Gonville Crossing –
quotes from petition signatories
These are quotes which people who have signed the petition have given us.
Yesterday I was negotiating the crossing with my 9 year old daughter, we were weaving in between cyclists and pedestrians, and I was sympathising with the tandem riders coming from the Parker’s Piece side towards us whose path was blocked by a car after they had moved well over to the left side of the crossing to allow room for oncoming road crossers.
This new crossing is a disgrace. Cyclists and pedestrians should be separated, and it is a nightmare if anyone (cyclist or pedestrian) is crossing from the other side at the same time. I know that this is no longer “government policy”, but is essential and makes crossings much safer for both cyclists and pedestrians (of which I am both).
There is also not enough space when crossing from the Gresham Road side to turn into the cycle lane (the corner is too sharp), and it is necessary to cross into the wrong lane, which is very dangerous and inconvenient for anyone in the correct lane (coming from Parkers Piece). I also think the automatic detection should be reinstated, and indications of when to cross should be clearer and visible from the opposite side of the road.
This crossing is very important to cyclists, like myself, who cycle from the south of the city into town. Making this route difficult would dissuade cyclists from using it. Some might use cars, increasing traffic, while others may choose to use Hills Road, which is more dangerous and involves contention with the buses for the use of the bus/cycle lane. I am therefore very keen to see the best possible design of crossing here, and to avoid the numerous errors that the Cycle Campaign has pointed out. I fully support the Cycle Campaign’s suggestions.
This crossing has been on my way home from for the last 12 years, from Union Road to Arbury.
Regrettably, since the changes were made, the crossing has become so much more congested that I sometimes feel resigned to having to go through the Hills Road/Lensfield Road traffic lights instead. This means sitting in queues of traffic fumes, and often a several minute wait to get through the lights.
So any review of the crossing needs to accept that cycle traffic is likely to have been displaced to a much less pleasant, less convenient and possible less safe alternative.
The timing of this is particularly apposite as I was wondering how one went about making a petition to the council on exactly the same grounds.
The new version of the crossing is clearly more dangerous:
– due to the small roadside space for a very busy crossing, pedestrians and cyclists are forced to mingle tightly. It is not generally possible for people to decide to self-segregate, and this also means that left/right sorting of cyclists (i.e., by which direction they are travelling) tends to be impossible. The result is a mixture of people trying to negotiate their directions in the middle of the road, rather than having decided at the roadside.
– the only reason I have heard for the new layout of the crossing was to render a right turn towards the fire station legal. It may technically now be legal, but it is significantly more dangerous in terms of potential collisions with other cyclists and pedestrians.
– as a pedestrian, I am particularly distressed at the omission of “flashing red/green men” visible *across* the road – the road-side indicators are not very visible when the crossing is crowded.
– as a cyclist, I am distressed at the same absence because it makes it impossible to plan one’s actions as one approaches the crossing – the road side indicators are generally *not* visible from a distance.
– as a parent, the same absence worries me because of all the other issues – it would be very easy for a child to make an incorrect decision, but most children do know how to parse the red/green flashing man across the road.
– at the roadside, the “flashing man” indicators are difficult to see in many circumstances – quite frequently there will be people standing in front of them, for instance. As a cyclist, when coming out of town, seeing the relevant indicator requires turning one’s body (assuming it is visible at all). The red “block” indicators do not substitute for the full indicator, as they are only two-state (red/black) to indicate three actual states (button pressed and waiting, safe to cross, button not pressed). This is quite a dangerous system design, easily solved by reinstatement of across-road indicators (see above).
– the town-side indicator/button in the centre of the cycle way serves no evident purpose, and its pole is purely an obstruction. I have never seen anyone press it, and to stop at that point to use it would cause an obstruction.
– on the route into town, it is frequently impossible for cyclists to perform a sharp left turn to stay on the correct side of the cycleway – to do so requires an empty crossing, allowing a wide arc to be taken. For cyclists with wider or longer vehicles, it is generally impossible (on my tricycle, I can only do so if I am able to traverse the road to the right of the crossing, instead of to the left, which means that the crossing must be empty).
-trying to merge back to the correct side of the cycleway then requires worrying about cyclists behind one who *have* made the tight turn, and are approaching rapidly from behind. Whilst, of course, looking out for other pedestrians and cyclists approaching one.
– on the old crossing, pedestrians had a clear idea of where to go, and *most* pedestrians did not use the bulk of the cycleway for walking (except, of course, for ignoring the very strange “dogs leg” that used to be there). With the new crossing, most pedestrians decide that the obviously sensible route to get to the crossing is via the cycleway.
