This article was published in 2018, in Magazine 141.
The eastern side of Chesterton has been dubbed the city’s ‘wild west’ after hitting the press this year for the apparent lack of safety on its roads. Fen Road, Green End Road and Water Street have all been named as hotspots for dangerous driving and antisocial behaviour towards cyclists. The area has also, however, seen extensive (and ongoing) work aiming to improve provision for cyclists. So how are things for those who carry on cycling in the area? We asked local residents to share their recent experiences.
Anna Langley, local resident
I live in Moss Bank, the small street that runs between Fen Road and Cambridge North station, in the remotest east corner of Chesterton. I’ve lived in this street for 14 years, and I do the overwhelming majority of my travelling around Cambridge by bike.
In many ways, it’s an ideal location, with much-improved transport links courtesy of the new railway station. Especially welcome is being able to get so easily and quickly onto the Busway cycle path. The river is close at hand, offering what The Guardian described as ‘one of the ten best cycle rides in the UK’. Riding along the river towpath on a fine day is certainly a great joy.
Sadly, as you may know from the local news, there are downsides. As everywhere, there is negligible maintenance of the roads, and the surfaces are in very poor condition. Fen Road takes a beating from the many large and heavy vehicles which traverse it. There are potholes and sinking manhole covers which force riders further out into the road than feels safe. When it rains, surface water collects into large puddles which have sometimes concealed large potholes in their murky depths, waiting to capsize unwary riders. The alternative is to use the towpath along the river. This was resurfaced more than a decade ago and stands in urgent need of resurfacing, as it is again collecting a lot of surface water in puddles, making it a fair-weather ride only.
Next, and more famously, there is the aggressive driving along Fen Road to contend with. Speeding along Fen Road by car and van drivers is rife. The 20mph speed limit is generally ignored. While a lot of drivers drive with appropriate caution around cyclists, there are enough who either don’t care at all or are actively hostile towards us, causing a lot of concern. Most of the time this manifests itself as reckless driving, but also includes deliberate attacks. Over the last year, I’ve had two attacks. In the first, a stone was thrown at my face from a passing van, which knocked my glasses off and hit me hard in the side of the nose. In the second incident, a vehicle passed me hurling abuse before speeding ahead, doing a U-turn, and waiting for me in the newly constructed Water Lane bike lane where more abuse awaited me as I passed. I got footage of this, and it turned out that the driver was drinking beer at the wheel … at eight o’clock in the morning.
Between the reckless and the aggressive driving, it feels that it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured along this road. This is deterring some residents of the area from cycling. Like many others, I feel that unless it is really tackled through increased policing, and providing the residents and businesses of the area of Fen Road east of the railway line with a shorter link to the A14, we will get nowhere. I’m disappointed that the proposals for segregated bike lanes along Fen Road didn’t come to pass. But I hope that the proposed new pedestrian and cycle bridge will give us a way to get away from the hostile traffic of Fen Road.
Bob N-W, local commuter and parent
I haven’t personally felt especially threatened but I’m a confident cyclist. I’m not sure at what point I’ll feel comfortable with my (currently pre-school) children cycling on the roads. I do have some issues:
1) The new Fen Road cycle lane is good but it ends too soon. I have to cross over the road and then cycle on Fen Road to get home, which can feel unsafe.
2) The cut-through from Anglers Way to Cheney Way could do with a dropped kerb as it’s tricky with a bike let alone for anyone riding with children in a trailer. It’s often used as an alternative for those wanting to avoid Fen Road.
3) The new, advisory cycle lanes on Green End Road are pointless as there are usually cars parked in them.
4) Cyclists would benefit from a filtering system for bikes approaching Elizabeth Way roundabout on Chesterton High Street. There’s often a queue of cars and buses blocking the road and there is a wide, virtually unused pavement that’s very tempting to ride on but isn’t marked as shared use. The roundabout itself could be redesigned in the Dutch-style to support less confident cyclists but the queuing traffic is the main problem I encounter daily.
Mr Chang, local commuter
I have been cycling in Cambridge for eleven years, ever since I moved here for my graduate job. For eight years the bike was my only mode of transport, and even since owning a car more recently, I still mostly find myself cycling – either beside the guided Busway to work, or on Fen Road or Milton Road into town.
For me, the Jane Coston cycle bridge to and from Milton provides my lifeline into the city. It means that cyclists and pedestrians can cross the A14 safely. I have also seen the transformation made by several projects aimed at improving conditions for cyclists – all of which convince me that segregated cycling lanes are of vital importance for the safety of cyclists. Within the last ten years, good examples of these include: • the cycle path beside the guided Busway to Orchard Park • The guided Busway path to Cambridge North Station • the new cycle path alongside Cowley Road.
Currently, I’m looking forward to the completion of several ongoing projects to introduce segregated cycle lanes, including those on Milton Road and at the Milton Road end of Green End Road. The cycle route via the Chisholm Trail bridge into the Abbey area will also mean that cyclists can be safe from cars.
All these improvements will make it easier for residents and visitors, young and old, to cycle in the city and reduce the congestion that the city suffers sorely from. When the opportunity arises,
I would strongly recommend people to support plans to make segregated cycle paths a key feature in new street designs and road layouts.
I hope that the new pedestrian and cycle bridge will give us a way to get away from the hostile traffic of Fen Road
How do you find cycling in East Chesterton? Let us know by emailing email@example.com, by posting on Cyclescape, our members’ forum or by sending us a message on Twitter or Facebook. And please get involved to help us work for improvements.