This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 112.
Late in 2013 Cambridge City Council announced proposals to widen the path on Jesus Green through the fine avenue of London plane trees from Jesus Lock to Victoria Avenue. Members of the Campaign studied the proposals and discussed the matter on Cyclescape (thread #1057) and responded to the consultation saying that we fully support the widening of the path. However, we added that we would like to see it wider than 3.5m, unsegregated and constructed to a high standard. We feel this would improve the appearance of the avenue by reducing the likelihood of muddy strips and puddles alongside the path.
Width, design and construction
Expanding on our comments, we explained that as cycling levels are high in Cambridge and this is a popular, much used, route, it makes sense to make it as wide as possible. We noted that national guidance (Local Transport Note 1/12) specifies that the minimum width of a shared-use path is 3m but also makes clear that this is a minimum, and that greater width should be used where possible: ‘designers should generally aim to provide more than the minimum’. As the document clearly states,’width strongly influences the quality of shared-use routes’. We consider that a well-made path through the avenue of trees would enhance the appearance of the Common by reducing the likelihood of muddy edges.
As well as being wider, the new path should be flatter, as the present cambered profile encourages cyclists to ride in the middle.
We supported the measures proposed to protect the tree roots from compaction and to protect the trees from damage during construction. But we also suggested that the opportunity of reconstructing the path should be used to put in good drainage on either side, as we have observed that the area is prone to water-logging and even flooding in wet weather. We emphasised that the widened path must be constructed to a high standard to reduce the risk of damage to the path from tree roots and thus help ensure longevity.
While generally we favour segregated routes, as explained in Newsletter 111, we said that here we do not want to see the path segregated into a part for cyclists and a separate part for pedestrians. This is because even when widened it will be too narrow for separate two-way paths for cyclists and pedestrians, leading to increased conflict between users, as encroachment on the other side is inevitable if two-way passing is not possible. We pointed out that, as can be seen on Parker’s Piece, white lines segregating the path become worn over time and cause complaints where some people remember the allocated space, but newer users cannot see the markings or symbols. In addition, white paint would be intrusive in the setting of the park, where infrastructure should blend in with the natural surroundings as far as possible.