– on the double crossing, cars would occasionally stop on the crossing in heavy traffic, but there would generally be room to get around them. With the much narrower crossing, cars stopping on-crossing appears to happen about as frequently, but there is much less room, and thus the crossing is either unusable, or much less safe.
I’m sure there are other points that I have forgotten, but the point should be clear.
Note that I have been using this crossing for many years, as a pedestrian, as a pedestrian with child buggy, as a parent and as a commuter cyclist. Before these works, the crossing was generally pleasant to use. Now I consider it dangerous.
I am distressed that the cycle campaign were not consulted – surely it would make sense to consult all local cycling organisations as a matter of course. I am *very* disturbed that it was apparently claimed that they *were* consulted, when they had not been.
Lastly, I do not understand how many of these problems could not have been seen beforehand. I naively assumed that crossings would be, in some sense, “play tested” – it would not be hard to make a to-scale mock up with cardboard boxes and gaffer tape in a parking lot, and then invite some people to be drivers, cyclists and pedestrians! – which would immediately show many of the problems (for instance, the over-tight turn). But apparently not.
The Gonville Place crossing is one I use frequently as a cyclist and my experience is that it is often very busy, with several cyclists and pedestrians trying to cross in both directions at the same time. The current (new)layout means that there is no separation of pedestrians and cyclists, although there are separate cycle tracks on the Parker’s Piece side. In addition, the positioning of the various posts makes it awkward to turn onto the correct cycle track on Parker’s Piece having crossed Gonville Place. I’ve seen cyclists instead use the other part of the cycle track, intended for cyclists approaching the crossing from Parker’s Piece.
Given the high density of cyclists, many of whom do not seem very experienced, it is vital, on safety grounds, that cycle provision is constructed to the highest standards. The poor design of some provision for cyclists makes me think that those who design the layouts are not cyclists. But there are plenty of cyclists who would be prepared to help improve provision, and provide the benefit of their experience. I would certainly be prepared to do so.
The current sound indicator which lets both cyclists and pedestrians know when to cross is quieter than the old crossing’s beeper. With the sound of traffic it’s sometimes almost impossible to hear the beeps, which, combined with the unclear light signals invites people to ignore the lights completely and is a recipe for disaster. It also means that people walking along the pavement in Gonville Place (southern side) are all the more oblivious to the changing signals and pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross the road, which is also dangerous. Whatever changes are made should increase, not decrease, these pedestrians’ awareness of the crossing point.
The new crossing continues to suffer from the problem that cars in queuing traffic stop in the crossing point, meaning that users of the crossing are forced to take a tortuous route across the road. Since both pedestrians and cyclists are forced to use the same limited space to carry out these manoeuvres the flow of both users is even more impeded over the crossing.
The lack of segregation of the two users of the crossing means that pedestrians wandering obliviously across the cycle lane on the South side of Parker’s Piece (but North of the crossing) are more common and dangerous, both to cyclists and to themselves.
The crossing was fine as it was before. If the reason for changing it was to increase the traffic flow along Gonville Place at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians then the county council’s priorities are all wrong: they should instead be trying to reduce motorised traffic, not encouraging it.
For an example of a crossing that makes cycling quick and easy and encourages people to cycle, the one from Midsummer Common toward Fair Street is exemplary.
The crossing is used by a lot of young schoolchildren and young people on the way to the 6th form colleges, and the changes reduce their safety
The crossing is now very awkward, with mixed pedestrians and cyclists, especially when busy. Many of the pedestrians appear not to be aware that it is mixed cycle/pedestrian now. As a daily user commuting between north and south Cambridge, I find it very annoying
The changes clearly make this crossing less safe: cyclists and pedestrians are mixed up; pedestrians do not observe any sort of rule (such as keeping to the left) and so at busy times this has effectively been changed into a pedestrian crossing with bikes mixed in. Not having proper traffic lights on the far side of the road is also annoying as a cyclist.
I would like to add a fifth point as it is something that needed to be done even with the old arrangement.
5) the pavement curb on the south side of Gonville Place should be rounded off to the road surface for about 10 or 12 feet from its present corner to allow cyclists to take the corner safely into Gresham Road coming from the direction of Kelsey Kerridge.
Does that make enough sense for the Council to understand it? I’ll put it with my printed petition too.
Thanks for organising this, I keep meaning to ring up the council about it as it really, really annoys me every day when I cycle across this unsafe inconvenient crossing that used to be so good.
Only this week when I went into town that way I couldn’t believe that there weren’t any proper traffic lights to look at to see if they were on green or red as I was approaching the crossing
My wife uses [a] two-seater bike trailer for our young kids and finds the new posts a real obstacle.
