Plans for cycle lanes on the southern part of Histon Road rejected

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 113.

As you may have read in the local news, plans to clear parking from the southern end of Histon Road ‘have been sent back to the drawing board following a backlash from traders and resident’.

Histon Road looking south near Linden Close.
Image as described adjacent

Plans to improve the flow of cyclists and buses between Victoria Road and Gilbert Road by imposing a parking and a loading ban on weekdays between 7.30am and 6.30pm were going to be funded from the Better Bus Area Fund. Keeping traffic moving becomes more pressing with an increased frequency of buses, and with further increases in traffic from the very large Darwin Green development and another 400 dwellings at Orchard Park.

The Deputy Leader of the county council, Cllr Mac McGuire (Highways and Community Infrastructure) said a balance had to be struck between buses and cyclists using a ‘key radial route’ and the parking needs of businesses. The consultation showed 151 responses opposed and 136 in favour, a balance similar to the Gilbert Road consultation in 2010. This also presents a reminder that we can’t assume that a proposal out for consultation and given a positive officer recommendation will actually go ahead.

As a ‘bus-fund’ scheme it was not designed by the ‘cycling’ group in the transport department but by the ‘bus’ group. Despite the reallocation of road space we didn’t warm to the scheme all that much owing to shortcomings also highlighted in the Campaign’s response to the consultation. I quote:

  • ‘We strongly object to advisory cycle lanes that are only 1.3m wide.’
  • ‘We strongly request that at the pedestrian crossing the cycle lanes are continued in red tarmac all the way through the crossing to encourage cars not to violate the safe space required for people on bicycles.’
  • ‘Gilbert Road has shown that the removal of the centre line has reduced traffic speeds along this section of road. We cannot see any reasons why this same logic cannot be applied to Histon Road… Given the narrowness of the roadway, the removal of the centre line will also stop cars from only keeping within their lane when overtaking people on bicycles.’
  • ‘The proposed scheme appears to show that red tarmac surfacing is only used at a limited number of traffic junctions. This coloured surfacing should however be used at all possible conflict points…’
  • ‘This scheme provides an excellent opportunity to reduce the fear of cycling at the critical Gilbert Road, Warwick Road, Histon Road junction, especially in light of the school located near by, yet does not propose any significant changes at this time.’

The proposed scheme also suggested that parking for residents’ cars to be provided outside peak traffic times. However, we observed that during peak times car traffic moves slowly, and with the parking restriction speeds would increase exactly at the time when better segregation of fast-moving vehicles and vulnerable road users is most needed.

Histon Road looking south to Huntingdon Road.
Image as described adjacent

Those opposed to the removal of on-street car storage ran a very lively campaign, emailing the county councillors every week with reasons why parking shouldn’t be removed and claiming that parking wasn’t the source of conflict or of accidents. They summed it all up in another email the day before Cabinet refused the proposal.

From our end it would have needed an active campaign like that for Gilbert Road, inviting councillors to a ‘fact-finding ride’ during the morning rush, which could have been very effective in highlighting that the car-storage space is needed for cyclists. Note that the reason given for the rejection, that Better Bus Area Fund resources would be being diverted for what appeared to be the benefit of cyclists, will allow the council to bring a revised and hopefully improved scheme back. Several officers who travel by bus or bike through the area in question on their way to Shire Hall are well aware of the problems. This makes it likely that a revised project, possibly with S106 funding from the large developments in the north and northwest of Cambridge, will be brought back in future. However, the scheme needs to be higher quality if it is to motivate cyclists to respond with enthusiasm.

Klaas Brümann