Newmarket Road Corridor Study

This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 17.

As you may have read in Newsletter 16, the County Council is just beginning to look at what can be done for cyclists along the Newmarket Road ‘corridor.’

This is a great opportunity to improve cycle routes in this area, and the subgroup formed to discuss this has prepared a 22-page document listing our proposals. The report was produced to a high standard, with maps and colour photographs, and we feel quite proud of it.

[Map of Newmarket Road Corridor Main Cycle Routes

We presented our report to council officers at the Cambridge Area Cycling Liaison Group on 3 March. These officials will be developing their own proposals for this area over the next few months and we hope they will include some of our suggestions.

So what did we say in our report? Too much to reproduce here, but here is a summary of the main points we made.

We started by explaining that there were two main cycle routes along the Newmarket Road corridor. These were Newmarket Road itself and an alternative route which ran along the river and away from main roads to Fen Ditton and beyond.

Newmarket Road

We said that, in general, the best way to provide for cyclists using Newmarket Road was to provide cycle lanes on the carriageway. The existing cycle lanes work quite well, as do those bus lanes that have a cycle lane marked within them.

Approaching Ditton Lane, it is hard to get into the central cycle lane.
Image as described adjacent

East of Ditton Lane, however, where the road is narrower and becomes less urban in character, we felt that it was more appropriate to ask for high-quality cycle tracks to be provided.

The big issue with cycle tracks is whether or not they have priority over side roads. We explained that it was essential that these cycle tracks had priority over side roads.

Proposed design of cycle track with priority over side roads

In the past we have been unable to persuade council officers to create cycle tracks which have priority over side roads. For Newmarket Road, therefore, we are proposing a new design of cycle track. This is a hybrid affair – essentially a one-way segregated cycle track which turns into a cycle lane when it crosses side roads. We hope that this might offer a practical compromise between the segregation of a cycle track and the convenience and priority of a cycle lane.

Whether we have cycle lanes or cycle tracks, the worst thing about Newmarket Road is its junctions. We therefore asked for major changes to be made to all the major junctions.

  • We asked for the Elizabeth Way roundabout to be filled in and replaced by traffic signals with a cycle phase. If this was not possible we asked for the junction to be made safer for cyclists by means of suitable ‘at grade’ facilities (i.e. without sending us down underground).
  • We asked for changes to the Coldham’s Lane and River Lane junction. In the eastbound direction we asked for special signal phasing to assist cyclists turning right into Coldham’s Lane. In the Westbound direction we asked for changes to the road layout to protect cyclists from traffic crossing their path to turn left into Coldham’s Lane (more about this below).
  • We asked for changes to the layout of the Newmarket Road and Ditton Lane junction. We suggested that the eastbound approach to this junction was probably the scariest section in the whole length of Newmarket Road. The main problem here is the left-turn-only lane for traffic turning left into Ditton Lane, which forces cyclists going straight on to move into the centre of the road whilst traffic whizzes past by on both sides. An advisory cycle lane here helps but is not enough.

We suggested a very simple solution: reduce the number of lanes leaving the Barnwell Road roundabout from two to one. Then to turn left, motor traffic would have to make a definite lane change, much closer to the junction, in the manner established elsewhere in the city such as the left-turn from East Road into Mill Road, as shown below.

If this were not possible, and the council was determined to retain the left-turn-only lane, then we suggested providing a special phase of the signals to allow cycles to go straight ahead from the left side of the road, similar to the arrangement at the Hills Road and Cherry Hinton Road junction.

  • In the opposite, westbound, direction we suggested that the bus and cyclelane could be extended through the junction, protected with a kerb. This would allow buses and cycles to avoid the signals completely. (We have been told that this would work well but would require widening the carriageway, which would be very expensive because the verge was ‘crammed full with services.’)
  • We also proposed replacing the Barnwell Road roundabout itself with traffic signals. Full provision could then be made for cyclists using the junction, with forward stop lines and cycle lanes on all four approaches.
  • Finally, we also proposed changes to the junction outside the Park and Ride site, which is inconvenient both for cyclists using the shared-use footway and for those using the road.

Along the River

The route along the river provides a generally pleasant alternative to Newmarket Road, though cyclists must still use Newmarket Road to cross the railway.

There is hope here, however, because the proposed National Cycle Network (see Newsletter 16) envisages a new path across Stourbridge Common and a new crossing under the railway just south of the River Cam. We expressed our support for this idea.

Cutter Ferry Bridge at Midsummer Common
Image as described adjacent

We pointed out that despite its attractions, the riverside route as a whole has a number of problems. In particular:

  • The four footbridges across the river are very inconvenient to use. Cyclists have to dismount and wheel their cycles through narrow pinch stiles, round sharp corners and up flights of steps. This was inconvenient to everybody but posed real problems to elderly people and parents with children. We asked the council to consider how these footbridges could be made more convenient to use. At the very least, the pinch stiles should be removed and replaced with cattle grids.
  • We also complained about the inconvenient gates and pinch stiles on Jesus Green and on the commons, and asked that these be removed or replaced with cattle grids.
  • We suggested improvements to the Newmarket Road railway bridge, which forms a ‘missing link’ in an otherwise quiet route. We suggested that the carriageway could be narrowed and used to provide a high-quality two-way cycle track between Ditton Walk and Swann’s Road.
  • Beyond Fen Ditton, there is an unclassified road called High Ditch Road which leads Eastwards towards Newmarket Road and the tunnel under the A14 near the Quy Mill Hotel. We proposed that this road be reduced to a single lane in width and the remaining space used to construct a cycle track.

Hospital corridors next for examination

Looking ahead, the next area for consideration by the County Council will be the Hills Road, Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Trumpington Road corridor. We have had one subgroup meeting so far to discuss our ideas for this, and will be spending the next few weeks getting together a report similar to the one on Newmarket Road. If you have any ideas for this area, or if you would like to help us produce the report, then please get in touch.

Nigel Deakin