There are a couple of other things that have occurred to me regarding this crossing that are different to the situation before recent changes.
Approaching by cycle from either side on the cycle lane, it’s very, very difficult to know if it’s OK to cross or not as the signal light for pedestrians / cyclists is very small and hard to see. I’ve found myself cycling out not really knowing if it’s OK to cross but having to make judgements based on whether there’s any traffic coming. On reflection I feel it’s actually too dangerous to do it that way as there are 3 lanes and possibly other cyclists / pedestrians trying the same from the other direction. It’s simply too confusing. There needs to be absolutely clear signalling and for safety reasons I would support mandatory stop on red for cyclists at this crossing.
The audible signal doesn’t help much, it’s so quiet.
Lack of auto-detection is a loss, as it used to work well.
The waiting time to cross seems to have increased.
Vehicles driving into and waiting on the crossing in queuing traffic needs to be addressed. This is a common unnecessary hazard here.
Thanks for your work on this, much appreciated!
James – well done on pursuing this – its a fine example of botched cycling infrastructure – and it needs to be fixed.
In addition someone in a position of authority at the County Council works department should be made to publicly apologise for the extraordinary waste of public money spent on replacing a perfectly serviceable and safe crossing with this idiotic, badly laid out, and unsafe arrangement.
Proper and full publication of who authorised what payments and to whom is required also. Let’s see some accountability here.
I’m not a city resident but would like to sign the petition anyway. I’m sure the council realises that not all users of roads etc in Cambridge live in the city!
I’m not a Cambridge City resident (South Cambs). I particularly support the use of detector loops.
I use this crossing occasionally, usually from Gresham Road, when I wish to turn right towards East Road. But that was forbidden under the old system. If that is still the case under the new system, I wish to see the restriction removed.
I often have College functions to attend which can end quite late. The detector loops were great: they made me feel much safer as a woman cycling home alone late at night, because by changing the lights they enabled me to keep cycling and not have to stop and wait at a crossing located next to a big empty open space.
I am not sure what was wrong with the crossing before. It safely segregated pedestrians and cyclists and allowed a safe and speedy way between Parkers Piece and the Station and Queen Ann Terrace Car Park. I now use the Hills Road/Lensfield Road traffic lights instead as it is quicker and safer on a bike and less inconvenient to the many pedestrians now crammed into the same narrow path as the cyclists. With the current layout and the run-up to Christmas, when there are many more shoppers parking at Queen Ann Terrace and thus using the crossing, the situation can only lead to delays, anger and accidents.
I always enjoy using the few crossings in Cambridge that have detector loops for bicycles. Please install more of them, don’t take them away from us!
I am really amazed at what was done to this crossing. I can’t see any way in which it is better than what it replaced. It is worse for both pedestrians and cyclists. What a waste of time, effort and money!
I agree that the remodelling of the crossing has not been successful. In particular, with other than very low numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, it is almost impossible to do the left turn from the Gresham Road direction, around the chicane of posts, into the correct lane bordering Gonville Place. At busy times, this bottleneck can leave cyclists dangerously marooned in the middle of the road when the lights show green to road traffic. I have two daughters cycling over this crossing to and from school every day, and feel concerned that it is not safer.
Good work. We fully support your petition … the changes have been ridiculous, particularly from a cyclist’s standpoint.
One of us found the way across blocked yesterday by a car that had been halted on the crossing by a traffic jam. What about painting a yellow lined box across the crossing?
The other one of us found himself perplexed by the lack of regular lights for cyclists when he rode up to it for the first time since the redesign.
Paul and Gale Ryan
Having cycled in Cambridge for over 30 years, I have witness first hand both very good and very poor highway design with reference to the provision for cyclists. The original Gonville Place cycle / pedestrian crossing was, in my opinion, a very good example of highway design. The redesigned junction in contrast, must be one of the worst examples of highway design in Cambridge.
Reducing this very busy crossing by half is unacceptable. It reduces the crossings capacity by 50%! That’s the same as closing one of the lanes on the A14!!! No one in a car would accept that.
There is no consistency with regard to cycle crossing provision. At the junction of East Road and Fitzroy Street, the previous narrow pedestrian crossing has been widen which has greatly improved the crossing. Half a mile away, in Gonville place the existing crossing has been reduced by half.
I was prompted to write these few words after overhearing a mother talking to her two young children as she prepared to cross the new crossing. She said to her children ‘Keep out of the crossing because you might get hit by a bike’. When they crossed the road, they crossed outside the marked crossing width just in front of the crossings stop line which is clearly very dangerous. I use the crossing every day at peak times when the volume of cyclists and pedestrians is high and witness similar behaviour by pedestrians and cyclist, each trying to avoid the other as they try to cross. The reduction of width of the crossing has clearly reduced its capacity to the extent that it does not operate safely at peak times. The current design is forcing pedestrians, particularly the young and old to walk outside the safety of the marked crossing in order to cross without getting in the way of cyclists. This is clearly dangerous and is a direct result of the changes to the crossing.
