Continuing changes on Newmarket Road

This article was published in 2001, in Newsletter 34.

‘I’ve already been beeped at and cut up by a van (yes it was a white one!)’

Work in Newmarket Road associated with Park & Ride has now been completed. A side effect of this has been a range of changes for cyclists using the stretch of road from the Airport Way roundabout to the pedestrian crossing outside Marshall’s. Although many of the changes have been mentioned in previous articles, this short report describes what has finally gone in. There is both good and bad in the end result from a cycling point of view.

Just to refresh your memory, this consists of a right turn lane for Park & Ride users from the roundabout to the car park, widening the junction just east of the Park & Ride site, improving the shared-use paths from the Park & Ride site to the pelican crossing by Marshall’s works (on both sides), extending the bus-and-cycle lane from the Park & Ride site into town and adding traffic lights to the main entrance to Marshall’s.

Overall the changes for cyclists are not great. They make little difference to my commute to work, for example. Some aspects are better than what went before, some slightly worse.

‘Reflective markings have been put in, which we think is a first for the area.’

First we should congratulate the council for doing several things right:

  • Quickly remedying the major flaws in the original construction of the westbound shared-use path. This was narrow, dark, lumpy, had kinks in it and big steps at side-turnings. It generally fell hopelessly short of a reasonable standard. The kinks have now been smoothed out. Reflective markings have been put in, which we think is a first for the area. Slightly raised crossings have been added in places to remove the steps.
  • The eastbound shared-use path is commendably smooth. Why can they do this on one side of the road but not the other? The width of the surfacing machine perhaps? The kerb crossings on this side are reasonably smooth, although you have to watch the tactile paving, which is always a bit too smooth to be reassuring.
  • The SAMI junction has a nice smooth kerb crossing between the road and shared-use path. It is not marked and doesn’t look as if it was really intentional but, in the absence of a proper flush kerb, this does the job fine.
  • About half of the poor road surface on the westbound approach to the lights has been replaced and thus made much smoother.
  • The permanent cycle filter has been reinstated at the lights at the end of the bus-and-cycle lane.
  • The left turn lane into the Park & Ride site has been removed, and the width between kerb and island left wide enough to avoid conflict (over 4 m).

Then there are the less good things. Overall this was a wasted opportunity to do something really good westbound. In particular, there are no bypasses to any of the islands and the shared-use path is little better than before.

Image as described adjacent
New cycle lanes on Newmarket Road, past islands by the Park & Ride site, are well under one metre wide. Even then it would be hard for a large vehicle not to commit an offence by entering the lane. The drains and camber force cyclists to ride right on the edge of the lane, and drivers think the presence of a lane means they don’t have to give the same room to pass as they normally would.
  • New mandatory cycle lanes on the road are less than 1 m wide (actually only 80 cm in places). These are provided before and after the islands. In theory this should help keep some space for the cyclist, but at this width I’m not sure they help much. I’ve already been beeped at and cut up by a van (yes, it was a white one!) as I was approaching one of the islands. I was cycling at the correct distance from the kerb, which is just about on the white line. The driver took exception to this, claiming that I was ‘too close to the edge of the cycle lane’. I don’t know if removing the lanes would make this particular driver’s behaviour any better, but it certainly shows that islands in general are unhelpful to cyclists, and that the narrow lanes past them are a poor ‘solution’.
  • 3 m wide lanes between islands are much too narrow. This creates conflict between bikes and other vehicles. It is noticeable that drivers behave much better at the longer islands, such as at the westbound approach to the Park & Ride site. Here they tend to wait until the cyclist has cleared the narrow section. At the ordinary short islands, drivers tend to scrape past. I think that this is because a longer section looks and feels narrower than a short one, even though the width is actually the same.
  • There is no good way to rejoin the road from the shared-use path before Marshall’s busy exits. You have to use the Marshall’s exits themselves, which means making tight turns. Many cyclists would want to leave the shared path before the busy entrances.
  • Poor access to the shared path at the Airport Way roundabout. Here, there is a series of tight turns. This was pointed out in our initial response, but has not been remedied. Indeed, the Council said they ‘didn’t understand what the problem was’, which was disappointing.

Image as described adjacent Image as described adjacent
The shared path has been marginally widened, but it is still too narrow and too lumpy. At least, however, the worst kink around trees has been removed and edge markings have been used for the first time in the area in this situation.


Utterly unnecessary extreme paranoia

Image as described adjacent We’ve complained long and hard about the way in which cyclists on cycle tracks must give way at every side road when they wouldn’t have to if they were on the road alongside. But among the seven Give Ways across entrances in about 250 m in the new construction on Newmarket Road, these two must take the biscuit. Only a few metres from each other, cyclists must yield here to the massive amounts of traffic turning off the main road to cross their path through padlocked gates onto the grass of the airfield. This is utterly unnecessary extreme paranoia.