Red, amber, green

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 24.

There’s often a flurry of road works in the period leading up to the end of March. This is because this is the end of the Councils’ financial year, a deadline by which money has to be spent. Projects which were a gleam in the planners’ eyes the previous year go to the various design and consultation stages and through the relevant committees and finally make it onto the ground.

Hills Road and Babraham Road

On Hills Road at Long Road. The cycle lane now leaves you where left-turning cars box you in. It can be hard to reach the ‘ahead only’ lane.

You will know from previous Newsletters, or if you frequent the south of the city, that Hills Road has been a focus for changes over the last few months. Some junction redesigns in preparation for bus priority associated with the new Babraham Road Park and Ride site, also under construction, are now complete. Others aspects of the scheme are still to come. For example, an outbound cycle lane starting near the Catholic Church should help cyclists get past queuing traffic.

At the Long Road and Station Road junctions, red surfacing has now been done on some of the areas for cycles.

However, at Long Road, despite one of the aims of the scheme as a whole being to ‘improve safety for pedal cyclists’ (County Council committee papers), the position for northbound cyclists has been made considerably harder. Here, the original cycle lane now leads you, with a short gap, into an advanced stop line. The trouble is that the place you end up is in a left-turn only lane. Hardly any cyclists want to turn left here, and yet you have to get into the middle of the two streams of traffic to go straight on, quite contrary to what the markings on the road direct you to do.

This was the first criticism we made of the original plans in our response to the scheme before construction. Nevertheless, it went ahead. It is clear that what has been implemented lives up to our fears. A group of researchers who commute to the Addenbrooke’s site, and are therefore regular users, felt compelled to contact the Evening News about how vulnerable the junction now made them feel, and we followed this up with a more general letter to the paper, which was printed along with some very helpful photographs.

At Station Road things have improved a little with the introduction of advanced stop lines, but with the increasingly common lack of means to reach all but one of them. However, there are still two independently signalled left-turn only lanes; these make the junction more unpleasant for cyclists than necessary.

The station area

Station area planning brief

At Station Road. For some reason the red area here does not cover the cycle lane, which is where all the cyclists seem to stop

While the development of a leisure development on the Cattle Market site makes slow progress through the planning system, other changes in the station area have started to be mooted. All of these have the potential to provide better conditions for cyclists in time in this critically important area. All of them also have the potential to attract lots more traffic without any improvement for cyclists.

Transport in the area has just been considered holistically in a joint initiative between the City and County Councils, the so-called Southern Corridor Area Transport Plan. This is exactly the kind of geographically-based study that we are keen to see, bringing together all the transport issues in an area – a true example of integration. This is in contrast to, for example, looking at what changes need to be done to support Park and Ride and tacking on other modes in the process. While we had many detailed comments, the study was making all the right noises and was a refreshing read. It was just a shame the process was rather hurried.

Private road (owned by Railtrack) closed by bollards.

The immediate surroundings of the Station will be the subject of a so-called ‘planning brief’ very soon. This sets a policy framework for the way in which a large area should be developed, so that planning applications can be considered in context rather than one at a time. This is made more urgent by development plans being brought forward for the area.

The City Council asked what we thought should be in such a planning brief. This is a very welcome move – so often consultations are of the form ‘what do you think about this plan we have written’. We discussed the cycle parking needs at the station, access from Hills Road, and through to Devonshire Road and onto the Carter Bridge. And, of course, we also emphasised the links to the Chisholm Trail, the rail corridor route we are promoting.

We can expect to see a hotel and new housing in the area, together with some major change to car parking arrangements at the Station.

The owners of the private road between Hills Road and Station Road have just blocked it for through travel by cars with a row of bollards, and added more posts to prevent taxis parking in the Station Road end. This road provides the access to several businesses in the area, and its status may be important for the City’s planning brief.

City House
The new cycle parking for the station, now without the barricade of advertising hoardings. It’s now far less isolated and should be safer (for both cycle and rider) and more pleasant.

