Cycling safari report

New developments tour

On Sunday 11 August Campaign Members were invited to attend a cycling tour of recent and forthcoming developments in Cambridge. This took us from the proposed Bell School development on Babraham Road, around the new estates at Great Kneighton, Trumpington Meadows, through CB1 to Travis Perkins, along Cromwell Road then across the river to Vie in Chesterton. We finished with Orchard Park, then across the currently empty National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) sites in north Cambridge. A map of the route can be found at http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6039838

Infrastructure is already stretched in the Cambridge area. The only way to add more houses, and therefore more people and more journeys, without bringing roads to a standstill, is to reduce car use for short journeys. This aim is embodied in the proposed local transport strategy, and yet we saw evidence that new developments within easy cycling distance of the town centre and key areas of employment are being designed for maximum car use.

The main issues for cycling and new developments are:

  • Access and connection to other routes: should be convenient, direct, safe for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
  • Internal layout: people should feel comfortable walking and cycling outside their own homes.
  • Cycle parking: should be secure, sheltered, easily accessible and in sufficient supply for residents. Visitor parking is also necessary.
  • Promotion and encouragement: people moving to new developments should be made aware of cycle routes early.
Photomap 48533. Redmac pavement in Orchard Park but no shared use signs and no clear priority over side-roads markings.
Image as described adjacent

Access and connection to other routes

Permeability is perhaps the easiest and cheapest feature which can be added to aid walking and cycling. These non-car routes increase the ease and pleasantness of making short journeys in any direction, and benefit people in adjacent areas by providing a through route away from main roads. This was one thing we did see often, though the quality of such routes is variable.

However, this is not an excuse to ignore the main entrance and its use by cyclists. In Great Kneighton access to one estate was via a large roundabout, which can be daunting to cyclists. This roundabout had cycle lanes all the way up to the Give Way lines, encouraging incorrect road positioning for cyclists turning right. This was not the agreed design, and it is hard to see what the Campaign can do in cases where changes are made between initial designs and what gets built.

Other sites in Trumpington have multi-lane exits onto connecting roads. Multiple lanes make positioning harder for cyclists, especially less confident ones. It also means pedestrians take longer to cross the entrance and have to pay attention to more than one lane. On an estate of 1200 dwellings even at peak times this does not seem necessary, unless you are designing for and facilitating most residents making journeys by car within a short space of time.

Internal layout

Photomap 48539. “Cyclists dismount” sign where Chariot Way joins Ring Fort Path at Orchard Park.
Image as described adjacent

Many estates we saw were too small to need to consider movements across the estate. Short distances, no through access to cars and the small number of journeys make these internal residential areas relatively safe for walking and cycling. In time we can expect to see all such areas covered by the Cambridge 20mph zone as well, so no special infrastructure should be required.

The exception was Orchard Park, which does have cycle routes within the estate to aid access to the community centre and school. On completion the estate will have local shops and two hotels (one finished), so some external traffic can be expected as well as residents. It is unfortunate that the hotels and shops will be at the far end of the estate, closest to the A14. This is intentional to protect residential buildings from noise, but has the side-effect of encouraging traffic through the site past people’s homes.

However the cycle routes are disappointing and have no priority over motor traffic. Signs instruct users to dismount at crossings, rather than the neutral ‘cycle lane ends’.

Traffic-light controlled access to the site gives a default green light to motor traffic entering the site, while cyclists and pedestrians on the shared-use path must stop and wait to cross the entrance to continue their journey.

Photomap 50002. Swedish developer Skanska provides “Bicycle parking” with Sheffield stands at its sales office for the 128 dwellings they are building at Great Kneighton.
Image as described adjacent

On-street parking narrows carriageways, encouraging nervous cyclists to weave in-and-out between them, and encouraging drivers to attempt tight overtakes.

This was a missed opportunity to create an area that gave real priority to walking and cycling, where cars are guests for access in a space primarily for the use of people. While there are relatively safe routes that could be used by children, they are made to give way at every intersection.

Cycle parking

Cycle parking is an issue for both residents and visitors. For residents cycling should be secure, sheltered, easily accessible, and there should be enough of it.

In Great Kneighton some estates have, as yet, no visitor cycle parking. Residents have access to a Sheffield stand within their garage. This raises concerns about ease of access, although we were happy to see garages with side doors through which bikes can be wheeled past any stored cars.

Vie is a mature estate in comparison to many we saw, having been occupied for a few years. Cycle parking is overloaded on this estate. Houses with garages are given no separate cycle parking as residents are expected to use their garages, but the garages are small and struggle to store both cars and bicycles, resulting in use of cycle parking provided for others. Flat owners have access to secure cycle lockers, but only one per dwelling. One such secure locker we saw had 17 bikes to six stands! There are open-air Sheffield stands for visitors, although these were not on the original plans and had to be requested by residents. These are also well-used.

City council standards require room for one bike per bedroom on new builds. This is clearly inadequate for the demand in Cambridge.

Promotion and encouragement

Getting people to change their transport mode on existing journeys is much harder than getting them to choose one on new journeys, such as when they start a new job or move. People moving to new developments should be helped to find out what cycle routes they can access and how far away amenities are by bike. The local communities office has said that they will hand out leaflets to the sales office at new developments, but not everywhere we visited had received some. Staff at sales offices seemed positive about the idea of handing out leaflets to visitors if they had any.

The total number of existing and potential dwellings covered by the tour was over 5600. No development we saw prioritised cycling or cycle parking. Every estate was within easy cycling distance of shops and workplaces in the town centre, and were planned and built during a time when Cambridge has had the highest levels of cycling anywhere in the UK. Designs must change if Cambridge is to cope with housing growth.

Hester Wells