Crossing Tenison Road

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 41.

In the days of the steam locomotive the area of land bounded by Tenison Road, Station Road, Devonshire Road and the railway track contained the locomotive depot of the Great Eastern Railway which, from 1923, became part of the London and North Eastern Railway. With the coming of the diesel locomotive and, later, diesel and electric multiple units, the space needed for a depot reduced considerably and most of area was taken over by Ridgeons, the local firm of builders merchants, for its main site. When Ridgeons moved to Cromwell Road in the late 1990s, leaving only its do-it-yourself store (now Focus) on the site, the remainder of the area was covered with town houses and given the address Ravensworth Gardens.

Image as described adjacent
Tenison Road: Part of the cycle lane in the foreground is to be removed and replaced by a pavement buildout for a new zebra Crossing. Local residents would have preferred to see a pedestrian phase at the Devonshire Road signals nearby.

As the result of pressure from local residents, who were concerned that the only green space for their children to play on was the small grassed triangle at the end of Lyndewode Avenue, one of the conditions placed on the developers by the City Council was the provision of an open recreational space in the north-west corner of the new development, on the opposite side of Tenison Road from most of the existing Victorian housing stock in the area. Monies were made available under Section 106 for the provision of a crossing of Tenison Road. After a considerable delay the City Council put forward its proposals in December 2001.

In brief, the proposals comprised: (a) a blocked paved entrance to Tenison Avenue from Tenison Road with a tree on either side; (b) a new zebra crossing of Tenison Road just south of the intersection, and (c) extended residents’ parking bays on both Tenison Road and Tenison Avenue. Astoundingly, no mention was made of the obliteration of the mandatory cycle lane that allows cyclists to gain access to the advanced stop line at the traffic lights.

Two formal objections were sent in, one from the Campaign and the other from the Glisson Road/Tenison Road Residents Association. The latter’s view was that, since the main entrance to the park is in Devonshire Road, the crossing should be at the traffic lights; furthermore, the Residents Association argued that a pelican crossing was inherently safer than a zebra one. The Campaign’s main argument was against the lengthy buildout and consequent loss of most of the cycle lane, and we remained fairly neutral about the location and type of the crossing. After discussing the proposal with the Council officer concerned, who argued that integrating the crossing into the traffic lights would cause delay to cyclists on the south-east cycle route, we reluctantly agreed to support the separate zebra crossing on condition that the cycle lane remained and that there would be no buildout. We lobbied local councillors accordingly.

‘Tenison Avenue has developed into a rat run for vehicles trying to avoid Hills Road and Mill Road’

Although some of the councillors supported our arguments on the buildout and cycle lane at the entrance to Tenison Avenue, they were not prepared to abandon the buildout at the crossing itself. The result of their decision left neither party happy: the Campaign has to swallow yet another obstructive buildout that forces cyclists into the path of the busy traffic in Tenison Road; and the Residents Association has to face the unpalatable fact that most local children will have to be persuaded to march an extra 50 metres along Tenison Road, facing the danger of crossing Tenison Avenue as they do so, and then 50 metres back on the other side of Tenison Road. One of the bitter ironies of the case is that, since the south-east cycle route opened, involving the partial closure of the end of Lyndewode Avenue to all but cycles, Tenison Avenue has developed into a rat run for vehicles trying to avoid Hills Road and Mill Road, especially those coming from the railway station. These vehicles conflict with cycles at several points on the route between Tenison Road and Gonville Place, and they endanger pedestrians crossing the entrance to Tenison Avenue.

At our monthly meeting in January 2002, the Secretary of the Residents Association, who is also a member of the Campaign, launched a scathing attack on the Campaign, arguing that if the Campaign and the Association had argued for the same solution the outcome could have been satisfactory to both. As we go to press, planning notices have been displayed in the area, notifying the public of the revised plans. How times change: in the heyday of the Great Eastern Railway traffic engineers faced different problems.

David Dyer