This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 145.
Working together for change
Anna Williams explains how the new Chesterton active travel group is reaching out into the community to identify and work on cycling and walking issues.
From potholes to pavement parking and from Chesterton Road to the Chisholm Trail, there was a long list of issues up for discussion at the second meeting of the Chesterton active travel group. Issues had been gathered at the group’s first meeting and from feedback from visitors to the Camcycle stall at the Chesterton Festival.
At the beginning of the meeting we shared the reasons we were all there and what skills we could bring to campaigning. Some had technical drawing skills, some had experience in local politics, some shared stories of previous Camcycle campaign successes in the area. There were keen cyclists, reluctant cyclists and those who walked or used a mobility scooter (not good on the high cambers of some East Chesterton pavements.) As well as the issues we wanted to see improved, we also gathered our thoughts on what we loved about the area: the River Cam, green spaces, a friendly community which still retained a village feel and the Haymakers pub with great cycle parking.
If you can give some time, get involved. All are welcome
After getting a feel for priorities, the plan was to work in small groups, but with many people new to campaigning it worked better to gather in one big circle to discuss issues together using a new ‘change planner’ template we were trying out. This helped us think about our theory of change and which tactics would have the most impact. The circle helped reinforce a key principle of this group – we’d like to be as inclusive as possible. Ways of doing this include mixing up the locations of meetings, making sure meetings are accessible to those with disabilities, publishing progress and minutes on our website and engaging with the community on a local Facebook group called ‘Chesterton Babble’. In the new year, we intend to publish and distribute a new issue of Chesterton Cycling News (like the newssheets we’ve been delivering in the Mill Road area) and write an article on the group for the Chesterton News community magazine.
Meanwhile, we’ll be progressing work on the four issues voted top priorities:
- Water Lane including Water Street junction
- the need to tackle pavement parking
- the route of the Chisholm Trail from the new bridge to Moss Bank including a safe crossing of Fen Road
- Chesterton Road from Elizabeth Way to Mitcham’s Corner.
If you care about these issues and can give a little time to help, do get involved. All are welcome.
Solutions for Station Road
Tom McKeown introduces Healthy Streets for Histon and Impington, a group which is campaigning for a safer route between the villages’ Infant and Junior schools.
Since the early summer I have been part of a local group of parents and residents hoping to make improvements for walking and cycling within the villages of Histon and Impington. From the very beginning Station Road has been high on our meeting agendas: it’s notorious amongst residents for being horrible to walk, cycle and even drive along.
For those unfamiliar with the area, Station Road connects the villages’ Infant and Junior schools, so is a key route for families moving between the two locations. The Infant school is on a side street that is blighted by parents driving as close as they can before parking, restricting the access for everyone. Station Road itself runs parallel to the main B1049 so suffers from drivers seeing a queue towards the lights-controlled crossroads at the Green and diverting along Station Road to avoid it. Parked vehicles reduce the width to the point it is dangerous to pass cyclists, but this does not stop people trying, especially as they tend to be the sort of driver who is unwilling to be patient for the lights on the main road in the first place. It can be even unpleasant to drive along with opposing drivers competing for the same limited space – deadlocks frequently get resolved by mounting and driving along the pavement. In short, improvements here have huge potential to improve active travel within the villages.
With many members of the group new to campaigning, potential solutions were not well known. Also, the road suffers from an earlier scheme to restrict turns from the High Street. By all accounts this made the situation worse, increasing aggression from drivers following the pseudo-one-way. Any new ideas were quickly shot down as something had already been tried and failed. To show group members, parish councillors and interested parties what is possible, I produced a list of potential solutions – drawn wherever possible from local, existing examples. None is intended to be the solution, merely an example of existing ideas to get people thinking.
