The Tins – the path between the out-of-town end of Mill Road and Cherry Hinton High Street, roughly parallel to the Newmarket railway line – has seen much improvement over recent years.
Firstly, when the old cement works site was redeveloped to include the hotel and gym, a 3m dedicated cycleway, one of the best in the city, was constructed along the whole frontage between the railway bridge and Kathleen Elliott Way (leading to Coldhams Lane). Then, two years ago, the section on the city side of the railway bridge was widened and surfaced properly. That change also featured a new bridge across the brook at the Mill Road end. Sadly the railway bridge, belonging to Network Rail, has not and will not be widened or made less steep for the foreseeable future, though there may be an opportunity if the Cambridge to Newmarket railway line is dualled as has recently been proposed.
Now, the county council is considering improving the section between Kathleen Elliott Way and Orchard Estate. Currently there is a narrow footpath here running behind the houses on the streets off Coldhams Lane. Apparently the hedgerow on the other side is protected, so the existing path cannot simply be widened. Instead the council is proposing to put a parallel cycleway on the other side of the hedge, rejoining at the back of the first house on Orchard Estate. This would not be shared with pedestrians, who would use the existing footpath. There would then be plenty of room to surface and share the last ten metres up to the road. It is not clear at present whether the improved, but still awkward, chicanes at that end could be removed, or indeed whether a better crossing of Orchard Estate could be provided.
At two metres, the proposed path is much narrower than we would like, and narrower than the other sections of the same path, especially as there would be a fence on one side and a hedge (and possibly a small drop) on the other (and we know that vegetation alongside cycleways always gets overgrown). It needs to be wide enough to cycle along safely with a child and to cope with trikes and trailers. There is no physical factor limiting the width currently – the adjacent waste land is to be built on at some stage. Done well, at a little over 300m long, this should be a welcome addition to the excellent Tins route.
Scope for further improvements
Beyond Orchard Estate there is a wider path, about 150m long, leading into the end of Railway Street. While rather bumpy (though it is surfaced) and quite narrow, especially at the moment as it is so overgrown, it is not too bad, so for the first time there would be a continuous, good route through to Cherry Hinton along this corridor. No doubt that remaining section could also be improved in time.
This then opens up the possibility of continuing on to Fulbourn. On the other side of the High Street from Railway Street is Sunmead Walk. This path leads all the way through to the level crossing on the Cherry Hinton bypass next to Tesco. It runs alongside the railway, where there would be ample land to widen the path (plenty, even if the railway were to be put back to two tracks at some time: much wider than, for example, the part on the Fulbourn side of Tesco which was constructed alongside a steep bank up to the railway). Sunmead Walk divides roughly into three sections. The Cherry Hinton end is surfaced and fairly narrow, but usable, as it runs alongside school grounds. The middle section is wider and better surfaced, with a sturdy fence alongside the railway on one side and the rear walls of houses and a small green on the other – ideally it would be wider still, but it is usable as is (many cyclists already use it). The Fulbourn end is, however, extremely narrow, not surfaced and ends at three shallow steps up to the bypass. That’s not to say some cyclists do not already use it – I met one coming up the steps while taking photographs – but it is really unsuitable and very unsatisfactory at present.
Beyond the bypass, the existing cycle route continues to Fulbourn alongside Tesco and then using Fulbourn Old Drift. That, then, would just leave the railway bridge near the Holiday Inn to be addressed.
See camcycle.cyclescape.org for more information and discussion.