Under your tyres

25 August is big bang

In early July the final decisions were taken to allow the next stage of the ‘core traffic scheme’ to go ahead. As you will know from previous newsletters, this involves installing rising bollards in Emmanuel Road (with a bypass for bikes), changes to improve the position for buses on the Four Lamps roundabout at the end of Victoria Avenue, changes to allow only bikes, buses and taxis to turn left out of Downing Street, new signals at the Parkside-Clarendon Street junction, and a host of other changes to support the new traffic flow patterns. This will happen on 25 August. No doubt construction will have started by the time you read this, as this is a quite aggressive timetable.

However, things don’t end there. In a commendable exercise in co-ordination, the intention is to launch the Babraham Road Park & Ride service on the same day. Preparation for this has been going on for many months. Restrictions in Worts’ Causeway enforced by more bollards will also go ahead on the 25th. This will make it no longer a rat-run and allow buses to pass the queue that forms on Babraham Road.

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Bikes get cut up on Maids Causeway by cars approaching the crossing at Fair Street

The Park & Ride bus services will also be re-routed so that they travel right through the City (Newmarket Road to Madingley Road, and Cowley Road to Babraham Road) instead of just shuttling back and forward to individual sites, and arrangements put in place to change from one to the other, so that it should be easy to get from, say, Madingley Road to Addenbrooke’s. Some more bus stops will also be introduced on these services.

There will be a cycle track on Babraham Road as far as the new Park & Ride site. For the first time the council has accepted our desire to see such tracks provided with reflectors or edge markings where there are no street lights. We’re very pleased about this. It gives us experience and a precedent for the many other similar facilities in the area. It is not clear at this stage whether a second track will be constructed on the other side.

Also as part of the all-change day, sign posting is being installed to identify areas of the City Centre by name so that it makes it easier for people who do need access but aren’t allowed through the barriers to get to their destinations. For example, ‘When you get to the inner ring road, follow the signs for Magdalene.’

As part of the previous round of consultation on the core scheme, councillors asked officers to take more account of the impact of the scheme on Maid’s Causeway, a representation we made as well as the residents. As a result, some minor changes have been proposed, including some short stretches of cycle lane, though not the one that is most important, in our view, which is to protect cyclists approaching the build-out at the end of Fair Street from the Newmarket Road direction.

So all-in-all, 25 August might be a good time to go on holiday to let the dust settle by your return!

Bridge Street

A working group has been formed to take the beautification of Bridge Street and Magdalene Street a stage further. As we reported previously, this would most probably involve changing the bollard arrangement to allow two-way working, resurfacing and widening pavements.

We were asked to comment on the ideas so far. We were very pleased to hear that the very narrow part of Bridge Street by Waterstone’s is now being considered. We stressed again our concern that the priorities at the St John’s Street junction be clarified, and we raised the possibility of finding a way for cyclists to use Round Church Street in both directions (though the cost of doing this would probably rule it out for now).

The most difficult section to consider is outside Magdalene College because the road is so narrow here. Already there is no room for two buses to pass without extreme care, so bus drivers seem to be operating an informal priority system. At the same time, pedestrians are desperately cramped and have to contend with errant cyclists on the pavement (though fewer than when there were continual queues in the street).

With so little room to play with, it is clear that a priority system needs to be introduced if the pavements are to be widened further. At what width are cyclists still safe when they (inevitably) ride through when there’s a bus coming in the other direction? Choosing the width so as to discourage vehicles overtaking cyclists in the gap is also likely to be a close call. So to get a feel for what would be the likely effect, there is likely to be an experiment in November (in term time). Engineers would closely monitor the effect of different widths of road, using something like railway sleepers to vary the width, and observe the effect. We’ll take some pictures for you of this in action.

Very welcome would be a proposed 20 mph speed limit. Higher speeds (or possibly higher perceived speeds) have been one negative effect of the Bridge Street scheme.

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Before and after: the altered road markings on Hills Road near Addenbrooke’s Hospital

Hills Road, ugh!

We said last time that there was a problem with the left turn lane at the newly re-arranged signals on Hills Road, approaching Long Road. Since then, the cycle lane which stops short of the junction has been tweaked slightly to make it a bit more obvious to cyclists and motorists that cyclists are going to have to move over. However, it doesn’t really address the main problem at all, in our opinion.

We wrote to the Council about the original problem, seeking answers for some specific questions. The response was a ‘your letter will be kept on file for future reference’ standard acknowledgement, which is a polite way of saying sod off. We regard this as an unacceptable response.


