This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 44.
There has been a lot of cycleway construction in the Newmarket Road corridor over the last year and, although a bit more is planned, now is a good time to review the completed projects. The two major new sections are the off-road Jubilee Cycleway from the Green Dragon Bridge to Newmarket Road Park and Ride site (Sustrans), and the shared-use path from the Airport Way-Newmarket Road roundabout to Bottisham, via Quy (County Council). There is a related but disconnected section from Lode to Swaffham Bulbeck, and the City Council has upgraded the shared use path beside the Newmarket Road cemetery between Ditton Lane and Marshall’s.
Taken together, all of this amounts to a significant new set of options for cyclists on the east of Cambridge. There is now a continuous, high-quality, off-road cycle route all the way from Bottisham to Jesus Green, and although some bits let it down a little, on the whole it is a good example of a radial cycle route. It is, of course, now part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network – NCN51.
Park and Ride signposts
The signposting of the Jubilee Cycleway at the Park and Ride site is useless. There is no clue at all to anyone to go out of the back of the car park rather than the front entrance. The cycleway entrance itself has a small map but no directional signage, so whilst the huge bike is a clue, a newcomer is unlikely to realise this is the way to the centre of town, because it doesn’t look like it. There is in fact one sign at the car park entrance but it is only visible if approaching from Cambridge on foot or by bike. No-one arriving from out of town is likely to spot it. Clear signs visible to cyclists leaving the Park and Ride or coming from Quy are needed at the entrance, near the bus stop, and at the start of the Jubilee Cycleway. One recent visitor to Cambridge also pointed out that all the signs on NCN51 coming back out of town say ‘Bottisham’ which of course meant nothing to him. They need to say ‘Park and Ride’ too to be of any use to tourists.
Beyond the Park and Ride
- The alignment is good – no sudden jogs or sharp corners on the new construction.
- The surface is generally excellent, although there has been some weed breakthrough already near High Ditch Road.
- Services and street furniture have been moved or re-levelled throughout to give a smooth ride.
- No priority at side-roads. The crossings of High Ditch Road, Albert Road, Longmeadow Road and Fen Lane have no cycle-priority or warning measures at all. Visibility is very poor at the first three of these due to buildings or vegetation. These should be raised crossings with priority for cyclists, but failing that there should be elephants’ feet or a coloured strip or something to indicate to road-users that cyclists are likely to zoom out from behind the shrubbery and buildings. This is by far the most serious issue on the route.
- The kerbs are not flush. Not one is done the way Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure says it should be – bull-nose kerbstones are used throughout. Most of them aren’t too bad, but as the plans specified flush, they really ought to have been made so. One of the worst, which has to be crossed at a shallow angle, is on the corner leading to the tunnel under the A14.
- You can’t get on and off the route when you want to. For example, the drop kerb to access one farm has been removed for no good reason. Now you need to bump down or cycle 200 m extra to the nearest drop kerb and back.
- The project took eight months to complete.
- The width of the route is 2 m – the absolute minimum for this sort of facility. It’s adequate but the difference between this and the 3 m Sustrans and City Council sections is stark.
As the Jubilee Cycleway was covered last month, this article mainly looks at the out-of-town section.
Airport Way to Quy
- The lay-by outside the Ida Darwin Farm shop was removed to help keep the track away from the driveways. This is a rare example of removing some under-used car space so as to provide properly for cyclists.
- New signpost means that users will find the A14 tunnel more easily. I rode past this for three years before realising it was there.
- Edge markings have been painted on the whole unlit section.
|A barrier has been installed past a small bridge on the Cambridge side of the Quy tunnel taking up cycleway width.
- A barrier has been installed past a small bridge taking up half the available cycleway width. It was not on the original plans otherwise the Cycling Campaign would have complained about it! On the next bridge along the barrier is installed inside the path where it takes no space at all from cyclists.
- The south side of the tunnel exit is an awkward double-90° bend. This wasn’t in the plans we were consulted on – which used a few metres of the disused field corner here instead to smooth out the wiggle.
- Give-way lines have been painted every time the cycleway meets a kerb. This is particularly nonsensical outside the farm shop where the entrance gets give-way marks and the exit doesn’t. There is also one at the tunnel access road which has about two vehicle movements a day. These unnecessary give-ways devalue the ones that do matter at High Ditch Road.
