This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 105.
Cambridgeshire County Council has received Better Bus Area Funds from the Department for Transport. Some of this money will go on relatively uncontroversial schemes such as upgrading traffic signal controllers and removing on-street parking in parts of Station Road, Jesus Lane and Hills Road. We very much welcome the removal of on-street parking as an easy way to improve conditions to encourage cycling.
More controversial have been the suggestions for changes in the St Andrew’s Street area. Hence an initial workshop for stakeholders was held in late October, with another to be held just before this newsletter hits the streets. No doubt many would have similar ideas about where the stake should be driven.
As with many traffic issues, it is not the behaviour of those who stick to the law that creates problems, but those who flout it. Two issues stand out:
- There is an ‘except for access’ restriction on St Andrew’s Street and Hobson Street. If this were effectively enforced, traffic would be greatly reduced.
- Over-ranking by taxis both obstructs the ‘informal’ pedestrian crossing and brings southbound bicycles into conflict with northbound buses.
The workshop was well attended by councillors and representatives of various interest groups, and there are obviously some common ideas that could be progressed. I think the idea of totally removing the taxi rank has been dropped, and it is good to see that on the summary sheet no mention is made of banning those on bikes. (When that one came up the microphone swiftly disappeared to the opposite side of the room from where I sat.)
So what are the sensible suggestions that few could reject?
- A pedestrian crossing (zebra?) between Lion Yard and Christ’s Lane
- More cycle parking (encourage cycle access and reduce obstruction of footways)
- Off-bus ticketing or smartcards to reduce dwell time of buses
- Re-arrangement of bus stops/loading area/cycle parking in Hobson Street
- Taxi feeder rank
- Consolidation of deliveries
- Better enforcement, both access and stopping/delivering
- Control of emissions, both buses and taxis
- Improving the public realm. Signing/surfacing/lighting.
A few of the above may demand explanation:
Taxi feeder ranks are not uncommon, and a new one has just opened at Paddington Station. At busy times drivers join a ‘remote’ queue, which has a CCTV monitor of the real queue; only when spaces are available can they proceed to the main queue. A remote queue, replacing car parking in Park Terrace, could easily feed both the queues in the City Centre.
Consolidation of deliveries: already we have Outspoken offering an easy delivery service to central locations by means of cargo bikes (see last month’s Newsletter). If the colleges and the university, all of which have extensive premises in the centre, were to have a single delivery point on the periphery, far fewer delivery vehicles would need to access the central area. Businesses could similarly combine for all but larger loads.
Better enforcement: already civil enforcement officers have tightened up on over-ranking taxis, but they are currently powerless over illegal access. Those requiring access to King Street may not approach from St Andrew’s Street unless they have permitted business (delivery etc.) in either St Andrew’s Street or Hobson Street. Once the appropriate section of the Traffic Management Act is enabled, automatic number plate recognition can be used to monitor illegal access. Issuing penalty charge notices by post is controversial, but the issue of a warning for a first infringement, and a charge for subsequent infringements, is surely reasonable? Cameras could also be used to monitor over-ranking of taxis.
Improving the public realm: changing the environment such that it appears to be public space, rather than a road for motor vehicles, has been shown to work elsewhere. Living Streets, the national charity that works to create safe, attractive, enjoyable streets where it is great to walk, has produced a briefing on ‘naked streets’ (www.cyclescape.org/library/documents/42). With reduced traffic following implementation of other items, Hobson Street would be a good candidate.
We do hope this work can bring improvements for all classes of legal users of these streets.