This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 113.
Cambridgeshire County Council has been consulting on a redesign for the Milton Road/Gilbert Road junction in West Chesterton. The scheme proposes removing the extra lanes to turn from Milton Road into Gilbert Road to make space for advanced stop boxes and approach lanes on Milton Road. In principle this is what was done on the three main junctions on Gilbert Road itself, when the new-style inlaid red cycle lanes were introduced in 2011.
The budget for this proposal is a minimalist £20,000, provided by a developer. To put the budget into perspective, a Toucan crossing costs about £45,000, the Catholic Church junction ‘upgrade’ cost £900,000 and the budget for hybrid cycle lanes on Hills Road between Cherry Hinton Road and Long Road is £1.2 million (see article ‘Hills Road and Huntingdon Road’ on page 3). In other words: £20,000 isn’t quite enough to move a traffic light and a refuge.
Nevertheless, the Campaign has decided to support the proposal, as we welcome the reallocation of road space from a second car lane to a cycle lane where there is currently no provision to help cyclists get into a safe position for going straight on (northbound) or for turning right (southbound). We have also asked for these approach lanes to be 2 metres wide which is the nationally recommended width. The changes will also give greater continuity for those using the popular cycle lanes on Gilbert Road. We have asked for the same method and identical material to the Gilbert Road cycle lanes to be used and according to an initial response from the council the idea is to mirror what is on Gilbert Road.
The Campaign welcomes the removal of the railings from the edge of the footway. Railings block potential escape routes for cyclists when they are cut up by motor traffic which is overtaking too closely or negligently turning across cyclists on their near side. Entire countries function without such railings and in the UK they are out of fashion, with London leading the removal effort. But several local residents seem to oppose the removal of railings, valuing these as crash barriers, which they are not.
The campaign held a stall event at this junction during the morning rush hour from 7.30 to 9.00am. We counted pedestrian and bicycle traffic and talked to many people who saw our big logo and stopped to talk to us about various issues at the junction. We were approached by many passers-by. A concern repeatedly voiced was pavement cycling at this junction and on Gilbert Road. The peak flow we counted was 254 cyclists southbound, 72% on the road but 28% on the footway where cycling is prohibited.
Wider aims for improving this junction
The current hostile junction arrangement is forcing many riders to make illegal use of the footway. If this problem is to be solved then it must be both safe and convenient to remain on the road through this junction. While we recognise that this can’t be achieved with £20k, we think the best way to do this would be to provide a segregated cycleway that continues through the junction for southbound cyclists.
We have run into the brick wall of the apparently untouchable throughput capacity for motor vehicles at many junctions where we are campaigning for a re-allocation of car space for cycling. We hope that the road space re-allocation here will lead to similar solutions elsewhere.
Junctions and roundabouts
This proposal doesn’t aim at Dutch standards, which would require serious investment and a lot of lobbying and campaigning from cyclists. There are very many junctions in need of big money improvements: On Milton Road, for example, or the junction with Arbury Road or with Green End Road, the Elizabeth Way roundabouts, many junctions on Perne Road and Mowbray Road and Trumpington Road, to name just a few old ones, or the Addenbrooke’s Road roundabouts which are relatively recent failures. One could say that by supporting the Milton Road/Gilbert Road junction proposal we are grabbing the low-hanging fruit. But we need more people and time to improve the many more difficult and dangerous junctions, to get cycle infrastructure that parents will feel comfortable in letting their ten-year-old tackle alone, which at the same time is fast and convenient for commuter cyclists.
Some short video clips of the junction during the morning rush can be seen at http://iitm.be/OdoOTH.