In a surprise move, the developers of City House, the never-occupied and always controversial office block at Hills Road bridge, want to knock it down and rebuild it. The amount of office space would be revised upwards and the amount of car parking downwards. However, what interests us is the new scope for the development to provide money to improve cycle access in the area, particularly to the station. On the other hand, we are also concerned that traffic emerging onto Hills Road bridge when the building is finally occupied would be a hazard. Therefore we have objected to the planning application.

In the longer term, we are also going to see development proposals in the Government Offices site, accessed off Brooklands Avenue, but next to these offices, and also on the other side of the railway, in the so-called Homerton Triangle.

Of immediate interest in the area is that the promised demolition of the advertising billboards, behind which the new Station cycle parking was installed, has now happened. We are told that there will be a rotating billboard on a pole, so WAGN will not lose its advertising revenue, while at the same time significantly improving the cycle parking arrangements. Thank you, WAGN!

Brooks Road and Perne Road at Mill Road

This new cycle lane, on Brooks Road, pushes you into the path of moving motor traffic

The old mini-roundabout which was a particular problem for cyclists at the out-of-town end of Mill Road has now gone, and has been replaced by signals. (This end of Mill Road is actually called Brookside).

The junction is undoubtedly an improvement overall. However, a regrettable piece of design means that cycling from Brooks Road into Perne Road (that is, straight on as if from Sainsbury’s to Addenbrooke’s) has been made worse. You can see from the picture that if you don’t make it into the advanced stop box before the lights change to green, you get squeezed by the now moving traffic, as there is nowhere for you to go.

We have written to the County Council about this flaw. This is particularly sad to see when the reason to change the junction was because of its poor cyclist casualty record.

Emmanuel Road

Two ways to improve convenience and safety for cyclists where Parker Street narrows abruptly

The second stage of the Core traffic scheme, the closure of Emmanuel Road to private cars and consequential changes, is moving forwards. It has passed through the relevant committees, and details are now being resolved.

The scheme itself is a very positive move, and should make the central area a much easier place to cycle in. This is partly because there are quite a number of explicit measures to help cyclists, but mostly because the amount of traffic should be vastly reduced. Some of the proposals were outlined in Newsletter 22.

Between writing this and you receiving it, there will have been a further consultation exhibition on the final details. After walking around the area with Richard Preston, the officer in charge of the scheme, we are hopeful that some of the other details we suggested will be incorporated, such as protection at the sudden road narrowing in Parker Street.

However, there is a reluctance to spend much money on reducing the impact on cyclists on the roads which will take the brunt of the displaced traffic. The Council’s Area Committee, which decided on the scheme, did ask that the side effects on Maid’s Causeway were addressed sooner rather than later, though we are expecting proposals here to be modest. We are hopeful that we will see improvements where cyclists are currently ‘pinched’ at the pelican crossings on Maid’s Causeway.

A few small changes to the on-street parking arrangements in East Road, and turns into Dover Street, should help a little along there. We will have to wait to let you know next time whether any other suggestions on affected streets have been taken up.

Elizabeth Way

Elizabeth Way. The new bus, cycle and taxi lane should end near where this existing cycle lane starts.

Elizabeth Way will probably take more traffic as a result of the core scheme. Nevertheless, we were surprised to receive a letter from the County Council suggesting that a bus-and-cycle lane should replace one of the northbound (towards Chesterton) lanes on the Elizabeth Way bridge and a little beyond.

This hadn’t been mentioned before in the context of impact of the core scheme. It seems to be an admirable proposal from the cyclist’s point of view. The surprise, however, is because only one bus service is routed along there – the outbound Park and Ride service to Cowley Road.

We have written welcoming it, and asking that the new lane be joined up properly with existing cycle lanes along Elizabeth Way. We also suggested that the wider section of this road nearer to the Chesterton Road roundabout should be improved for cyclists.

King’s Parade

The water works are nearly finished. The ‘streetscape’ work, to widen pavements, ban most motor traffic and make the cycle access and bollards at the Trinity Street end permanent, should start on 5 July. See Newsletter 20 for more details.

The work is going to take most of the rest of the year, moving down the street in sections. By Christmas we should see a much improved street, giving this most famous of settings a softer look, improving lighting, and providing some freedom from the turning traffic that is such a problem at the present dead end.

David Earl