Mitcham’s Corner

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 41.

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Casualty reduction measures

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Mitcham’s Corner: Cyclists have to ride in the middle of the road with traffic speeding past on each side. The county council has at last decided to do something about the danger to cyclists here. But the small amount of money allocated will not allow for any radical solutions.

The County Council is currently designing changes to Mitcham’s Corner, that very intimidating gyratory system connecting Victoria Avenue, Victoria Road, Milton Road and two stretches of Chesterton Road. Early in March, I attended a meeting for transport groups, local residents and councillors, to hear about the process.

In the five years from 1996 to 2000 there were 55 injury accidents at, or close to, the junction. Cyclists form a smaller than expected percentage of the casualties, presumably because the junction is so unpleasant that many cyclists avoid it completely.

Many of the collisions were described as ‘weaving-type accidents’ (i.e. a result of lane-switching and merging). There were also people pulling in front of two-wheeled vehicles (i.e. bikes and motorbikes), rear-end-shunts, car doors being opened in the path of cycles, and people being hit on zebra crossings.

From a cyclist’s perspective, the main problems with this junction are:

  • It is very intimidating to cycle round.
  • Long detours are needed for some journeys (e.g. Victoria Avenue to Milton Road or Chesterton Road east-bound).
  • Multiple lane changes.
  • The need to cycle for significant distances in an exposed position (e.g. from Victoria Avenue to Victoria Road).
  • The speed of motor vehicles at some times of day.
  • Poor road surfaces, e.g. the top end of Croft Holme Lane.
  • Illegal car-parking on Milton Road.

‘We think the whole junction needs a fundamental rethink’

Not surprisingly, many cyclists currently choose to walk, or cycle, across the junction via the zebra crossings. This only works for those travelling north-south and, of course, it is not legal to cycle on zebra crossings or pavements.

The Council’s current plan is to use traffic signals to separate flows of traffic. Although this wouldn’t remove the need for lane changing, it would remove lane merging by restricting movement to one incoming lane at a time. For example, imagine just the one junction where Milton Road meets the gyratory. This could be a simple two-phase system, where either Milton Road traffic moves or traffic already on the gyratory moves. When Milton Road traffic is stopped, pedestrians (and presumably bikes) can cross.

This has all been modelled using some relatively new computer software that was demonstrated at the meeting. Unbelievably, this software does not model cycle movements at all! This may perhaps not be critical from the perspective of predicting whether a set of changes might cause gridlock for motor vehicles. However, this would be a disaster if it were used to calculate the timings to be used on a new set of signals, as most cyclists would probably end up having to stop at every single set of lights.

Many at the meeting expressed the view that more direct cycle routes must be created. For example, if signal-controlled crossings were used, toucan crossings would allow cycling across the junction. East-west journeys are particularly difficult and there were various suggestions for ways of allowing cyclists to ride through the centre of the junction.

We think the whole junction needs a fundamental rethink but the current budget of £175,000 won’t stretch that far.

The County’s intention is to present a draft scheme to the Area Joint Committee meeting on 8 April, and then to run a public consultation. If all goes well, the work could be done this autumn.

Planning applications

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Developers propose to replace Staples, on the island in the middle of the gyratory system, with a supermarket, though it looks as if it will be very difficult to get to by bike.

We recently objected to two planning applications for a convenience store, restaurant and 24 flats on the site currently occupied by Staples. The two identical applications proposed a two-floor underground car park with an entrance ramp on Croft Holme Lane and an exit ramp on Victoria Road (fairly near to the Portland Arms pub). The scheme included a cycle path across what is currently the front of Staples – complete with two trees right in the middle of the path! And the residents’ parking for the third- and fourth-floor flats was to be in the basement, down two 1-in-10 ramps shared with shoppers’ cars.

There could be a lot of redevelopment around Mitcham’s Corner in the next few years, as 1 Milton Road (Multi-York, Anglia Business Computers and the old petrol station) is likely to be re-developed. We have joined local residents in calling for a Planning Brief to be produced for the whole area, before any new development takes place.

Clare Macrae