With less than a year to go until the opening of the first phase of the National Cycle Network, it seems appropriate to look at how the network will be in Cambridge during Ride the Net week in June 2000 and also what we are aiming for by June 2005, when the whole National Cycle Network is due for completion. The proposals for the National Cycle Network in the Cambridge area are much as envisaged when they were first drawn up in detail in 1997.
Most of the work over the last few years has been concentrated on securing agreement for the routes and the target is to have all routes agreed by December 2000. This looks a difficult target, but not impossible. Looking at the routes in detail:
Route 51 between Huntingdon and St Ives is largely agreed, but a lot of work is needed. The disused St Ives to Cambridge railway then forms the basis of the whole route to Cambridge, although it is intended to follow the track in parts and to deviate from the track elsewhere. Uncertainties about the future of the railway have delayed decisions about implementing the cycle route and this is disappointing especially since plans for both guided bus and rail make reference to a cycleway in addition to public transport. Indeed, by building a path along the edge of the available land, there would be plenty of space to accommodate future public transport, with just a few difficult spots. A notable pinch point would be Histon station, but in fact in this area we plan to take the route through the village rather than along the trackbed. There is a lot of interest in the route between Histon and the Science Park and Sustrans has been urging the County Council to take this forward for some time. (The County Council’s influence with Railtrack is vital.)
There was always some uncertainty about the best route to the city centre from the disused railway, with the options being either to continue along the railway to the river (as with the Chisholm Trail) or to head straight for the centre. We prefer the latter since the National Cycle Network is an urban centre to urban centre network, but both options should be developed. The route would be mainly on road using Mere Way and Carlton Way with some additional traffic calming, but this needs further development and discussions with the local authorities. If a new route can be developed past Shire Hall to Castle Street and Bridge Street, this would be the best way to approach the city centre.
With the help of Marshall’s, the local authorities and others, the first section of this part of Route 51 is now quite well advanced and it is hoped that a planning application will soon be submitted for a new route between the existing paths on Stourbridge Common and the Newmarket Road Park & Ride site. The Common and Meadows are obviously very sensitive, but it is hoped that there will be a lot of support for such a valuable link. Agreement has been reached in principle with the River Cam Conservators, Railtrack, Gonville & Caius and the Environment Agency for a new route under the railway line beside the river, and white posts should be appearing in the river shortly to mark the proposed spot. The County and City Councils and Marshall have agreed to support the scheme, but some funding is still to be found, with the aim being to have the route open by June 2000. Beyond the Park & Ride site the route to Lode and Burwell is proving difficult, since the landowners are unwilling to agree to the use of the disused railway and an alternative via Newmarket Road and Stow cum Quy may be necessary.
It is now likely that three new river crossings will be needed between Ely and Cambridge to take Route 11 mainly along quiet roads and past Wicken Fen. From Waterbeach to Milton, discussions have been held with the proposers of the rowing lake, since the rowing lake towpath would make a great route. With or without the rowing lake taking place this is the preferred alignment. Through Milton the national route will probably take the scenic route through the Country Park to link to the planned bridge over the A14. The new bridge does now seem very likely and this justifies the decision to take the national route this way. From the new bridge the plan would be to follow Milton Road cycle routes to the disused railway, where a new route would be needed along the edge of railway land and over the river beside the railway, much as envisaged for the Chisholm Trail. This would join with Route 51 on the edge of Stourbridge Common and follow the riverside routes to the city centre. An unresolved element of this is how to deal with the one way system in St John’s Street and Trinity Street. Sustrans would like to see two way cycling legalised here on a trial basis. The road is actually wider than some nearby streets where two-way motorised traffic is permitted!
From Brooklands Avenue the planned line of Route 11 is much the same as the Chisholm Trail and a lot depends on development opportunities. There are a lot of new developments planned in this area and prospects look good, with a link to the station across Hills Road likely to become the recommended route from the station to join the National Cycle Network. The planned route would roughly follow the railway line to Great Shelford, passing Addenbrooke’s. This would be a very valuable route, but negotiations with landowners have a long way to go and nothing is likely on the ground for a few years at least. Beyond Great Shelford the picture is much the same, with the proposed route roughly following the railway to Ickleton. There have been some discussions with developers, but a lot of work is needed with landowners.
It is obviously disappointing that there is little new work to see on the ground as far as the routes are concerned, but the Marshall’s route should change that soon. There is also still a long way to go in terms of agreeing routes with landowners, but things are now progressing much faster than they were. The fact that there are more than five years to go until the completion of the planned routes means that it will be possible to take advantage of many of the developments that are due to happen in the Cambridge area over the next few years, and in this way the prospects are very exciting. This should mean that, given the will, the National Cycle Network in the Cambridge area should be a real example of excellence and a very useful way to encourage more cycling over the next few years.
In this respect the Ride the Net celebrations should be a great tool for the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and the city as a whole. As riders converge on Cambridge it is the ideal opportunity to highlight the good things about cycling in Cambridge as well as the shortcomings of existing facilities and the opportunities for improvement. 19-25 June 2000 therefore has a huge significance for Cambridge and my biggest hopes for next year’s Ride the Net celebrations are that they will raise the profile of cycling generally and that they will focus people’s minds on the need to really get moving on completing the whole National Cycle Network by 2005.
If anyone feels that they may have useful contacts with landowners or would like to help in negotiations with landowners or fund-raising please contact Nigel Brigham at Sustrans East of England office, in Peterborough 01733 319981.
The Regional Ride the Net co-ordinator would like to talk to anyone planning events for next year. He is Graham Elliott, Bikeways Unlimited, 2, The Old Hall, Barsham, Beccles, NR34 8HB. 01502 714661 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nigel Brigham, Sustrans Regional Manager