Spring is here! Soon the birds will be nesting and, in advance of that, machines are clearing the vegetation from the old railway so the Busway can be extended to the new Science Park railway station in the north east of Cambridge. Although planning permission has been granted and work is underway, access to the station is still under discussion. This is either a good thing as it means there is time to improve it, or it is a bad thing that permission was granted without a convenient way for people to get to the station.
Permission was granted with a host of conditions, including: ‘The development shall not be occupied until details of the footways/cycle ways have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority and have been implemented including a route to a minimum width of 2.5 metres along Cowley Road’.
There is not even room for a 2.5m shared-use path within the existing highway on Cowley Road let alone a segregated path (you can see more about our measurements on Cyclescape thread 1167).
A cycle and walking route on the north side of Cowley Road would have five sets of ‘Give Way’ markings within 400 metres and have a very hazardous crossing of the junction where Cowley Road turns north. The road is busy with buses going to Stagecoach’s depot, tipper lorries to the aggregates terminal, and with refuse trucks. Of the six people on cycles who were killed in London during autumn 2013, five died as a result of collisions with a bus or lorry. It is clear that keeping cycles and lorries apart is what we must do.
This junction is a particular concern since most traffic is turning while people heading to and from the station are going straight on. Despite a proposed change of priority this will be a risky junction, especially in poor light and when people are rushing to work or to catch a train. People heading east would be in the blind spot of turning lorries, exactly where we are told not to be! It is difficult to see how a route along Cowley Road can be made safe and convenient.
Ian Manning, the county councillor for this area, has published some options for access along Cowley Road. One proposal is to keep the pavement for pedestrians, with a number of improvements, and use a former access road that runs parallel to Cowley Road for cycles. The access road is approximately 4m wide with no crossings between Milton Road and the future railway station car park. It was built for lorries and appears to have solid foundations and a tarmac surface that is better than many cycle tracks. The road is currently owned by Network Rail but I cannot see it having any use once it is cut off by the station car park – it is not wide enough to build on.
This access road would provide a near-ideal route from Milton Road to the station. As the north side of Cowley Road is developed, small bridges can be built over the drain that separates Cowley Road from the access road.
The railway station opening has now been set back to 2016, so there is still time to design and build convenient and safe routes for people walking and cycling. We need to make it clear to the county council that a 2.5m shared-use path is neither of these things.