Newnham to Newmarket Road supercycleway

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 103.

By Royal Cambridge Hotel, still the most hazardous junction in Cambridge.
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In our Cycling Vision 2016 report we outlined proposals for a second supercycleway forming a much improved east-west link. This article outlines some initial thinking about this major new proposal. Members will be familiar with our other proposal for the north-south axis, namely the Chisholm Trail, forming a green linear park roughly along the railway.

The route from the Royal Cambridge Hotel junction to Newmarket Road is a catalogue of hostile junctions, squeezed road situations, high collision rates, and slow progress through this crucial part of the ring road.

The route needs a total overhaul to add either a Danish or Dutch -style cycle route that would encourage a massive shift of people from cars to bikes. The result would be more people cycling, and therefore shorter journey times for drivers

What is needed is a total overhaul of this route to add either a Danish- or Dutch-style cycle route that would encourage a massive shift of people from cars to bikes. In other words, a proper, strategic cycleway that forms a coherent, uninterrupted route, not bits of random infrastructure.

The result would be more people cycling, and therefore shorter journey times for drivers, though there would be some increased congestion in the short term while people adapt their travel modes.

In this article we look at the problems of each section of the route. We are intending to have on-site meetings with a view to coming up with a complete design. Let us know if you are interested in joining us.

We’d also like to construct a full visual 3D computer model of the changes. If you have skills in this area, please get in contact – we need your help.

Map base copyright © 2004-2012 OpenStreetMap and contributors and map copyright © 2012 Cambridgeshire County licensed CCbySA2.0
Image as described adjacent

A: Royal Cambridge Hotel junction

Hyde Park Corner (by the Catholic Church) – major barrier to cycling.
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This section of the route is the top, or nearly the top, collision location in the city if not the county. Even very confident, experienced cyclists find this a difficult junction to navigate. It is a challenging location to redesign because the western and eastern arms of the junction are not aligned, meaning two roundabouts and therefore lots of difficult cycle movements.

Modern traffic signalling, combined with the higher rates of cycling that would result from making space for cycling here, would avoid the problems experienced long ago when traffic lights were present.

B: Lensfield Road section

Lensfield Road, central hatched area.
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This section has a lot of scope for cycle space.

The end next to the Royal Cambridge junction has a hashed area which could be removed in favour of 1.5+m cycle lanes.

Then there is a section opposite the Chemistry Department that has a row of parked cars that form a really hostile barrier to cycling and cause cycle and motor traffic to be slowed by the interaction of these two groups. I don’t understand why the ring road should have parking here. Removing that would create space for 1.5m+* 2m+ cycle lanes as well as the right-turn lane into Tennis Court Road.

Then there is the lead-up to the Catholic Church junction, which has multiple lanes of traffic. This junction will only really get sorted out if a proper corridor approach is taken.

* This was an error in the original article and has been transparently corrected here – this area is obviously one of the widest parts of the route, so 2m, if not 2.5m, is achievable.

C: Catholic Church junction

This is a key barrier to cycling in Cambridge, being also part of the strategic direct route from the station into the city centre. All the approach lanes here are hostile to cycling, with multiple lanes and no cycle provision.

The County Council is about to consult on some limited changes here. The changes improve the Hills Road end for cycling, and improve the situation for pedestrians by rationalising the crossing points and removing a lot of clutter, but otherwise retain the hostile cycling environment.

Gonville Place – mostly three lanes.
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D: Gonville Place section

The Gonville Place section has plenty of scope for change, if the political will to see the whole route as a proper cycle corridor can be mustered.

Ten years ago or so it was changed from two lanes to three from the Catholic Church to the Queen Anne Terrace car park. The rest of it is two lanes, and remodelling the road environment might make it feasible to construct a cycle lane on either side. The pavements here on the Parker’s Piece side are actually pretty wide, and not heavily used by pedestrians, so there could be scope for getting an additional half-metre of space.

E: Mill Road / East Road junction

Mill Road / East Road junction – better than most, still needs improvement.
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This is a large junction that could be a lot worse, but could also be a lot better.

Until 1991 it was a roundabout but was then changed to traffic signals, which reduced the injury rate considerably. There is some cycle infrastructure here on three of the approaches, but the lead-in lanes could be much wider.

In general I think there is a lot of scope for this junction to be a Dutch-style junction – there is the space and the cycle movements here are quite high.

F: East Road section

East Road – no cycle lanes at western end.
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East Road is another horrible stretch. The key problems are:

  • Lack of cycle lanes in the section nearest Mill Road. 1.3-1.5m widths are probably achievable here as queuing lanes, as there is just about space. Such cycle lanes could be an easy ‘quick win’ and would stop drivers less familiar with Cambridge from straying too far to the left.
  • Difficulty turning right into Norfolk Street.
  • The lack of control of stopping outside the shops (which the new Tesco store has made considerably worse). We’ve raised this before, and it’s been featured in our surveys of election candidates. Getting an advisory cycle lane along this whole stretch in here would be a good Trojan horse.
  • The speedway-style end near Newmarket Road which has a large number of lanes and is dreadful from the pedestrian perspective. We’ve successfully pressed for 2m lanes here in the Eastern Gate plans; what we need now is implementation.

G: Eastern Gate roundabout (Newmarket Road/East Road)

This roundabout is a 1960s-style gyratory and needs to be filled in and replaced with a signal-controlled intersection.

Eastern Gate roundabout (Elizabeth Way / Newmarket Road / East Road) – plans in the pipeline.
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The City Council has created a Planning Brief for the area, called the ‘Eastern Gate’ – Eastern Gate Development Framework Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) – see Newsletter 97. We have welcomed that, but the question is implementation by getting the finances together from the various developments in the area.

H: Newmarket Road

Newmarket Road is a mess of multiple lanes, bits of cycleway (often narrow), fast traffic, stop-start movements, often long traffic light waits, and a terrible pedestrian environment. It all needs to be regularised with fast, direct, 2m-wide cycle lanes for most of the road.

The Eastern Gate proposals would see the western (roundabout) end improved with 2m cycle lanes (after our campaigning, with the backing of councillors, to improve on the officer proposal of 1.5m).

Redesigning this important route, connecting Newnham to Newmarket Road, must also include improving links to other cycle routes in the area, especially the Chisholm Trail.

What should it be called?

The route needs a name. Can you come up with a good one? Members can join the discussion at:

Martin Lucas-Smith