This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 100.
Last summer a group of campaigners set out to investigate anecdotal reports of inconvenient cycle access and bike parking at Addenbrooke’s. The main themes which recur are: permeability of the site including signage and safety; lack of and poor design of much cycle parking; and the issue of new development versus existing infrastructure.
The main interested constituencies are, in no particular order: NHS employees, University employees, employees of other institutions on site (e.g. LMB, CRUK, new biotech companies as site expands westward), visitors, outpatients, those crossing the site en route to elsewhere (e.g. the Genome path to the city centre, Busway to Cherry Hinton).
The areas specifically surveyed on our site visit are marked on the map above.
Our conclusions and comments can be summed up as: the area around the flagpole and the main roundabouts are still severely hostile to pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers; the one-way system around the hospital leads to either increased journey lengths or to people totally ignoring it. There is a need and aspiration for the many one-way areas on site to become two-way for cycling. As the site becomes ever larger, so that to walk across the site may take 15 or 20 minutes, it may even be that the preferred way to get from one department to a distant one is by cycle. It was pointed out that on a site where there may be a disproportionate number of elderly, frail, physically disadvantaged, pregnant, deaf or blind people using the footpaths, that shared-use paths are even more dangerous than may be generally assumed in the rest of the city. Hence their use should be avoided wherever possible, as they are an unacceptable hazard to what is presumably a large part of the hospital’s ‘customer base’.
We found some reasonably good examples of cycle parking. However, there were many more examples of poor or overcrowded parking, for example, near the residences, at the rear of Hutchinson and CIMR buildings, and at the front of Outpatients. A major area of concern is outside the Main Entrance. I estimated that by 8.30am, when I did a survey, that occupancy was over 95% and many ‘vacant spaces’ were in fact inaccessible as the bike parked alongside had a large basket or wide handlebars and the spacing of the racks is too narrow, meaning it would have been difficult or impossible to get another bike in. We walked around the rest of the existing buildings and found insecurely parked cycles at all locations, presumably because when their owners arrived, they could find nowhere else to park.
Some conclusions and comments on this situation. Firstly, could cycle parking be designated a sex, disability and age discrimination issue for employees? Spaces which may be usable by a man who is 6 feet tall and physically fit so he can lift his cycle over a neighbouring cycle to get parked and still reach his frame to lock his cycle securely with no risk of injury may not be usable by a woman or older man who is 5 feet 4 inches tall with little upper body strength.
There are clear problems with finding space for more parking at the existing buildings. Apparently, the new CRUK building was built in consultation with staff, many of whom cycle to work. The situation there, with ample well-designed accessible parking, is very different from that near the older NHS buildings. I would suggest that any new buildings, either NHS or others, must consider cycle-parking requirements as an integral part of the design process, not as an afterthought when adequate space has not been allocated for the amount of parking actually needed for employees. For example, with hindsight, could the Treatment Centre have been built on stilts, with a large cycle park underneath at ground level?
Would employees, especially ones who work full-time, be prepared to walk slightly further (250 metres rather than 20-50 metres) to use covered, decently spaced cycle parking with secure staff card access only? This would free less secure open-access parking nearer the entrances for visitors. It is a crying shame that the promised cycle parking somehow got lost along the way and was never provided in the newest multi-storey car park, although it was in the initial plans. If it had been secure, with card access only and those on bikes could cycle all the way to the entrance, it might have attracted employees. As it is, it’s worse than useless, being inconveniently far from their work places.
We found a few small places where it would be easy to put a small amount of extra cycle parking.
It is also worth mentioning that there is also an almost total lack of green space for staff and patients to get fresh air during breaks or while resting or recuperating.
Provision for pedestrians
We also had a brief look at conditions for pedestrians on our way round. There is at least one pedestrian crossing which is raised to be flush with the pavement. This is an effective marker and speed hump for drivers as well as making it much easier to use for wheelchairs and pushchairs. I would suggest that all crossings on site be replaced in this manner in time as it is a good design. We noted there are no crossings for pedestrians across the vehicle entrance and exits on the newest multi-storey car park, and the splay for vehicles results in high vehicle speeds and a reluctance to give way to pedestrians.
I would suggest that the annual transport survey is fairly ineffectual. I spoke to a lady doing the survey at the entrance to Adrian Way who confirmed that she was only counting vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, but not recording which way they turned onto Long Road. She informally admitted that most cyclists were turning right onto Long Road. The survey seems to be a wasted opportunity to generate data to improve cycling onto and around site. Questioning cyclists as they park might be useful (I have some ideas for an easy-to-use format for a questionnaire). Might there be a role for Cambridge Cycling Campaign in providing personnel? Is it worth following this up and seeing if we can find volunteers?
I looked at some planning documents regarding the expansion of the site. These were very vague and a careful eye needs to be kept on these plans. Any help that can be given would be very welcome. I think some initial comments are worth sharing here. In a large document labelled ‘Outline Travel Plan’ there were about four lines about cycle parking, after a page and a half about buses and rail access. There was no mention in any documents regarding poor access from the current areas of the site or improving existing routes for cycles. The only recognition that many employed on new areas of the site may live in the city centre (many employees live in the Mill Road area or Cherry Hinton, i.e. far from where new buildings are) is: ‘The Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) is located close to the existing routes along Hills Road and Long Road, but is remote from these routes. The CBC is therefore promoting a number of links and routes to ensure that access to the existing external routes can be achieved.’ The accompanying route maps are vague to say the least and make no mention of attempting to improve conditions immediately off-site and where those routes enter the site. There is no recognition that the existing buildings are ‘in the way’ of some people’s cycle journeys.
Regarding cycle parking, it says that individual developments should provide this in accordance with the standards set out in the Transport Assessment, that is, staff parking at 1 space per 120m2 and a further 1 space per 600m2 for visitors. Is this sufficient, especially if other factors increase the modal shift to cycling? The document also says: ‘Visitor cycle parking should be located close to the main building entrance and be clearly visible to people who are visiting the development. Visitor parking should not be used by staff.’ Without wishing to sound naive, how do they plan to ‘enforce’ this? Are we going to see permit or pay parking by the back door? Otherwise, the above is clearly nonsense.
There is no mention on any of the maps, either in this document or the accompanying maps, of the ban on right turns for cycles out of Adrian Way or of rescinding this,in order to increase cycling permeability and thus levels of cycling. All these documents basically ignore the current state of the existing site, buildings and access situation. Similarly, access via Red Cross Lane is completely ignored.
On a wider scale, it is all very well looking at ‘on site’ routes in the planning process, but if the general area (3-5 mile radius) is not improved (perhaps using S106 funding) I fail to see how ‘nice safe routes and shiny bike racks’ on site will be accessed. There is an awful lot of stuff about access to the new campus from the south and west, but precious little about increased flows of cycle traffic along Hills Road and Queen Edith’s Way. I believe this is where a lot of the ‘cycling employees’ will be coming from, as they are likely to be in the younger renting group of the population – this demographic will generally not want to live far out of the city centre or away from the vibrant Mill Road culture. For example, the Advanced Stop Box at the Hills Road/Long Road junction is already full every cycle of the lights between 8.20 and 9.00am daily, and there is already cycle congestion along Hills Road. The situation along Queen Edith’s Way is particularly unpleasant, as the road is too narrow for the weight of car, bus, lorry and cycle traffic now using it, especially where it joins Mowbray and Fendon Roads. There seems to be no recognition that, just as if you increase car or rail traffic, you need to provide extra capacity, if you significantly increase cycle traffic, you also need to provide extra capacity.