The Chisholm Trail: the outer reaches

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 23.

Last year Newsletter 17 carried an article describing the section from Newmarket Road to Hills Road of my proposed cross-Cambridge cycle route. This article describes the proposed sections north from Newmarket Road to the Science Park, CRC and villages north and also south from Hills Road to Long Road Sixth Form College, Addenbrooke’s Hospital and villages south.

First an aside: why the Chisholm Trail? I blame the editor. I called it a Cycle SuperHighway, but there is a film called the Chisholm Trail with John Wayne and that is what Mark called my suggested route. The original Chisholm Trail, a route of about 1,000 miles, was used to move cattle safely north from grazing grounds in Texas.

I hope that the Cambridge Chisholm Trail can move cyclists safely across Cambridge (but not to slaughter in Chicago)! The name will do until someone suggests a better one.

North: Newmarket Road to the River Cam

Image as described adjacent
Could a 3.5 m cycle- and foot-bridge be cantilevered to the side of the Stourbridge Common railway bridge?

A route either side of the railway is possible. To the east there is the old Leper Chapel and Barnwell Junction where the abandoned line to Lode and Burwell starts. A route initially slightly away from the railway on this side would give good access for people in the Abbey district of the city. On the west there is a scrap yard and derelict land at the back of the Mercer’s Row industrial units. Either route would then cross open meadows to reach the river but, being next to the railway, which is on a low embankment, should not be intrusive.

The River Cam

A bridge here would seem to be an expensive item as it would need a span of some 30 metres to clear both river and towpath. In fact, if it can be attached to the existing railway bridge, each ‘span’ need be only around 3 metres. As the existing structure takes dynamic loads of engines and wagons weighing around 50 tons each, a lightweight bridge of some 3.5 metres width should not be an impossibility. There are precedents: the Charing Cross railway bridge over the Thames in London has a similar footbridge attached.

Image as described adjacent

River Cam to Milton Road

There is an existing route from Fen Road via Long Reach Drive and Nuffield Road but it is not direct nor can some of it be safely cycled at more than 10 kph. A new route to the rear of Moss Bank, or down Moss Bank itself, and then following the St Ives line (leaving room for a single line to be reinstated) would be much more suitable. Links to the Cambridge Commercial Park off Cowley Road, and the development of offices opposite the Science Park (Cambridge Business Park) could then also easily be created. If developments at Chesterton Sidings were to start then this could be a source of ‘section 106’ funding for all routes in this zone and possibly the Cam bridge.

North of Milton Road

Sharing the old St Ives line would give excellent links to the Science Park (if you can get through the fence!) and Cambridge Regional College. This would also enable a route to Histon and Impington that avoided a crossing of the A14. Although not part of my suggested route, the proposed cycle bridge over the A14 to Milton would add extra value to the Chisholm Trail route, as would the Chisholm Trail to the A14 bridge.

If the Cam bridge were built, these section in North Cambridge would connect commercial and residential areas (e.g. Marshall’s to Kings Hedges, and Science Park to Abbey Ward) for cyclists, perhaps replacing the difficult and long car trips otherwise required.

South: Hills Road to Long Road

On the west, space is already reserved in the City plan for a segregated rapid transit route, and I would suggest this would also provide the most direct route to Long Road for the cycleway. This strip, adjacent to the University Press site, is currently derelict Railtrack land and is the first sight of Cambridge for visitors arriving by train. Why shouldn’t we have some pleasant landscaping and a ‘Welcome to Cambridge’ sign similar to that at York? Connections could be made to City House (still empty!), the University Press, and Brooklands Avenue Government Offices. There may be alternative routes through the soon to be redeveloped Government Offices site, but these should be in addition to, not instead of, the direct route. The route can then go past Clare College sports ground to the spare arch under Long Road next to the main railway line. Links could also be made to the existing Hobson’s Conduit (foot)path, Porson Road and Bentley Road.

A route to the East would initially be more difficult unless the Homerton Street area is redeveloped, but could then pass though the end of Homerton College grounds, the playing fields beyond, and under the other spare arch at Long Road.

Image as described adjacent

South of Long Road towards Trumpington and the A10

This could follow the line of the old Bedford railway line, part of which is already a permissive path. This diverts slightly north of Long Road to go through the separate bridge under the road and then curves past the path to Paget Road and on to the path to Forster Road. Ideally the route could then go under the Shelford Road (with access) and Hauxton Road in the existing cutting, giving access to Plant Breeding International and the A10. This section is the proposed route of the bus-way to the Trumpington Park and Ride site, and although there were twin tracks there may be little room in the cutting for both bikes and buses.

South of Long Road towards Shelford

Image as described adjacent
A route crossing four tracks would not be popular with railway authorities, but better alternatives exist.
Image as described adjacent
This track runs for much of the way from Shelford to Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

To the east of the main line, the area around Long Road Sixth Form College and the proposed new Addenbrooke’s station will present problems because of limited space. This is an important area as it could provide a lot of users. To the west is an easier route south, as for much of the way to Shelford there is already a track. Access to the camping and caravan site off Shelford Road and (for users on foot) the permissive paths to Nine Wells via the route of Hobson’s Conduit under the railway would provide added value to the route.

At the Shelford end, a footpath crosses the railway at ‘Shepreth Junction’ and joins Granham’s Road. This crossing is of four tracks as the route has just divided and is, I feel, unsatisfactory. A separate crossing of just the King’s Cross lines and an approach to Granham’s Road reached through the grounds of the County Council Trading Standards office would be much safer. The widening of the existing footpath to the west of the line with permission for cycling would bring the route as far as Shelford Station.

This southern section is in an area under review for cycle routes by both the County and Sustrans.

Remember, much of this route is over private land. Even where tracks are shown this does not mean the public have access. Some marked sections are rights of way or permissive paths, but most of the route is still private.

Jim Chisholm