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Addenbrooke’s Hospital Roundabout

At the same time, the new signals just up the road at Addenbrooke’s were installed. Great! This should have helped cyclists at this large and difficult junction, as well as controlling traffic to speed the Park & Ride buses. However, residents complained about longer traffic queues, so with no consultation (in contrast to the months of seeking observations beforehand, and in theory taking decisions based on it) the lights were changed to be peak time only.

Arguably that’s when the crossing the fast traffic stream coming from Babraham Road is easier to negotiate by bike as it is queued up anyway. So cyclists are no better off at this hazardous junction after all, despite one of the aims of the Hills Road changes being to improve the lot of cyclists. At present that aim has certainly not been achieved.



Resurfacing

Main streets all around the City are being resurfaced just now, as part of a programme of work being done by the City Council on behalf of the County Council. This is one of the best bits of news for ages. Work should be finished by early August so will mostly be completed by the time you receive this. The streets in question are marked on the map.

Map of Cambridge showing resurfaced streets
The roads being resurfaced

Once we knew about Castle Hill, we wrote to the Council pointing out that it would be an ideal opportunity to join up the relatively new but bitty sections of cycle lane down the hill. They haven’t done that, though.

The resurfacing is good news for cyclists. The list includes many of the streets we have been complaining about for ages. Of course everyone will have their own least favourite bad street that happens to be in their regular route, but the chosen list seems to me to be a fair selection. I’m sorry it doesn’t include Regent Terrace, though.

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Broken green-light baffle on Hills Road

Science Park

To complement the new cycle and pedestrian access to the Science Park, a new crossing has been installed across Milton Road. This is good news but had some teething difficulties: as with Hills Road and Huntingdon Road, the crossing is very close to an ordinary set of traffic lights, and a couple of near misses were reported to us, when drivers mistook the green crossing light for the main junction light.

As a result of this we asked the county council to hide the green light with a baffle, as they have done elsewhere. At the time of writing we understand this is being done. We also hope the damaged baffle at Hills Road will be replaced, as the confusion there is also once again a possibility.

Milton

At the end of May, we met Milton parish councillors and County Council engineers to review the plans for Milton High Street. These involve a combination of cycle lanes, traffic calming, and some shared-use footway. The scheme does away with the three central islands that cause cyclists so much grief, offers road cyclists some additional protection with the northbound lane and slower speeds, while giving less confident cyclists the option of riding on a reconstructed footway.

We were able to share some of our reservations about shared-use with the councillors, while being positive about the scheme as a whole. The scheme, with some amendments no doubt, will probably go to be decided by the South Cambridgeshire Area Committee (an amalgam of county and district councillors) in the early autumn. It is much more expensive than anything originally proposed, but it seems likely that it will be approved.

I think this is a good outcome.

A14 bridge

Also by Milton, plans for a cycle and pedestrian bridge over the A14 are advancing. A feasibility study has been completed, and it is likely that there will be some public consultation in the autumn. We understand that funding arrangements seem much more positive now, not least because the cost might well be significantly less than originally thought.

The bridge would link Milton and Cambridge along the line of the old Milton Road, which now runs into Cowley Road near the St John’s Innovation Centre at the city end, and emerges near the Tesco roundabout in Milton. The scheme should make access to Milton and beyond significantly easier by bike, and therefore encourage an increase in cycling in the area. It will also, incidentally, cut some distance and climbing off the present route around the A14 roundabout.

The bridge would be built to a laudably high standard, both on width and design. It will need long approach ramps to keep gradients as manageable as possible.

There aren’t any finalised designs yet, but drawings we have seen suggest two alternatives: an arch design, like a mini Sydney Harbour bridge, and a cable-stayed construction, rather like the bridge at the station. Each would allow a single span, avoiding the need to construct a central pier (and presumably, not least in the Highways Agency’s thinking, minimising disruption to traffic on the A14).

Local Transport Plan

We were somewhat surprised but pleased to be invited to a special meeting of the cycling liaison group in early June to discuss the developing Transport Plan for the county. It is this Plan which forms the request for funds to Government. Unfortunately, because it was called at short notice, not many of the usual attendees could make the meeting.

However, it did mean that we were able to stress the key points from our written response. We were also able to talk around some issues relating to a walking strategy, about which there seemed to be a sense of bewilderment. What could one do for pedestrians? Not our remit perhaps, but the County clearly does need helping out here.

