Cambridge Station area

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 32.

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The architect’s idea of what the station area might look like in a couple of years’ time.

Railtrack’s announcement of plans to redevelop the area around the station is important for cyclists, not least because so many of us use it. Rather than coming out of the blue, the planning application is the culmination of a lengthy consultation process, which we have been involved in, including commenting on a City Council ‘planning brief’, and a brainstorming day last November. Much of what was said has been included in the planning application, at least to some extent.

Briefly, the plans envisage the following:

  • A new road from Hills Road bridge for buses and cycles only, giving a through route to the station for the first time. Bus stops would be where the short-term car park is now.
  • A pedestrianised square immediately outside the station and a much wider pedestrian approach to the station along Station Road, reflecting the very large number of people who arrive on foot.
  • A 50% increase in cycle parking, to 1,050 spaces, split over two sites, one north and one south of the station buildings. A small cycle business with some provision of ‘secure’ parking is also envisaged.
  • A five-storey office and a mixture of commercial and residential blocks on Station Road and where the transport police are now. The Station square would have small shops, caf├ęs and so on around it.
  • Low-rise multi-storey car parks, with a small increase in spaces. One for season ticket holders would also be incorporated in the same building as a ‘budget’ hotel alongside platform 3.
  • Housing on the waste land between Station Road and Hills Road (with through access for cycles but not cars), and by the bike bridge.
  • Improved access for cycles onto Devonshire Road.
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Bike racks at the station are already full to capacity again. The 1,050 spaces proposed are clearly insufficient.

I think the development will offer a great all-round improvement at the expense of some bulky buildings, which will, I suspect, make the area in front of the station feel much more enclosed than at present.

From a cycling point of view, our reservations are that the proposals do not go far enough.

The 50% increase in cycle parking is welcome. However, it is clear that it will be full almost as soon as it is installed. Visiting the station on the day I write this, the racks are full to capacity with cycles once again locked to every available railing, barrier and post only eighteen months after the number of spaces was doubled. Supervised cycle parking could really have worked here, but is not included.

Access from the south will be very useful, although Railtrack may need some help persuading the County Council about the wisdom of the new Hills Road junction. For cyclists, however, we would really like an underpass under the railway bridge so there is no need to turn right across the main road.

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This junction on the route to the station, at Regent Terrace, is often blocked by parked cars. We’re trying to get it marked with double yellow lines.

At the other end, a ramp from the bike bridge right into the new northern cycle parking area is clearly possible. This should obviously have been done when the bridge was first built. There is no possibility of this ever happening if the plan goes ahead as shown. This is the best and last opportunity to remove the difficult pair of right turns on the blind corner of Devonshire Road.

Station Road itself is outside the plan area. However, here is an obvious opportunity to address some of its failings. In particular, there is really no reason why on-street car parking should be allowed. It doesn’t provide many spaces, narrows the road so that two buses cannot pass in some places, and is a hazard for cyclists. The County Council could fruitfully consider this at the same time.

David Earl