This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 21.
Last issue I alluded to a possible location for our proposed cycle trailer loan scheme. We had produced a report for Sainsbury’s in the city centre, with, we felt, rather well-thought-out plans for their newly-acquired basement space. Unfortunately, now that their refurbishment is finished, we’ve heard that the idea has fallen foul of fire regulations, and won’t be able to go ahead.
However, since car-parking is now completely banned in the historic city centre, we have asked for the row of cycle stands in front of Sainsbury’s to be extended. This area is desperately short of cycle-parking. When I mentioned the possibility, one of our members said he’d actually start shopping there again if more parking were installed.
(It’s early days yet, but this could be the first addition to City Centre cycle parking I’m aware of since our report of suggestions around three years ago!)
Ridgeon’s on Cromwell Road have kindly agreed to stock Sheffield stands in their Ironmongery Department. They now carry a supply of galvanised and black-plastic-coated stands, made by Velopa. Their price of £59 (plus VAT) compares quite reasonably with the cost of mail-order suppliers, when delivery charges are taken into account.
Interestingly, since two bikes park at one Sheffield stand, the price also compares quite reasonably with £50.80 (plus VAT) which would buy two ‘wheel bender’ or ‘butterfly’ units.
We were reminded of the need for this sub-group recently, with the appearance of wheel benders at the entrance to the refurbished Octopus DIY store on Tenison Road. City Council parking standards quite clearly state that cycle parking facilities should enable frames to be locked to a fixed point. We plan to write to the manager, with names of suppliers of Sheffield stands (including Ridgeon’s – part of the same company as Octopus).
Coincidentally, we have been contacted by two police officers from Parkside. They are lobbying to improve cycle parking provision in the city centre, as a crime reduction measure. We will of course be offering our support and assistance in this important endeavour.
Our planned report and information sheets on cycle parking are still in progress (having suffered somewhat from the amount of time that the Science Park has consumed of late). In the meantime, we have put together some information on our Web site, namely:
If you don’t have Internet access, and would like printed copies, just ask us.
This group has been very active recently. We have:
- surveyed four entrances
- written a report
- issued a press release
- met Steve Sillery of Bidwells to begin discussions of cycling issues
- successfully objected to a planning application to close one access into the park
- met an engineer to discuss the imminent widening of the access road
Back in September, Campaign member Stefan Kaye pointed out that one of the ways into the Science Park, from Garry Drive, had just become considerably harder to navigate. One of the gaps in the hedge near the disused St Ives railway line had been closed off by building work.
This prompted us to run a survey, to see just how important this entrance was to people walking and cycling to the Science Park.
On Thursday 24 September, we counted all movements into the Park, via four different entrances, from 7.30 am to 9.30 am. We wanted to know:
- the modal split – the percentage of bikes, pedestrians and cars, and
- the proportion of pedestrians and cyclists using each entrance.
The Laser-Scan entrance is likely to be used much more by people leaving at the end of the working day than in the morning hours when we ran our survey.
It isn’t really surprising that the figures for the Origin entrance are so high. As the queue of north-bound cars lengthens, it’s difficult for bikes to pass on the road, and this entrance provides a convenient way in.
The first surprise was that cycles represented as much as 10.7% of movements into the Science Park. I spent the entire two hours going from entrance to entrance, checking that things were going smoothly, and giving counters the occasional break. It certainly didn’t feel to me like there were so many cycle journeys. The constant stream of cars through the main entrance was so conspicuous, while cyclists were gliding past. Also, the main entrance accounts for only just over a quarter of cycle traffic, so motorists don’t realise that cyclists and pedestrians are appearing through other routes.
We found that, even after the entrance on the south of the park (via Garry Drive) had been made so much harder to use, it still accounted for nearly a fifth (18.9%) of all cycle traffic, and nearly a quarter of pedestrian movements.