We also learned a bit more about the form of future consultation on the final plan for next year. (This year’s is a provisional plan, and next year the Council must produce a final five year plan).

Grange Road

The Councils have consulted about installing traffic calming in Grange Road recently. (But if Grange Road is to be altered next year, why are they resurfacing half its length right now?).

There was a small exhibition in the area. Unlike most exercises, it is starting with a clean sheet. The exhibition showed some of the things that have been done elsewhere that might be possible, but no plans or ideas for Grange Road itself. This seems a much more satisfactory approach to consultation than commenting on a ready made plan or choosing between alternatives.

We observed that speed and rat running were two particular problems, and that ideally Grange Road should not be a through road any more. Simply cutting the level of traffic would be a major contribution to traffic calming, and there are strong precedents for this around the city, notably in Petersfield. A reduced speed limit is desirable.

We also noted that the existing shared-use footways were very unsatisfactory but moderately well used. It would be hard to provide a better standard of cycle provision, without either reducing the road width (and therefore becoming one way, consistent with a closure in some arrangement perhaps), or reducing car parking. That would then allow either cycle lanes, cycle tracks or some more continental arrangement to allow bikes to be separate from other traffic.

We also looked at what kinds of traffic calming were better for cyclists and what kinds were uncomfortable or hazardous for cyclists. For example, if we must have speed humps, smaller cushions which don’t force cyclists over the bump, or a different profile which doesn’t give you a ‘thump’ are better (see Newsletter 18). Central islands are anathema unless they have bypasses to avoid cyclists being squeezed by impatient motorists.

Following the consultation, Council officers proposed:

  • Removing all on-street parking on Grange Road, to allow room for a mandatory cycle lane for northbound cyclists
  • Upgrading and resurfacing the existing southbound cycleway
  • A single lane width-restriction at the narrowest section (near Herschel Road), controlled by traffic lights. (It’s not clear how this might affect southbound cyclists who choose to ride on the road)
  • Installing a raised table at Burrell’s Walk and Adams Road, though rather disappointingly traffic lights would not be installed until the University’s planned development at West Cambridge generates sufficient traffic
  • A road closure in Wilberforce Road to prevent rat-running to avoid the new measures.

On 5 July, the Cambridge Environment and Transport Area Joint Committee accepted these recommendations.

Green Street

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Green Street: full cycle stands

Work in Green Street has now been completed: you may remember that we drew attention to the cobbles (setts) last time.

Cycle racks have now been installed. These are almost parallel to the kerb – slightly angled inwards – which is a better use of space than the old racks in the street. The previous V-grips left bikes sticking out into the road, vulnerable to traffic, and at the same time there was a very narrow pavement.

However, it is a little disappointing to see how few racks there are.

Marshall Millennium Route

Marshall’s are working with Sustrans and the councils to establish a brand new cycle route from the back of the Newmarket Road Park & Ride site to link in to the riverside route into the City at Stourbridge Common. Much of the new construction would be on Marshall’s land. Though probably slower, the route might be attractive to some Park & Ride users as it involves virtually no contact with traffic. It’s a shame therefore that there are no ordinary cycle parking stands at the site. The path would also attract some people coming from further afield – Teversham or Quy, for example, and particularly if you are heading for the Chesterton area. It would be a more useful link if the County Council were able to create a proper cycle track along Newmarket Road to the tunnel under the A14 at Quy. For another perspective on this, see the National Cycle Network feature in this newsletter.

City House

I stand corrected in my article last time about the planning application to demolish City House, the unoccupied office block on the corner of Hills Road and Brooklands Avenue. We had some crossed wires which led me to think that the planning application to rebuild had a somewhat reduced car parking provision. In fact the application is to rebuild just what is there at present.

David Earl

Carter Bridge woes

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We asked for the obstruction to be reduced here, to allow cyclists by
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There is often a car parked here, just at the foot of the Carter Bridge, obstructing or partially obstructing cyclists’ right turns

Regular users of the Carter Bridge could be forgiven for feeling rather frustrated of late. First a lay-by was installed on Devonshire Road, with the potential for car doors to be opened in the path of a cyclist ( Newsletter 23 ). Oh, and the mandatory cycle lane was blocked whilst the lay-by was constructed. Then the cycle lane was dug up by Wilcon for construction on the old Ridgeon’s site. And most recently, the off-ramp to Devonshire Road has been blocked by electrical installations for the same development. Meanwhile, at the other end of the bridge, we hear that parked vehicles cause an obstruction.

Clare Macrae