- A high hedge reduces visibility at the start of the tunnel approach.
- The cycleway goes up and down at each driveway. Given the amount of cycle traffic compared to people going into their drives, plus the very wide verges, the cycle track could have been kept horizontal and the crossing vehicles given level changes.
|Sharp bends by the tunnel entrance were not ironed out.
- Half the surface on the track to the A14 tunnel was re-laid, but the other half only had the worst potholes filled.
- The layout of a bollard and a fence at the north end of the tunnel effectively reduces the tunnel to half-width.
Quy to Bottisham
- The B1102 (Quy to Lode road) crossing is reasonably well laid out. It is much better than in the original plans, to which we objected.
- Give-ways have not been painted at every crossing or driveway.
- There is no bumping up and down when passing driveways on this section.
- There are no detector loops at the B1102 crossing. There is plenty of approach space to put detectors in, as the Campaign pointed out: stop, push button and wait is definitely second best.
- No flush kerbs: the Albert Road crossing (four kerbs) is particularly bad.
- The alignment past the easternmost houses is too close to high hedges and driveways.
- The B1102 crossing is somewhat spoiled by the tightish corner (effectively single-bike width) onto the Quy Mill access road, with a filled pothole in exactly the wrong place. Water pools on the corner here – it will be hazardous in winter.
- At the Wilbrahams junction a gravel drive is crossed. Any cyclist turning to go to the Wilbrahams here is likely to come off on the gravel.
- The road sign at the Wilbrahams junction does not have the regulation 2.4 m clearance.
- The route past Quy church is rather circuitous. However a good job has been done given the constraints, with properly rounded bends instead of 90° corners.
Lode to Swaffham Bulbeck
- Interesting jug-handle turn to join the route at Swaffham southbound, but it has no crossing markings on the road, no priority and is accessed at a shallow angle without a properly flush kerb.
- A drop kerb which would have allowed you to avoid the no-priority crossing with exceptionally bad visibility at Longmeadow Road has been removed.
- A couple of bollards on the pavement have been left in place.
- A long section of existing shared use, which is narrower than the rest of the route, overgrown and weedy, has been retained.
|The ubiquitous Give Way even where there are hardly any vehicle movements at the access road to the Quy tunnel. The sign now makes it clear there is a way through avoiding the A14 roundabout though.
Past the cemetery
This short section of shared-use cycleway is constructed to a high standard. The surface is smooth, the width is good (because it is not divided into pedestrian and cycle parts), it does not dip at the one driveway crossing, the kerbs are flush, street furniture has been moved out of the way and there are flush access points for roads opposite. However it still suffers the perennial drawback of pavement cycleways in Cambridge: at the first side road crossing cyclists are expected to stop and give way.
An interesting new feature is a 10 m long flush kerb at the Marshall’s end for rejoining the road or turning right into Meadowlands Road. It is not really flush – most of it is about 10 mm – but John Isherwood tells us this is to stop water pooling and causing an ice hazard in winter. Also cyclists will not be going up it at a shallow angle. The section at the end for cyclists continuing on the shared use is quite flush. But the flush access points for roads opposite shouldn’t be directly opposite but some 50 m-80 m earlier so that cyclists can rejoin the road and correctly position themselves for a right turn. The existing drops assume the cyclist will stop, wait for a gap in the traffic and then cross (a ‘Dutch’ right turn). In practice, the various drops are close enough together that a sensible cyclist will just use the previous one so it’s not a major problem.
|A 10 m long, flush kerb has been installed at the Marshall’s end of the new path alongside the cemetery on Newmarket Road for rejoining the road or turning right into Meadowlands Road.
So we have a route that suffers from fewer problems than in the past: it is generally wide enough, smooth, well-aligned, well-signposted and has some good crossings of major cross-routes. City Council construction has significantly improved and Sustrans construction is good. Let us hope that the County Council can learn to do better.
However it also has a number of failings on the out-of-town sections, some serious: very poor crossings of more minor routes, poor road access, a host of non-flush kerbs, some gratuitous narrowings, some confusing signposting, and it’s only on one side of the road. The key problem is priority-at-side-roads and must be addressed. Someone will get flattened on one of these junctions eventually. It won’t be me because I know better than to use them, but all the inexperienced cyclists the new route is attracting may not. Overall I think we can give this route 8/10.