Remodelling Milton Road

This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 121.

Milton Road connects the city centre to the Science Park and Business Park. These are key areas of employment, both for current residents and for people who will move into the city. The new Science Park station will add to the pressure on Milton Road. To ensure that our city remains such a pleasant place to live and work, there needs to be an effective transport system. Cycling takes up far less road space than car use. Good cycle facilities make journey times reliable and create a human-scale and less polluted environment. These are all factors which increase people’s quality of life and make Cambridge attractive. So cycling is vital for business and research in the city to flourish – even for those who don’t cycle.

Cycling on Milton Road is currently awkward. The road space is divided into two fast carriageways and a bus lane. On one side there is shared space for pedestrians and cyclists, unsatisfactory for both, and cars regularly park on the pavements. City Deal funding could be used to provide bus lanes in both directions, but we think better could be done for the city’s residents. Ideally, cycling facilities would be upgraded to Dutch standards and consistently wide pavements built – in addition to making the bus lane tidal, so buses avoid the congestion in both morning and evening peaks.

How things should be done: a typical off-road cycleway in Assen.
Image as described adjacent

The trees on Milton Road are an important part of the streetscape, and thought must be given to incorporating trees into any proposal, ideally as a separation from traffic. This needs to be discussed with the city council’s tree department, local councillors and the North Area Committee. There have already been suggestions of replacing the trees – we don’t want this to happen without regard to cycle facilities!

Hotch-potch of cycleway and bus lanes.
Image as described adjacent

Junctions are the most dangerous points on the road for cyclists, so special care needs to be put into planning major junctions. One possible proposal is for joint cycle and pedestrian crossings across each side of the junction. The crossings should be single-stage and waiting times need to be short. Cyclists would not have to stop when turning left, and would only have to cross one side of the junction to go straight on or turn right. An alternative proposal is for ten-second bursts for cyclists and pedestrians between movements of motorised traffic. Cyclists would cycle past the traffic lights as if turning left, would wait for the green and then cross in any direction. The special provision for cyclists would need to be visible from a distance. At minor junctions cars could be made to give way to cyclists and pedestrians.

Some more ambitious ideas could be explored. Cycle improvements and bus priority measures would presumably be introduced in tandem. Traffic signals could limit access for motor vehicles to junctions at busy times, to allow buses to cross junctions and run along the busiest section between the Golden Hind and Arbury Road junctions. This would improve traffic flow, which would benefit those cyclists who choose to use the road. If the bus lane were a guided busway, this would free up some space for better cycle facilities, but would mean that many buses could not use it. Floating bus stops, such as those on Huntingdon Road, could be introduced here.

The development of proposals is still at an early stage, but it is hoped that broad agreement can be reached that Milton Road should have excellent facilities for cyclists (and pedestrians). It will be necessary to work closely with county and city councils, but also with users of the Science Park and Business Park. People who cycle on Milton Road could be encouraged to write to their employers in favour of these proposals; businesses and councillors will hopefully not cling to car-orientated mentalities, and help in developing more imaginative proposals. Around a third of Cambridge households don’t have access to a car and many who move into the city for work will make a choice on whether to own one. It is only fair to these people and essential to the future health of the city’s transport system that we facilitate much higher levels of cycling on Milton Road.

Oscar Hughes