Systematic poor quality cycle provision

The entrance to the new Park & Ride site at Trumpington is just one more example of systematic poor quality cycle provision symptomatic of a mediocre vision of cycling.

The poor quality of cycling facilities has always been one of the main concerns of the Cycling Campaign. So often, there is a Hobson’s choice. On the one hand, you can use an intimidating road environment. On the other, you can have a frustrating experience on what is supposed to be a purpose-built cycle facility. Worse still, a simple footpath that has had a blue sign put on it authorising cycling. If you don’t want to mix with traffic, why do you have to be rated as a second-class traveller?

Picture of Hauxton Road
Hauxton Road, Trumpington. Cyclists have to wait twice – or ignore the lights and dodge round the island

These facilities don’t get constructed by accident. They are constructed by people who have no idea what it is like to ride a bike on a regular basis, and who don’t care about the experience. You can tell the difference in schemes constructed by someone who does cycle and someone who doesn’t – but even then contractors often get the detail wrong, or limited money means continual compromise.

Lack of quality of off-road paths very often arises because of one of three things: inadequate width, poor surfaces or interruptions. The entrances to the park and ride sites around the City are examples of systematic, deliberately low quality provision. The new site opened at Trumpington in November 2001 is typical, and is very similar to the year-old site on Madingley Road.

Island at Trumpington Park & Ride
Hauxton Road, Trumpington.
Obviously incomplete, but when surfaced, cyclists will have to cross through this cage

Both of these have a two-way path shared with (albeit few) pedestrians leading up to the entrance. The path is narrow – too narrow to comfortably pass a cyclist going the other way. The crossing of the entrance is controlled by traffic lights. You have to press the button. After you have waiting a longer turn than you would have to on the road, you then cross to the middle where there is an island surrounded by barriers. Barely wide enough for one bike, you then have to wait for a second light to change to cross.

Well that’s the theory. Of course what a lot of cyclists will do is ignore the second light (actually it is legal to do so, as Dr Dynamo explains in his first newsletter article) and dodge round the island.

This kind of arrangement is an insult even to pedestrians. It says to both groups “you don’t matter as much as motor vehicles – you can wait”.

At Trumpington, the poor quality is evident all the way along the route. The entrance to the Park & Ride site for cars 100m up the road, is a fast slip road. There isn’t any reasonable crossing for bikes in the face of this traffic. Further out, the width of the path is only a few centimetres, and takes a right angle bend to the motorway slip road with no curve to it at all.

Picture of Madingley Road P& Ride site
Picture of Madingley Road P& Ride site
Madingley Road Park & Ride site: round to the left, sharp right, wait twice, sharp right, round to the left

At Madingley Road, the situation is if anything, worse. Not only do you have to cross on two stages through a narrow cage, but you have to do two right angle turns on each side of the crosssing. These put you in exactly the wrong position to see the traffic.

At the Newmarket Road Park & Ride site, there is only one stage to the crossing, but again there are right angle turns. These are made worse by the railings which narrow the path even further, and the traffic light controller conveniently planted in the middle of the path.

Picture of Newmarket Road P& Ride site
Newmarket Road Park & Ride site: no one would dream of doing something so abysmally awkward if it were done for a car