal

  1. Build an unsuitable path along Grantchester Road with significant costs and associated carbon emissions.
  2. Tarmac the indirect and potentially unnecessary Baulk Path with significant costs and associated carbon emissions.
  3. Continue to have a path along the Meadows that many people are unable to access.

When option 4 is considered alongside the alternatives, it is clear that we can do and must do much better for residents of Grantchester and surrounding villages.