The width available along Station Road is insufficient for cycle lanes, so the next option in the cycle improvement toolkit is a reduction in through traffic
I suggested that the width available along Station Road is insufficient for segregated cycleways, on-carriageway cycle lanes or (boo, hiss) shared-use pavements. So the next option in the cycle improvement toolkit is a reduction in through traffic.
Traffic Regulation Order
The simplest option would be a TRO or Traffic Regulation Order. There is an example outside the Junior school which has a motor vehicles ban during dropoff and collection times. With no road engineering to enforce the restriction it relies on drivers being honourable. Sadly this means it is ignored by a minority of drivers. In these cases the presence of the restriction gives people the courage to speak to those ignoring the restriction – some of whom may simply be unaware. A non-physical restriction is less likely to show up on GPS routing for sat-navs so might be missed by occasional visitors. This simple step would be a useful demonstration of the principle, with later engineering solutions becoming easier to obtain if the TRO proved insufficient.
This involves placing a gate, or removable bollard, within the street or at either end. These can be moved into position when it’s necessary to restrict traffic, i.e. when people are walking and cycling to the schools. I’d suggest something manually operated instead of automatic rising bollards, with their associated maintenance cost and noisy machinery. (Indeed, rising bollards are being removed elsewhere for these reasons.) This does however require a member of staff from school, or a local volunteer, tasked with its operation. Similar schemes have been successful for creating school streets – removing motor traffic while children are arriving or leaving – in London.
The majority of issues on Station Road are associated with the school runs, so these time-limited options are appealing; however, a complete discussion of possible solutions shouldn’t exclude fulltime options.
Adding a physical restriction to through trips along the street
By using a very narrow gap, residents can choose to leave via either end of the road, and visitors have access to businesses throughout, but it becomes unappealing as a shortcut compared to staying with B1049. The gated junction on Cromwell Road in Romsey is a local example.
Making a single point closure in the middle of the street
This allows residents full access to properties – some exiting via Boot corner (the junction of Station Road and the High Street, at the Boot pub), some past the war memorial. In this set-up throughtraffic shortcuts are physically prevented, rather than made unattractive. The GPS routing issues of previous suggestions are resolved with a full-time physical barrier. Locally, an example can be seen in Gwydir Street, where restricted access by motor vehicles has not forced closure of The Alexandra Arms – adjacent to the barrier – nor businesses on the nearby light industrial estate. Deliveries can still be made, but only from the correct side. Gates can be designed to swing open for emergency service access.
Another option is adding gateway features: designing the entrance to a road so that the transition from through route to residential street is clear. For Station Road this would be a redesign of the Boot corner and war memorial entrances to Station Road so that the transition into a residential street is clear. New Road provides a good local example – although it no longer connects to the B1049, a single lane gives access through a bollard-protected area to a handful of properties. With a little imagination Boot corner could have a similar arrangement. Full access is available to residents and businesses, but the narrow entrance reduces its appeal as a quick cut-through to avoid lights at the green.
Installing blended crossings (also known as Copenhagen crossings) is a key part of indicating a quiet side street. This is where the pavement is continued at the same level across the side street (see below). Driving in requires a ramp up and over the pedestrian space, making it clear that walking has priority; drivers enter as guests.
Many of these options would not require expensive reworking of the street. Temporary measures such as planters, benches or cycle stands can be used to trial proposals without the expense of moving utilities, realigning kerb lines and laying tarmac. They can then be moved, removed, or replaced with permanent features depending on feedback.
I hope that sharing the potential solutions will start to change the conversation and enable long-term improvements to be made.
Pop-up Lollipop Action
On 16 October our members were out as lollipop people helping families on their walks to school. We had produced lollipop props and completed the look with lab coats and high-viz. It was wonderful to see so many smiling faces at the simple presence of a lollipop crossing to help cross the road at difficult locations. There were, of course, many requests to come back on other occasions but this is unmanageable around regular commitments. However, we hope the event demonstrated what could be possible if efforts were focused on improving routes for walking and cycling, and less emphasis given to private motor vehicles.