To put this into perspective, use of this unofficial entrance involves wheeling your bike along a disused railway line, over two steep and slippery earth banks, and through undergrowth! The fact that it is so heavily used despite all these problems shows just how important it is.
The full report of this survey is available on our Web site and at our Saturday stall.
Just by chance, as a result of this survey work, we heard that there was a planning application lodged with South Cambridgeshire District Council to run a security fence along the entire length of the south side of the Science Park. Although we could understand the need for security, we felt that the access was so important to cyclists and pedestrians that we objected to the application, just in time. We were surprised that there was no notice of the planning application placed at a well-known, even if unofficial, entrance.
Trinity College, via their agents Bidwells, gave us a very welcome written assurance that the new fence would not be installed until a planned new access road from Cambridge Regional College is opened. However, we felt that this new route would be a significant detour for people coming, especially on foot, from the Arbury area.
We suggested instead that a gate should be installed in the new security fence, and that it should be locked overnight. This way, security could be improved without discouraging walking and cycling.
The goal posts then moved slightly, and the main problem became the fact that people were crossing private land, namely the disused St Ives railway line. So we investigated, and found that there had already been initial contact with Railtrack, with a view to using this land for a cycle route, and the idea had not been dismissed. Although it was very early in the process, it therefore seemed unreasonable to close the entrance on this basis.
It then seemed that the goal posts moved again. Complaints from Garry Drive residents now entered the picture. Whilst we could understand that it was unfair for a few motorists to park in Garry Drive and walk in, to avoid the evening queues, this didn’t seem a valid reason to force at least 57 cyclists a day to negotiate the many lanes of traffic on Milton Road, or detour via Cambridge Regional College.
As I write this, I have just heard that South Cambridgeshire’s Planning Committee has decided to grant permission for the security fence, provided that:
- it is not installed before the new access road is open
- there is a gate for cyclists and pedestrians to use, at some suitably agreed hours
Obviously we are very relieved at this outcome.
The timing of all this was rather unfortunate, as we were just about to meet Steve Sillery, of Bidwells (the company that manages the Science Park for Trinity College) to begin general discussions of cycling issues. However, our planning objection didn’t prevent us from having a very positive and helpful meeting. We are also pleased that Bidwells have lent their support to the Travel for Work scheme.
Contractors are about to begin work to widen the main entrance to the Science Park. There will soon be two inbound lanes instead of one, and three exit lanes instead of two. Traffic lights will be installed on one arm of the junction, to be operated only in the evening peak.
A shared-use path is also being created. We wrote to Bidwells and the County Council earlier this year, with a number of suggestions of areas that could be improved. I’m pleased to say that staff at the County have since requested that some of our suggestions be implemented. In particular, two ‘safety barriers’, which would have made life extremely inconvenient on this path, have been removed from the plan.
We also had some more detailed suggestions to improve integration of the path with the network at either end. At Steve Sillery’s suggestion, we contacted Bidwells’ consultant engineer and have had a useful site meeting.
A general theme, which we see repeated elsewhere in Cambridge, is that it is hard to obtain details of privately funded road works. In contrast, schemes led by the County Council these days tend to be effectively and systematically consulted upon, and the quality of our feedback seems to be valued. Similarly, we tend to hear too little, too late, about some ‘accident remedial measures.’ The changes made at the Quy interchange with the A14 earlier this year are a fine example of poor consultation.
I feel we can be confident of improved communications with Bidwells now, but on the broader issue of general consultation when developers deal directly with local authorities, we still have quite a way to go.
We are in the process of launching a major new subgroup to look at the many issues affecting cyclists’ safety. This will be a big addition to our campaigning work.
This is the route along the railway line that Jim Chisholm proposed a few months ago. (Members more cultured than me might have realised that the name was a literary allusion, to the Wild West. This was news to me!) We need to start promoting this route, and a subgroup is our usual strategy.
And finally, as mentioned elsewhere, I would like to hear from anyone who cycles to or from Cambridge railway station regularly, with a view to setting up an informal network of users.