Highways England show utter disregard for cyclists as they block route to Histon and Impington

This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 144.

By the end of July, the western-side pavement of the B1049 was fenced off, leaving people from Histon to squeeze onto a metre-wide pavement instead.
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On 22 June Highways England shut down the Busway between Orchard Park and Histon until 30 August (as of this writing), in order to widen the A14 overpass in their massive project that we sadly know will bring more pollution and congestion to the area. They gave people five days notice, insofar as they put one small sign up five days before the shutdown. Luckily one of our eagle-eyed members noticed and raised the alarm. In response to our enquiries about diversion routes and notices, Highways England spokespeople emphatically said that this was not their problem and blamed the county council. The county, meanwhile, managed with one day to go to put up a set of small and confusing diversion signs via the Orchard Park Busway spur and the B1049. One of the reasons they were confusing is that the signs from Cambridge Road, Impington pointed people towards a tiny pavement on the east side of the B1049, with no dropped kerbs nor crossing to reach it.

Unsafe crossing built by Highways England at the new Boxworth End roundabout near Swavesey.
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Over the course of July, a crossing and dropped kerbs were installed, but by the end of the month we learned that this tiny pavement was also closed. This left people coming from Histon and Impington with the terrible choice of cycling amongst motor traffic through the dangerous roundabout or squeezing onto the remaining one-metre-wide pavement while adding four extra crossings to their journey. In fact, this pavement is not certified for shared-use, so as of this writing, Histon and Impington are officially cut off from Cambridge by bike, except for people bold and brave enough to mingle with motor traffic on a massive trunk road roundabout.

Meeting with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner to discuss dangerous junctions.
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In addition, we’ve come across examples of roundabouts and access roads being built with extremely dangerous crossings for walking and cycling, and there are more such horrors to come. That damage will last for years, if not decades, and cost many millions to fix. Highways England has ignored their own design standard for cycle infrastructure, IAN 195/16, and they have done so with an obvious bad faith argument: they claim that they do not need to provide safe infrastructure for cycling because the same paths are also shared by people walking and riding horses. The reasoning is beyond perverse, but sadly typical.

This behaviour by Highways England is yet another example of unacceptable 20th-century-style steamrolling of communities. They clearly don’t care about anybody who isn’t a motorist. This could have been a shining moment, as they are currently installing brand new and attractive walking and cycling bridges over the A14.

What good are beautiful new walking and cycling bridges when you can’t reach them without risking your life?

Yet all the potential goodwill has been shattered by their complete lack of communication, lack of interest in the communities being affected by the works, and dangerous junctions being built without any consultation. What good are the beautiful new walking and cycling bridges when you can’t reach them without risking your life trying to cross a high-speed roundabout arm?

We’ve set up a petition calling on Highways England to respect the safety and needs of people walking and cycling. Add your signature now at tinyurl.com/HEpetition

Matthew Danish