This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 18.

Barton Road bad

I am writing to you about the new cycle-way being built along Barton Road out of Cambridge.

I believe it is still in the wrong place, being too close to the garden hedges, so that when cars come out they will be across it before the driver is able to see whether or not there is a cyclist on the path. This means that, when you are cycling on it, you can never be confident that you will not be suddenly confronted by a car coming out from the houses, and therefore cannot travel as fast as you want to.

It takes all the pleasure out of cycling if we have to be constantly fearful of being knocked down, and journeys take longer than they should because we cannot build up to full speed. Last year I sustained a bad injury when I had to swerve violently to avoid being knocked down by a van coming out of the University Farm on Barton Road and tore my biceps tendon in the process. I am still suffering after many sessions of physiotherapy.

I think the use of humps and dotted lines for cyclists across side roads is positively dangerous. It gives a false impression that cyclists have right of way when they do not, whilst even if they did many motorists clearly do not think so and appear to treat them with complete contempt. I have seen several very near misses, particularly at the crossing of the slip road onto the M11 coming out of Barton towards Cambridge. What makes it even more dangerous is that cars do not always signal that they are likely to turn across our path.

As far as I am concerned, apart from the ability to pass another cyclist or pedestrian without going on the grass, the new cycle-way is no improvement over the old. What should have been done is to leave the old path for pedestrians and construct a new cycle-way much nearer the road so that we could be sure that a car coming out of the houses would see us in time to stop. Similarly if we do not have right of way at cross roads there should not be humps and lines which appear to give us priority and encourage a false sense of security, particularly in children.

Cheryl Moseley, Barton

Where did the lane go?

Could you bring these observations to the attention of the Council?

If you turn left onto Newmarket Road from the path across Coldham’s Common (almost opposite Ditton Walk) there is now no cycle lane until the bus lane starts on the railway bridge. If you cycle along the footway (I’m not sure if it is officially joint use here) you have to go as far as Herbert Robinson’s before there is a dropped kerb, well beyond the start of the bus and cycle lane. As the Coldham’s Common path is a well used cycle route can we please either have a cycle lane up to the bus lane or a dropped kerb where the bus lane starts?

I also have a more general observation on Pelican Crossings. 30 seconds may not sound long, but if you are waiting to cross an empty road it is enough to try your patience! I’m afraid I cross when the road is clear, often to look back at cars who have had to stop at a red light when no one is using the crossing. This isn’t conducive to driver respect of such crossings. The crossing on Chesterton Road has always been slow to react (I’ve written to the Council about it a couple of times over the years without any effect). Recently I’ve noticed several other crossings have become slow to react, including the one from Fair Street to Midsummer Common, which used to react with commendable promptness even when there was quite heavy traffic flow. Can you press the council to check that all the Pelican Crossings are responding promptly to pedestrian/cyclist demand? I have a suspicion that many have reverted to some default delay of 30 seconds.

Patrick Schicker

Dave Earl notes:

We have already been in touch with the County Council about the removal of this lane from Newmarket Road and after a couple of exchanges of letters I’m delighted to say that the Council has now agreed to reinstate the missing piece of lane. Score one for the Cycling Campaign! (The pavement’s not shared-use on the Coldham’s Common side, by the way).

We’ve also raised the crossings issue from time to time – I know it’s one that frustrates many of you. The response we usually get is ‘it’s faulty, it shouldn’t do that’. The crossing of Coldham’s Lane at Cromwell Road consistently makes you wait 20 seconds and has done for years, despite our protestations, and people inevitably do just what you describe. We know that the Fair Street crossing is indeed faulty – it is supposed to pick up bikes on a microwave sensor without you having to push the button, but it has never really worked since it was put in, and the sensor has now been removed altogether.

Having said that, if a cyclist or pedestrian has used the crossing within the minute or so previously, there will often be a delay (though we challenge the conventional thinking that says motorists should get this automatic priority). Also, certain lights (such as those at Gonville Place on the south side of Parker’s Piece) are linked with others (in this case the signals at Hills Road) so they change in with the sequence. We’ll keep on bugging the Council about this one at any suitable opportunity.