Waterbeach Greenway: an alternative vision

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is currently consulting on a revised alignment for the Waterbeach Greenway. The proposals consist of a 5.5 mile route connecting Cambridge North station with Waterbeach. The route was originally proposed to run alongside the railway line, but will now pass through Milton village, offering the opportunity of valuable improvements for residents and better connections with other local routes.

Camcycle welcomes progress on this route, which should have a positive effect on the lives of thousands of people in the area, increasing access to education and work, improving health and reducing congestion and pollution in the area. However, we believe that the proposals presented by the GCP are not good enough. Milton and Waterbeach residents deserve better.

Camcycle would like to see:

  • Separate space for cycling and walking within Milton village to provide a more pleasant route that reduces conflict between users
  • A better option for Milton High Street that reduces vehicle speeds and creates a nicer place to shop and spend time
  • More space and greenery between Milton and Waterbeach, making the most of the Greenway to create an excellent leisure route for rural walks and horse-riding as well as an enjoyable link for those cycling between home, work, school and other destinations.

In our Waterbeach Greenway consultation guide, we have set out some suggested responses to the GCP’s consultation survey. However, we are extremely disappointed at the limited options set out in the consultation and have raised consistently raised concerns about this. Instead of asking how to make walking, wheeling and cycling better for residents, the questions focus on issues such as which side of the road to have parking on. This consultation should have been a chance to reimagine the space within Milton and engage with the community in a positive way to help people share their views and shape the proposals. From experience, we know that if design options are not included within a consultation, it is very difficult for them to be considered at a later stage.

Below we set out the alternatives that we believe need to be discussed during the consultation. We hope they help local people and decision-makers start to imagine a safer, sustainable future for Milton, Waterbeach and surrounding areas.

Jane Coston Bridge to Coles Road

Camcycle believes that wherever possible we should look to separate space for people walking and cycling in our streets and our colleagues at Cambridge Living Streets, the pedestrian charity, agree. This objective is also set out in LTN 1/20, the national cycle design standards.

The Greenway provides separate space for people walking and cycling in section 1 along Cowley Road, but inexplicably once over the Jane Coston Bridge it gives up, even though there is enough space within the highway to allow this. Therefore, our first call to action is separate space for walking and cycling to Coles Road. Many local people we have spoken to in the village would welcome this approach.

Shared paths are inconvenient for people walking and cycling: it doesn’t feel right cycling with elderly people walking there, but it’s scary cycling on the road.”
Swapna, Milton resident cycling with a child

Visual of what separate space for walking and cycling could look like on Cambridge Road, Milton (between the Jane Coston bridge and Coles Road).

Coles Road and the High Street

The highway narrows on the High Street north of Coles Road. Therefore, at this point, alternative solutions need to be considered. The GCP proposes to continue a shared-use path and where the highway narrows, to simply narrow the path. It also highlights Coles Road as an alternative route, but without enough improvements to make this street a safe and enjoyable route. Their proposal along the High Street shows it is only possible in places to deliver a 2.5 metre wide path, because the path is next to the road with a wall on the other side. Its effective width, the width that is actually possible for people to use, will be 1.5 metres.

We believe there are three options for Milton High Street that need be discussed. Two of them involve changing the way that motor vehicles access the High Street and the third does not include any restrictions.

Option 1: Install a modal filter/bus gate at the shops on the High Street and along Coles Road.
This would be the most transformative intervention, creating a low-car environment within Milton and allowing people to cycle safely on the road and to walk safely on the pavements. This option would also greatly reduce the amount of traffic that currently goes through Milton to bypass traffic on the A10. It would also present an opportunity for the creation of a village centre and public realm improvements throughout the village. Whilst this option would not restrict anyone’s ability to drive to a location within the village, it would change how people reach their destination. A temporary scheme could be trialled first, so that residents can fully understand the benefits and impacts of the scheme and suggest any necessary improvements.

Option 2: Make High Street a northbound one-way street
This option would provide space for the cycle path to continue along the full length of the High Street. Vehicles could still drive south within the village along Coles Road. Again, this could be a part of a temporary scheme, giving residents the opportunity to understand its benefits and impacts.

A one-way High Street in Milton village with a bidirectional cycle track alongside.

Option 3: Focus on reducing vehicular speed and creating a safer environment for people to walk or cycle
This option does not change the way that people can access the High Street, but many people will still need or choose to cycle there, so we must look to create a safer environment. A shared footpath within the highway width available is simply not good enough, so we must promote safer on-road cycling as well as the alternative quiet route down Coles Road. At the same time, we could widen the footpath. This will improve things for people walking plus give an alternative to those people who, for example, cycle with young children or who feel uncomfortable due to the volume of cars.

This solution is not perfect, with some cyclists still needing to share with people walking. However, it is a significant improvement on the existing proposal and can be delivered without any vehicle restrictions.

A safer environment for cycling on Milton High Street with wider pavements each side.

Ely Road to the A10

In the consultation, three options are discussed for Ely Road and the A10 slip road. In the first the slip road would remain open, in the second it would be closed but the junction would remain open, and in the third the junction would be closed.

The first option is just the existing situation, which we believe allows people to drive down the slip road at excessive speed, which they carry into the village; this option promotes rat-running and an unsafe environment in the village. Therefore, we strongly believe that the slip road should be closed. By closing the slip road, we can:

  • create more space for people walking and cycling.
  • reduce and slow down traffic.

Next the option of closing the junction altogether is discussed, but little context is given to the benefit of such a closure. It would almost completely stop people using Milton as a rat run. It would also allow for the implementation of a modal filter on the High Street (see option 1 above) without needing to also filter Coles Road. This would still reduce traffic within the village whilst allowing people to drive freely. Before any closure is taken forward, the consultation documents note that the A10 / Humphries Way junction must be upgraded.

Closing the junction would also be well suited alongside option 2 for the High Street, because it would reduce the number of cars using Coles Road. Furthermore, it would also provide an opportunity to reimagine Ely Road, with options for new planting and trees, effectively creating an extension to the linear park that we discuss below. The GCP has failed to show the broad opportunities of closing the junction and this failure has limited the discussion. We believe this option could also be included in a trial.

Milton to Waterbeach Off Road

Camcycle is pleased to see an off-road route being progressed between the two villages, but we are disappointed at the lack of ambition shown. We would like to see a continuation of separate space for people walking and cycling. This will then create a much more enjoyable space that is both functional in terms of travel and enjoyable as a local amenity. The corridor should be viewed as a linear park, with routes for walking, cycling and equestrians. This corridor could give opportunities to play and rest among additional planting and green space.

Option for a linear park between Milton and Waterbeach, with separate space for people walking and cycling.

Another issue with the current proposals is the route alignment, which heads directly north until reaching Car Dyke Road, before turning east and following the road. This route requires people in effect to cycle two sides of a triangle. Directness is one of the key design principles of cycle routes. The more direct we can make a route; the more people will use it. Changing the route alignment there will also give an opportunity to create more amenity space.

To make the route feel safe and accessible to everyone we believe it should be sensitively lit. It is worth noting that the traffic on the A10 currently causes significant levels of light pollution, and every journey walked or cycled reduces the impact of the A10. Lighting could be motion-activated and the level of lighting for walking and cycling routes can be much lower than street lighting in urban areas or on highway schemes.

The Waterbeach Greenway presents a rare opportunity to forge a high-quality active travel link and local amenity. We believe that the proposals lack ambition, do not meet national standards, and fail to offer residents a safe and enjoyable route.

Complete the GCP Waterbeach Greenway 2023 on the GCP’s consultation website by midday on Friday 8 December. Read our full guide to the consultation survey here.