Along Coldham’s Lane

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 33.

A year ago, in Newsletter 27, we reported the consultation on the junction of Coldham’s Lane with Cromwell Road. This junction, at the foot of the railway bridge, was to have traffic lights.

‘This is how it should be done’

Well, the lights have now arrived, and they are much improved over the original proposals. Indeed I would go so far as to say ‘this is how it should be done.’

The concern we had in the draft plans was that Coldham’s Common is a route heavily used by cycles, but it had not been properly integrated into the signals. Instead, cycles would have been required to cross into Cromwell Road using nearby pedestrian lights, though they would probably have tried to cross straight over without being able to see how the lights were set.


Image as described adjacent
Cyclists using Coldham’s Common are treated as a fourth arm of a cross-roads when they reach Coldham’s Lane
Image as described adjacent
On Burrell’s Walk where it meets Grange Road, another junction gives a cycle-only route the same status as the crossing road.

Now, however, the Coldham’s Common path has been made the fourth arm of the junction. A second cattle grid has been installed alongside the existing one (which itself has been there less than a year) to provide proper two-way working. From the lights you can go in any of the three directions. In fact, these lights have their own turn in the sequence.

It is nearly as easy to come in the other direction along Cromwell Road, even though cycles and cars share the road space.

All three road approaches have forward stop lines with proper approach lanes to them (though if you want to turn right into Cromwell Road, I advise getting into the right hand traffic lane).

The Coldham’s Common approach has a push button for cyclists but, because the cattle grid is fairly narrow, you are always close to it.

There is one unusual feature of the lights: there is a phase for larger vehicles to do a U-turn to get into the nearby industrial area. Unfortunately, this, and the significant weighting towards Coldham’s Lane as a whole, means that a complete cycle of the lights is rather long. This will tempt left turning cyclists to ignore the lights. Turning right onto the common remains a somewhat tricky manoeuvre. The pedestrian crossing, which is now part of the overall junction signalling, may well be the easiest option for that.

Nevertheless the recognition of the cycle track as part of the junction is very welcome indeed. The Barton Road junction at Lammas Land was the first example of this in the city, though there it was more of a cycle crossing. The new lights on Coldham’s Lane are really the first of their kind – though the signals at Lyndewode Road and Tenison Road have a similar arrangement where the fourth arm is for cycles only. This one works particularly well for cyclists, with no inconvenient push-buttons. Close behind are the new lights on the West Cambridge route from Adams Road into Burrell’s Walk, where Grange Road is crossed. Again, the fourth arm of the junction is for cycle traffic only.

On Coldham’s Lane, the big challenge that remains to be tackled is the railway bridge itself. Drivers frequently intimidate cyclists and overtake, despite the blind summit and double white lines, and as a result many cyclists avoid it.

David Earl