Victoria Road

This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 19.

Mike Smith is a Campaign member who lives in the Victoria Road area.

The Cambridge Environment and Transport Area Joint Committee met in June to consider a report by Richard Preston, the purpose of which was to ‘consider the options available to ameliorate traffic conditions in Victoria Road.’ Residents had collected a petition to protest at the increase in motor traffic, caused mainly by the Bridge Street closure.

The report gives every indication of being knocked up in five minutes on the back of an envelope. It is instructive, because it reveals a lack of commitment on the part of the council seriously to tackle transport problems outside the core area. Yes, we all pat them on the back for closing 100 yards of Bridge Street, but where is the strategy for those roads not occupied by tourists or all-important visiting shoppers? Serious thought is not being given to the residents of Cambridge who cycle or walk every day through polluted and dangerous roads.

There is no discussion of how to make the road safer for cyclists. Victoria Road and the race track that is Mitcham’s Corner are so dangerous to cycle along that many people don’t bother. In a city where so many people use bikes, the state of these roads is shameful. Obviously our councillors haven’t glanced at the Cambridge Transport Policy lately, which has as one of its objectives

‘To provide a safe transport system, particularly for vulnerable groups such as cyclists and pedestrians.’

One concern is traffic speed; another concern is heavy lorries, which make cycling around the ring road extremely unpleasant at best. Luckily for us, the report recommends that the Environment and Transport Committee ‘supports work with residents to encourage companies to avoid routing lorries via Victoria Road during the night.’ If only there had been such devoted concern in Bridge Street: imagine the money that could have been saved if the council had simply ‘worked with residents’ to stop traffic coming into the area.

There is some good news for pedestrians. The signals at the Murkett’s Corner junction, currently impossible to walk across without being flattened by a boy racer turning into Texaco, need upgrading. As part of this work pedestrian crossing points will be added in Victoria Road, Histon Road, Mount Pleasant and Castle Street. However, pedestrians aren’t so lucky half way along Victoria Road, where, according to Mr Preston, ‘the pedestrian crossing green period runs for longer than necessary’ and ‘changes are to be made to reduce this to minimise traffic delays.’

This demonstrates the report’s main concern: facilitating the flow of motor traffic. Pollution is not mentioned at all, despite the fact that at current rates it will exceed European Union permitted levels by 2005, when something will have to be done. Indeed, air quality was given as one of the reasons for closing Bridge Street. Now that the quality of air in Victoria Road is worse than it was in Bridge Street, it’s not considered important enough to mention. As people living, walking and cycling in Cambridge, we have to ask ourselves why.

Councillors accepted all of the report’s feeble recommendations. In the committee Councillor Howarth raised the idea of making the road one way for motor vehicles, with a bus and cycle lane in the opposite direction. Councillors argued that resigning the roads would be too expensive, and despite not having a clue about how many signs there are or what would need doing, the Committee voted against even investigating the idea.

When Mr Preston is questioned about the council’s feeble action, he is happy to say that he simply writes the reports, and they make the decisions. Naturally, when the council is questioned they say they make decisions based on the reports. As a result you can’t pin anyone down, and nothing gets done. Sitting in a meeting, one gets the impression that they would rather not have transport problems, and when they arise they wish they would go away without having to think about too hard.

Mike Smith

Editor’s note: Councillors also accepted the Campaign suggestion for a cycle approach lane at Murkett’s Corner and we have a letter saying this will go in at the same time as the pedestrian facilities Mike mentions.