Caged in

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 40.

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Hauxton Road, Trumpington. Cyclists have to wait twice – or ignore the lights and dodge round the island

The entrance to the new Park & Ride site at Trumpington is typical of poor quality cycle provision. There seems to be something about Park & Ride sites that brings out the most tortuous entrance crossing designs.

Poor quality cycling facilities have always been one of the main concerns of the Cycling Campaign. So often it is Hobson’s choice. On the one hand, you can use an intimidating road environment, and on the other, you can have a frustrating experience on what is supposed to be a purpose-built cycle facility. Worst of all is a simple footpath with a blue sign authorising cycling. If you don’t want to mix with traffic, why must you be rated as a second-class traveller?

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Hauxton Road, Trumpington. Cyclists have to cross through this cage, complete with ‘bobbly’ surface, that is far too narrow to accommodate a bike properly Hauxton Road, Trumpington. Cyclists cross the slip lane into the Park & Ride site

Lack of quality of off-road paths very often arises from one of three things: inadequate width, poor surfaces and interruptions. The entrances to the park and ride sites around Cambridge are examples of systematic, deliberately low quality provision. The entrances need not, and should not, have been constructed in the way that they have been. Clearly they have been designed by people who think cycles are pedestrians on two wheels, not vehicles in their own right.

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M11 junction, Trumpington. Narrow, bumpy path and sharp right angle Hauxton Road. This ‘cycle path’ is only about 0.5 metres wide

The new Trumpington site, opened in November 2001, is typical, and is very similar to the year-old site on Madingley Road. Both of these have a two-way path leading up to an entrance shared with (albeit few) pedestrians. The path is narrow – too narrow to pass a cyclist from the other direction in comfort. The crossing of the entrance is controlled by traffic lights. First, you press the button, then you wait for a longer period than you would on the road. You cross to the middle island which is surrounded by barriers barely wide enough for one bike, then you wait for a second light to change before completing the crossing.

Well that’s the theory. Of course a lot of cyclists ignore the second light (it is legal to do so, as ‘Dr Dynamo’ explained in the last newsletter) and dodge round the island. Many others wouldn’t dream of using the ‘facility’ in the first place, but use the road.

This kind of arrangement is an insult even to pedestrians. It says to both groups ‘you don’t matter as much as motor vehicles – you can wait’.

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Madingley Road Park & Ride site: round to the left, sharp right, wait twice, sharp right, round to the left
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Newmarket Road Park & Ride site: no one would dream of constructing something so abysmally awkward if it were for a car

At Trumpington the poor quality is evident all the way along the route. The car entrance to the Park & Ride site, 100 m up the road, is a fast slip road. There isn’t any reasonable crossing for bikes faced by this traffic. Further out, the old, very narrow path is apparently being reconstructed as far as the M11, but elsewhere it remains only a half a metre wide, and at the motorway slip road takes sharp right angle bends.

At Madingley Road, the situation is, if anything, worse. Not only do you have to cross on two stages through a narrow cage, but you have to take two right angle turns on each side of the crossing. These put you in exactly the wrong position to see the traffic.

At the Newmarket Road Park & Ride site there is only one stage to the crossing but, again, there are right angle turns. These are made worse by the railings which narrow the path even further, and the traffic light controller conveniently planted in the middle of the path.

David Earl