Ring Road blues (reds, ambers and greens)

This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 20.

The mini-roundabout at the eastern end of Mill Road, where it is known as Brookfields, was at the top of this year’s casualty list. Of course, one reason for this is that it is heavily used by cyclists. Another is that the main flow of cyclists is east-west, while the main flow of motor vehicles is north-south.

We said previously that the roundabout was likely to be replaced with traffic lights. We have now received the detailed plans, and this is indeed what they show. In general, traffic signals, even without any special provision, are well known to be safer for cyclists, so criticisms of the plans made to the County Council are in the context and spirit of making a positive proposal better.

Advanced stop lines are proposed at the junction. However, a gradually widening left-turn-only lane out of Mill Road will make it hard for cyclists (in fact, much like getting into the correct lane is at present) to go straight on up Burnside and The Tins. The reduction from three lanes to two will, however, help right-turning bikes.

Perne Road…
Image as described adjacent

On Perne Road and Brooks Road, the advanced stop lines are fed from the existing cycle lanes. This is a plus point for the design.

Pedestrian crossings are also being built in to the lights. At present cyclists and pedestrians share a ‘toucan’ crossing on Perne Road about 50 m south of the junction. This crossing, one of the first of its kind in Cambridge, was installed when the Cambridge South East Cycle Route was opened about ten years ago. It provides one of the main links between Cherry Hinton and the City via the bike bridge at the station. It is also heavily used by Coleridge Community College students.

The new arrangement would replace this crossing with one much nearer the junction. The Council has made it clear that the cycle track will meet up with the new crossing on the western side of Perne Road. The existing crossing has always had a bizarre arrangement where the signal controller was planted right in the middle of the cycle track (typically thoughtless planning). While this will go, there will then be a phone box and post box in the way. The Council will ‘look into the re-positioning’ of these.

The ring of moving steel

The Brookfields roundabout is only one, and the smallest, of a series of busy roundabouts along the outer ring road. These roundabouts form a long-standing barrier for cyclists. There is only one purpose-built cycle crossing along the route – the one at Perne Road mentioned above that is to be replaced. All the other crossings are large roundabouts with the exception of the traffic lights at the Long Road-Hills Road junction.

Sainsbury’s roundabout. Years ago, the Council experimented with cycle lanes around the outside of the roundabout. In fact this made things worse, so they were removed. Nothing has been done here to help cyclists since then
Image as described adjacent

The poor visibility at the roundabouts at Queen Edith’s Way and at Cherry Hinton Road make them difficult for cyclists. The sheer size and therefore speed at the roundabouts by Sainsbury’s at Coldham’s Lane and at Newmarket Road make these particularly intimidating. Yet all of these are on desirable radial routes for cyclists.

At present, roundabouts are only replaced as they start to show up with poor accident statistics (and not even then, as we know from experience of the Royal Cambridge Hotel junction). Despite the official line for many years having been one of encouraging cyclists, there is still no general policy or plan to replace or improve all the roundabouts on both ring roads or to provide alternatives to them. We continue to live with a ring of moving steel which confident or experienced cyclists tackle daily, but which is highly intimidating to others. This is a big problem in promoting cycling in the south and east of the city.

David Earl