Huntingdon Road cycle lane proposal

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 112.

Last year it was announced that Cambridgeshire County Council had received £4.1 million in match funding from the government’s Cycle City Ambition grants programme, making a total of £8.2 million to be spent on cycle schemes in the Greater Cambridge area.

Within the city, Huntingdon Road will be the first project under the scheme to go to general consultation, at the end of February, after a smaller local consultation last year. The Huntingdon Road project will include features at consultation which haven’t been seen in cycling schemes in Cambridge before, such as:

  • A hybrid / fully-segregated 2.1m-wide cycle lane
  • Priority over side roads
  • Bus boarder/floating bus stops.

Hybrid or fully-segregated

A hybrid cycle lane in Groningen.
Image as described adjacent

The proposals have a one-directional cycle lane 2.1m-wide, and wider where space is available, coming in to Cambridge. This is enough space for cyclists to overtake each other, including those with trailers. At quieter times there would be enough space for people on bikes to cycle side by side sociably without interrupting the flow of motor traffic.

An important part of the consultation will be looking for feedback on proposals for a ‘hybrid’ lane, or a fully-segregated one, or a combination of the two.

A hybrid lane is above the road, but below the level of the pavement, so there is a tactile and visual separation from both motor vehicles and pedestrians. The height difference is less than with a full pavement kerb, allowing movement between lane and road. It is a design common in Denmark.

A fully-segregated lane is normally on the same level as the road, but has a kerb or other barrier to separate the lane from motor traffic. They are common in the Netherlands.

The advantage of the hybrid lane is that it is easy to enter and exit at any point along the route, and allows the full width of the lane to be used for cycling. However, there are concerns that motor vehicles will find it easier to stop and park in such a lane, even though it will be forbidden. It is also possible that some pedestrians will treat it as an extension of the pavement.

A fully-segregated lane feels more protected and is harder to drive into, although anyone who has seen cars parked on the pavement will know that it is not a complete barrier. Should the lane be blocked it would be harder for cyclists to exit the lane to re-join the road. Some of the width of the lane will also be lost to the segregation, and cyclists would tend to cycle further from the edge than if there were no barrier, reducing useful width a bit more. There can be concerns about sweeping and drainage if fully segregated lanes are badly constructed. However, Cambridgeshire County Council has a small street sweeper, called a multihog, already used on cycle paths which are too narrow for conventional sweepers. The council also confirms that any segregation would be broken where necessary so that cyclists can leave the lane for junctions and right-hand turns.

As outlined, there are advantages and disadvantages to both designs. Crucially, both offer dedicated space for cycling, separated from motor vehicles and pedestrians and with strong visual and tactile reinforcement of the separation.

Space limitations mean that going out of Cambridge there will be a conventional on-road cycle lane. The inbound lane will handle the morning peak; the evening outbound traffic is spread over a longer period, so the inbound lane has been prioritised.

Priority over side roads

Whichever design or combination of designs is used, the lane will have priority over side roads. This is something Cambridge Cycling Campaign has long wanted. At the moment cyclists have the choice of cycling on the road, and therefore having the same priority as all traffic on the road, or cycling on shared-use facilities and giving way at every side road. Cyclists have had to sacrifice convenience in order to avoid cycling among motor vehicles, but the proposals mean this choice will no longer be necessary.

Bus boarder/floating bus stops

Bus stops are often a problem for cycling schemes. Conventional placement at the edge of the road means interrupting cycle lanes, with buses sometimes pulling across cyclists to reach a stop. The bus boarder, also known as a floating bus stop, removes this issue by having the bus stop on an island between the cycle lane and the road. Bus users can wait on the island for the bus, and can leave the bus onto the island. Buses do not need to cross or interrupt the cycle lane for stops.

It doesn’t remove all conflict. Bus passengers still need to cross the cycle lane to reach or leave the bus stop, for which there will be pedestrian crossings. However, the main source of danger, which is the interaction of large vehicles and people on bikes, is removed.

The floating bus stop requires further road width, so will not be possible at all locations. Where they are used, the cycle lane may be temporarily narrowed to accommodate the bus boarder.

There will also be consideration of further use of advanced green cycle lights, as seen at the junction of Hills Road and Lensfield Road.

The details of the scheme will be released very shortly for the consultation. The elements explained here will be features of the later Hills Road and Trumpington Road consultations as well. We hope that we have explained what is significant and beneficial about these proposals, and why we hope that this will set a new standard for quality cycling infrastructure in Cambridge.

Hester Wells