A Stage Three Safety Audit should be carried out it peak times, 8-9am and 5-6pm when the serious shortcoming the new crossing can be seen.
In conclusion, the new crossing design is fundamentally flawed and dangerous. Only returning the crossing to its previous width will be sufficient to solve the current problems which is likely to require an almost total redesign and require significant expenditure.
Thank you for the note about the Gonville Place crossing. I use it regularly, and fully concur with the comments and objections you have raised. I have signed a form and posted it to you.
One other point concerning this crossing that frustrates me is the fact that traffic can sit in the road over the crossing after the lights have changed, especially at bust times, making it difficult for both pedestrians and ‘cyclists to cross. Would it be possible to have this stretch of the road made into a yellow box? There might be regulations against this, of course, but trying to thread your way, on bike or on foot through bumper-to-bumper stationary traffic is unnerving at best and must be almost impossible for disabled and blind pedestrians.
Could not agree more – when coming from Gresham Rd, once across the Road Its impossible to turn left as the angle is far too sharp and there is a post in the way – had this experience only yesterday…
Although I don’t live in Cambridge, my family does and I am a frequent user of its normally excellent cycling facilities. What a pity this important crossing has been compromised. Is the designer of this altered facility a cyclist? Probably not!
Although I do not live in Cambridge city I often use this route when cycling between my office and the city centre. The changes have made this crossing much less satisfactory.
A perfectly good crossing with two minor faults was transformed to a seriously unpleasant crossing with many major problems and two major benefits completely removed. It is very worrying that the City transportation dept. could even contemplate such a crossing design.
The revamped crossing at Gonville Place makes the situation much worse for both cyclists and pedestrians. Because of the lack of delineation, nobody knows which part they’re supposed to use and everyone gets thrown together. This leads to confusion and irritation for cyclist and pedestrian alike, as well as a more dangerous crossing.
I can only describe this crossing as a catalogue of errors. Why, for instance, are there thirteen bollards/obstructions on one side, one of which is next to a fence? This is far from the accessible, barrier free environment that walkers and cyclists should expect. What was once a usable crossing, part of an important cycle route to the station, is now one of the most problematic in Cambridge.
I feel strongly about two issues:
1) width of the crossing
The crossing is now narrower than it was before, and this results in increased conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. I do not think that desegregation in itself is a problem, but the reduction in size of the crossing is a serious flaw.
2) automatic cycle detection loops
There is no logical justification for removing these. They improve the crossing and do not affect pedestrians adversely.
I live on Glisson Road so I use this crossing on a regular basis both by foot and by bike.
The previous crossing had small problems in that sometimes pedestrians crossed at the bike crossing but the problem was no more than a minor irritation if I was biking. The paths were clearly marked and it was easy to understand where one should go when crossing and afterwards.
Now that the changes have been made, the crossing is a nightmare. It is unsafe, confusing, difficult to manouvre by bike and minor irritations have increased to major ones!
* Safety – everyone crosses in one place. During peak times, the crossing is a game of dodgems whether you are on foot or bike. It’s simply a free for all with everyone vieing for space.
* Confusing – I never know where I should look to see if it’s safe to cross. Sometimes people are standing in front of the new lights. If you are cycling up, it is natural to look at the traffic lights. I find the new lighting system very confusing. It is also confusing to know where to cross the street, both by bike and foot. I can see that I’m not the only one because everyone looks around to see what to do. There are no longer any clear markings except on the Gresham road side which it is clearly marked for bikes. But bikes are funnelled into the same crossing as pedestrians.
* If I am on a bike, crossing from Gresham road to parkside, I am expected to make a shart left turn around a post in order to stay in the lane that one assumes is the bike lane. I have decided not to try it anymore after nearly ploughing into the post on numerous occasions and losing my balance. Again, you only have to stand and watch to see that many people have problems with that.
Please could you restore what was a working crossing back to its original state. I’m astounded that money was wasted on the present one and whoever designed it must be permanently glued to their chair because no one who walks or cycles would have designed that.
Not to dilute the above complaint, may I just say that the new bike crossing lights are horrible! I also cross from Midsommer Common to the Grafton at New Street and I just can’t read those lights. I have been honked at by cars on numerous occasions for crossing when I shouldn’t. I never had a problem before but I just do not like the new lights (the same ones in use at East Road and above – horrible!)