This article was published in 2001, in Newsletter 37.

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A south elevation of the proposed Coldham’s Lane bridge

Cambridge is to get a third bridge for cyclists, at Coldham’s Lane, but construction of the second, across the A14 at Milton, has been delayed.

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Coldham’s Lane bridge is a major barrier to cycling in the area

As we hinted in Newsletter 34, the railway bridge at Coldham’s Lane is to have a cycle and footbridge built alongside it. To make this possible, the City Council has been accumulating a pot of money from developers seeking planning permission for nearby construction, principally Asda at the Beehive Centre, and at Coral Park across the road.

Not only will this make a safer alternative route for cyclists and walkers, but it will also provide a way of avoiding the peak-time queues that build up on the bridge and its approaches. Queues on Saturdays have not been so great with the Beehive partly closed, but when Asda opens we can expect a huge increase. The Tesco supermarket to be built off Newmarket Road can only add to the congestion.

It has been a long time in coming. Friends of the Earth proposed such a bridge way back in the mid eighties. At the time it was costed at a quarter of a million pounds. Now it is going to cost £1.1 million. However, if things go to plan, it might be built quite quickly, with construction starting in November and opening next April – though that seems highly optimistic.

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The plan is to build the cycle bridge out from this side of the road bridge

The new bridge will go on the side of the railway bridge nearest to the Beehive Centre. There isn’t much choice because of the warehousing on the other side. Inevitably we will compare it to the bridge at the station. It won’t be as fancy or as elegant as that one and, more importantly, it won’t be as wide, as space is limited. The minima being suggested are 1.75 m each for pedestrians and cyclists. This compares with 2.7 m and 1.8 m on the bridge at the station. Given that one side will have a barrier, 2 m would be better.

The ramps will be about 1 in 20 (5%), no steeper than the bridge at the station.

What do we think?

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Some of the obstacles the new bridge will have to avoid

Unlike the approaches, the design of the bridge itself seems to have been pretty much completed without any consultation. Some of our members have already said that difficulties with the approaches might have made a different site more appropriate, but we weren’t given the opportunity to say that. Personally, I think a bridge at Coldham’s Lane is long overdue and will be welcomed by the large number of cyclists who use the route.

The Council has arranged consultation in July about the approaches to the bridge. There are two clear problems to be solved. Firstly, how can it be made safe and convenient for cyclists heading away from town? People coming from New Street or Newmarket Road will be on the wrong side of the road. This will be a serious problem which will become worse when a fourth arm is added to the roundabout at the foot of the bridge to service the Coral Park development. There will clearly have to be some infrastructure to support this.

Secondly, what about the other obstacles in the area, notably the rest of Coldham’s Lane and the roundabout near Sainsbury’s at Brooks Road? The long approach lanes to the new junction at Cromwell Road show that traffic could be persuaded to keep in line if the lanes were extended. But the roundabout at Brooks Road near Sainsbury’s at one end, and the junction with Newmarket Road at the other, are the biggest deterrents. The new bridge will make addressing these a higher priority. Improving routes via the Beehive and New Street may be one solution.

Millennium Bug holds up A14 bridge

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Though construction for the bridge at Milton has been delayed, the old road leading to the site is now closed off in preparation

The other bridge being built for cyclists and pedestrians is across the A14 at Milton. Construction was due to start in October (some preliminary work has already been done), with completion in July next year. However, it has now been put back to January with an October 2002 opening. Apparently this is because the European Union has decided that oscillation tests must be carried out on all new pedestrian bridges. No prizes for guessing why: no one wants a repeat of the embarrassment of the Millennium bridge across the Thames.

Some concerns were expressed at our most recent General Meeting that the approaches to the new bridge should be accessible to trailers and tricycles. This arose from the difficulties people have at the ends of the station bridge. Of course the same applies to the new bridge on Coldham’s Lane, and we will pass on these concerns.

David Earl