Seeking safe cycling to school on Nuffield Road

This article was published in 2018, in Newsletter 137.

Nuffield Road at school-run time.
Image as described adjacent

We have long campaigned for improvements to Nuffield Road in East Chesterton, where heavy commercial vehicles and school-run traffic make this an intimidating space for more vulnerable road users heading to and from the local primary school, children’s centre and medical centre.

In 2015, improvements to Green End Road and Nuffield Road were proposed as part of the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership Cross City Cycling scheme, which aims to improve walking and cycling links to schools and employment centres. At the time, Nuffield Road was envisioned as an ‘important part of the walking and cycling network’ with the improvement project aiming to ‘reduce congestion and improve air quality, health and road safety’. The initial plans proposed a shared-use path on the north side of the road, the opposite side from all the places people want to go.

Our response to the consultation, along with those from other local residents, led to the May 2016 proposal for a two-way segregated cycleway (3m wide) on the south side of the road. Despite several lingering issues with the connections to this cycleway, the scheme seemed to be heading in the right direction: prioritising direct, safe routes for people cycling, particularly children aged 5-11 travelling to school.

Cars parked on the pavement by the Mortlock estate wall.
Image as described adjacent

However, late last year, it became clear that the segregated option was completely abandoned following a small consultation with those local residents opposed to the removal of a wall bordering the Mortlock estate on the north side of Nuffield Road. City councillors also resisted relocating the existing south-side layby across the street. The latest proposal has 1.5m advisory cycle lanes on both sides of the road. It also proposes a new parallel crossing for people cycling and walking to Discovery Way (connecting to the Busway cycleway and Cambridge North). Using that crossing will require a sharp right-angle turn, which is difficult for most people, particularly those riding a cargo bike or pulling a trailer. Even more worrying is that parking will be allowed in part of the cycle lane at school-run times: the cycle lanes will be obstructed exactly when the most children will be wanting to cycle in them.

Local residents have raised concerns about these proposals at the last two meetings of the North Area Committee (December 2017 and March 2018). A letter was presented on behalf of the Heads and Governors of Shirley Community Primary School in support of the segregated cycle lane scheme. Still, we have been told that the latest design has been endorsed by senior officers on the county council’s cycling projects team, despite its problems, and it is due to be implemented during the school summer holidays.

We understand that there is a delicate balance to be struck between the needs of local residents and the aims of the scheme. We believe that a better solution could be designed that takes into account the needs of all users of this road, one which would create a more pleasant street for both residents and children going to the school, children’s centre and medical centre. High-quality cycling infrastructure would greatly enable more parents and children to choose active transport when getting to school, and that would help solve current issues in both Nuffield Road and Laxton Way, where drivers dropping off schoolchildren often block pavements and park on double yellow lines in the rush hour. Many people would benefit across the wider area, as they pass through Nuffield Road on their way to Cambridge North and the Science Park.

Allowing cars to park in cycle lanes is dangerous for children cycling to school.
Image as described adjacent

We would like to encourage everyone affected by this to contact the Greater Cambridge Partnership by emailing or calling 01223 699906 to share their views on the current proposal. East Chesterton residents should also contact their city councillors, as part of the reason for the latest unsatisfactory design is that representatives for this area aren’t yet convinced of the need for something better. If you think this scheme isn’t good enough, please let them know!

Anna Williams