This article was published in 2018, in Magazine 141.
Our Cambridge Cycling Survey showed that Mill Road was a place people frequently avoided when cycling. We look at recent progress on our campaign to turn it back into a vital part of the cycle network and into a thriving destination for residents, businesses and visitors.
It’s been a busy time for our Mill Road campaign. We are in the process of going through results and feedback from our two successful public workshops, where residents, traders, commuters and shoppers gave us their views on what they would like to see for Mill Road. Many great ideas emerged, and we are really excited to incorporate these into our vision to make it truly representative of the community.
Camcycle was a partner for a Student Innovation Programme with Cambridge Hub, and for our project a team of students designed and conducted surveys of traders along Mill Road. Seventy-one traders were surveyed about their views of the street and changes they would like to see. Traders were most concerned about traffic-related issues, which included congestion, access to parking, and a lack of cycling infrastructure. We will conduct another survey in early 2019 of customers on Mill Road to analyse their travel behaviours.
We know that traders are concerned that reducing through-traffic will have a negative impact on their business, but a recent study conducted by Transport for London (TfL) shows that improving walking and cycling access boosts trade. TfL found that streets with improved cycling, walking and public realm infrastructure increased retail sales by 30%, and that people walking spend 40% more than people who drive. Cycle parking delivers five times more retail spend per square metre than the same area of car parking, and people who walk and cycle visit the high street more frequently. Closing Mill Road to through-traffic would allow more room for walking and cycling, as well as other components of a successful street like improved bus services, delivery bays, parklets and cycle parking.
The bridge closure next summer is an excellent opportunity to trial elements of our vision. Network Rail and Govia Thameslink have started to provide more information about the closure, and appear to be incorporating feedback from the community about how to mitigate the impact. At their first information session, several Camcycle members spoke about the importance of keeping the bridge open for pedestrians, and investing in the community to keep the street thriving during the closure. Since then, a petition has been started by Romsey Councillor Dave Baigent to maintain pedestrian access over the bridge, avoiding lengthy diversions. As a result of this and other feedback, Govia Thameslink have said that they will provide ‘planned periods of pedestrian access throughout the closure’ which will include all Sundays and evenings. We should have a clearer idea of the exact opening times by the end of January. Given that the volume of pedestrians and cyclists far exceeds that of car traffic over the bridge, we think it is imperative that as much pedestrian access is maintained as possible. We also hope that continued consultations will lead to Network Rail making investments in the Mill Road community to mitigate the effects of the closure, for example by reinstating a Mill Road coordinator.