Bridge Street

This article was published in 1997, in Newsletter 15.

Bridge Street – Issues

Thank you to everyone who sent postcards about the Bridge Street closure in response to the letter I sent to you. I know that not everyone feels able to give the scheme their full support, and I think most of us have some reservations about the detail. I’d like to give you my personal view about why we worded the cards in such an unequivocal way, and why I think Bridge Street is so important.

Councillors will make a decision in the spring about Bridge Street. That decision will be about the principle of traffic restraint. Yes, they will discuss some of the details, but in my view it will come down to a yes or no decision. Up until May, the County Council was committed to a programme of traffic restraint. Then we had the election, and now that commitment is wavering. I believe the new administration is looking for reasons to throw out the scheme. And I think there is every chance that they will interpret expressions of only qualified support as objections.

I’m not saying that means we shouldn’t point out where there are problems, just that we shouldn’t do it via a highly public channel directed at councillors. Indeed we have spoken and written to Richard Preston, the Cambridge Projects Manager, who oversees the scheme, several times over the last year.

My really big worry is that Bridge Street won’t be abandoned because of any worries about detail, or impact on other streets, but because there is still big reluctance to do anything really significant to tame the car. The previous council, with a sympathetic starting point, did not have the political courage to implement the whole ‘core traffic scheme’ in one go. If Bridge Street fails now, with the new administration, I don’t think we will see any significant progress towards traffic restraint for many years to come. The Park and Ride ‘carrot’ may proceed, but without the restraint ‘stick’ to go with it, it will be underused.

The Bridge Street closure has certainly seen side effects in other streets. Victoria Road and Victoria Avenue carry much more traffic; Silver Street and Queens Road probably also do. Castle Hill, on the other hand, is much quieter. We will know for sure when monitoring figures (which will include pollution levels) are published after Christmas. However, Silver Street in particular is one of the two streets (the other is Parker Street) which would also be closed in any second and third stage. And experience in the past shows a tendency for closures to result in a net reduction of traffic.

Without traffic restraint I think we will see cyclists continue to be marginalised on the road, traffic grow with more pollution and congestion, the safety record improve little, and above all us cyclists to feeling less safe and secure on the roads. A really brave Council with lots and lots of money could put all the ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ in place together very quickly; but we have neither, so they have to start somewhere. It would be great to have a City-wide shift of traffic patterns where pedestrians, cyclists and buses take real priority. But in March the decision on the table will be on Bridge Street as it is now, not as a one way street instead, or closing Victoria Road, or charging motorists to deter them entering the City. But to my mind, on that decision – with all the implications it has for cyclists – hangs the possibility of doing all those things in the future, or letting Cambridge stew in its pollution.

Dave Earl

Bridge Street – Campaign

Councillor Evelyn Knowles, together with representatives from the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and Transport 2000, organised a meeting of the Bridge Street Environment group on 29 October. Twenty people came, including representatives of the Campaign, local residents, Friends of the Earth, Transport 2000, the Cambridge Evening News, and Cambridge University Students Union’s Green Officer.

People agreed that traffic needed to be reduced throughout the city centre, not only on Bridge Street. There was concern about levels of traffic on Victoria Road.

The Environment and Transport Committee of the County Council will be making the final decision on Bridge Street. This is the same Environment and Transport Committee that has just postponed the work on the Royal Cambridge Hotel Junction by another 12 months. This was despite the facts that:

  • It is the fourth most dangerous junction for cyclists in Cambridge.
  • The County Council Officers thought the work should go ahead.
  • Around £40 000 had already been spent on the junction.

So the case for keeping Bridge Street closed to private motor vehicles needs to be made as strongly as possible.

What you can do to help:

  • Fill in and return your Bridge Street postcards.
  • Contact me if you would like to help with a petition at Bridge Street.
  • Contact me if you know somewhere we could place a display holder with postcards.

In the near future we will be writing to the Councillors on the Environment and Transport Committee, so watch this space.

Richard Taylor