New traffic lights for Barton Road

This article was published in 1997, in Newsletter 14.

One of the earliest large schemes the Cycling Campaign was involved in was the upgrading of cycle facilities along Barton Road. As we reported previously, the main proposals for Barton Road itself have now been decided. However, whatever the merits or otherwise of that scheme, we felt at the time, as now, that the most important thing to address in the area was the right-angle turn from Newnham Road into Barton Road on the corner of Lammas Land. This suggestion was accepted by the Councils but developed as a separate proposal, and we have now received plans for traffic signals at the junction, as we requested.

It was always going to be quite hard to time signals at this junction because the main road does not go straight through the junction. The solution is quite clever, and continues to give cyclists almost complete freedom of movement through the junction while restricting motor vehicles a little. Pedestrians retain the existing pelican crossing a few metres to the north of the junction while cyclists have their own crossing integrated into the lights. There is also nothing to stop cyclists using the junction in the normal traffic lanes if they wish, though they would then be subject to the same restrictions as motor vehicles.

Plan of Barton Road Lights (35k)

Here’s how it works: cyclists approaching along Barton Road are either on the new cycle track, or can join it about 30 m before the lights. The cycle track continues across Newnham Road on its own phase of the lights onto Lammas Land – which also means you can turn left into Newnham Road or right into Grantchester Street or the track leading to the river. The arrangement from Newnham Road is similar – there is a cycle track branching off the road leading to the new lights, and also to the river track.

Cars will no longer be able to turn right from Barton Road into Grantchester Street or go straight on towards the river: they will have to go round the roundabout at Fen Causeway and come back. Grantchester Street and Lammas Land will have their own phase of the lights, but at busy times only every other sequence. For cyclists coming from the river this is not a problem since they can use the cycle phase (but would then need to stay on the cycle track along Barton Road). However it is not clear what cyclists coming out of Grantchester Street will do.

One of the main reasons for collisions here was that drivers and cyclists coming from the river expected cars to turn from Newnham Road into Barton Road, when in fact they went straight on into Grantchester Street, hitting the emerging vehicle. This problem is now removed in two ways: cyclists can use either the cycle crossing, or the lights as a car would, and traffic from these two streets does not move at the same time.

At this end of Barton Road, the road will be narrowed a little to make room for the cycle track. No doubt there will be complaints about the restrictions imposed on motor vehicles and delays to traffic. However, for once, these proposals seem to do much of what we have been asking for: make the whole junction safer (whether or not the cyclist uses the special facilities) while giving us a measure of priority and dedicated facilities.

The main reservations I have (at first sight) are about cyclists getting from Grantchester Street onto the crossing, and the area of conflict where the cycle track ends. I wonder whether there is scope for a pedestrian phase to cross Barton Road while the cycle phase is operating. The surface of the cycle track on Lammas land leaves a great deal to be desired, too.

We will have to make formal comments by the end of September. If you want to write to the County Council though, do so quickly and your comments may still get through in time.

Dave Earl