Proposals for Silver Street, Regent Street and Downing Street

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 42.

I hope you will remember the public exhibitions of the Silver Street and Regent Street proposals we mentioned in the last Newsletter. You should also find the County Council leaflet and other consultation materials on their web site. We do hope you’ll respond to the consultations. The Silver Street changes are supposed to be mainly for the benefit of cyclists.

If the now amalgamated changes in Regent Street go ahead, they should benefit both cyclists and buses. Most private traffic would be prevented from entering Regent Street at the Catholic Church. As we speculated, traffic flow in Park Terrace would be reversed (to maintain access to Regent Street for people who need it), but cycles would be allowed both ways (which they aren’t at present).

Image as described adjacent
Downing Street: Without clever engineering, traffic leaving Lion Yard car park might end up turning left across what is currently the contraflow lane, but the Regent Street end would be much quieter.

But is the cost worth it? The much narrower Tennis Court Road would take most of the traffic leaving Lion Yard car park, and a section of the contra-flow lane on Downing Street would be lost. In doing that, without some clever engineering, a serious conflict might be introduced between cyclists heading towards Pembroke Street and car park traffic turning left across their path into Tennis Court Road.

On Regent Street, car parking and aggressive bus driving are the two main problems we perceive at present. Might closing Regent Street increase bus speeds and actually make buses a bigger problem? Regent Street could turn into a parking nightmare if it is no longer regarded as a through road.

With Silver Street, both ‘preferred options’ offer closure during the middle of the day, and option B also makes the street one-way inbound for cars in the mornings and outbound only in the evenings. But there is little relief for cyclists at the times when it is busiest and, therefore, most needed. There is minimal room to widen the pavement where pedestrians desperately need more space.

By not making complete closure a preferred option, the possibilities of arranging the street to better suit pedestrians and cycles is very limited. The plans do not currently propose traffic lights at the Pembroke Street­Trumpington Street­King’s Parade junctions, where getting out on a bike is terribly hard. This is apparently a ‘detail’, which could be considered, but for us it is an essential aspect of living with any scheme.

It is possible that the part-time closure options may lead to a complete closure in the distant future.

Whatever you think of the scheme, it’s important to tell the Council. Numbers count.
Your response counts literally. The Campaign’s response on its own is only one among many.

The proposal is supposed to be mainly for the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians. As a campaign, we aren’t expressing a preference for either suggested option in Silver Street, or whether reduced traffic on Regent Street is worth the cost in turning Tennis Court Road into an extremely busy road.

Your opinions are, of course, your own. But we recommend that you tell the Council that:

  • The aims of this scheme to help cyclists and pedestrians won’t be properly achieved by either of the preferred options, because they don’t address the peak times when help is most needed.
  • A complete closure of Silver Street to motor vehicles is needed.
  • Whatever option is chosen, there should be a restriction on large vehicles using Silver Street.
  • Options A or B do not remove peak traffic from Trumpington Street, so crossing or turning at Pembroke Street and Mill Lane and into King’s Parade will still be very difficult on a bike. Options A or B are only acceptable if traffic lights are provided at these junctions.
  • Widening and increasing capacity with extra lanes along the inner ring road would adversely affect cyclists, especially if long-established and well-used facilities to help them are to be removed.
  • If the Regent Street part of the scheme were to go ahead, allowing traffic to turn left from Downing Street into Tennis Court Road, it is only acceptable if conflicts with straight-on cyclists are completely avoided in the design.
  • On-street car parking needs to be removed from Regent Street for any restriction to have a useful effect.

Image as described adjacent
Park Terrace proposal: One-way reversed for cars but two-way for cyclists.

On the other hand, traffic lights are definitely proposed at the Lensfield Road­Trumpington Street mini-roundabouts. While, like motorists, confident cyclists may regard this as an inconvenience, the poor casualty record here is a compelling reason to change.

There are many other details that could swing the balance, making the scheme one to support. But if we don’t sound entirely enthusiastic, it’s because we aren’t. I am not convinced that there is much strong enthusiasm in the Environment and Transport Department either. We aren’t opposed to the scheme, but view it more neutrally ‘swings and roundabouts.’ The benefits for cyclists are mostly at times when they are least needed.

Only the ‘tidal flow’ option adds peak-time benefits for cyclists, and then in the wrong direction but displaced extra traffic on the ring road would adversely affect cyclists there. This option would also be hard to do lots of signs and barriers or lights or some such would be needed.

If we don’t sound entirely enthusiastic, it’s because we aren’t

(In Newsletter 41, I overlooked the simplest option for cyclists in tidal flow: simply don’t mark out the carriageway at all, leaving it like a one-way street where cyclists are allowed in both directions. The unusual feature is just that the direction reverses).

David Earl