Hills Road campaign

This article was published in 2003, in Newsletter 46.

We reported last time on the reasons for our objections to the County Council’s proposals to install a bus lane at the expense of the cycle lanes on a stretch of Hills Road. Here is an update on our campaign to save the Hills Road cycle lanes.

Our campaigning

Early in November we wrote to all our members, and leafleted many houses in the Hills Road area, explaining the problems the scheme would cause for cyclists, pedestrians, and people whose driveways emerge onto Hills Road.

We were very pleased with the response. We received well over 400 replies. Quite a few responses included powerful personal letters explaining why people objected to the scheme. Many cited the fact that they used Milton Road regularly, and so were only too well aware of the problems the proposed scheme would cause for cyclists on Hills Road.

At the end of November we presented the County Council with over 400 formal objections to the scheme. We also distributed a similar number of letters of objection to County Councillors throughout the city, and further afield.

Further data

Soon after the last Newsletter went to press, we received a copy of the County Council’s bus timing data and cycle counts. We, in turn, supplied the County Council with our bus and cycle data.

We were, of course, keen to study the County data for their four days of surveys, to compare with our own two days’ worth. However, our measurements timed bus journeys along the length of the proposed bus lane. The County’s data, on the other hand, included both the stretch between the end of the proposed bus lane and the Long Road junction (where buses would get no advantage from a bus lane) and the time that buses were waiting at the traffic lights. Thus, the County’s timings over-emphasised the little benefit that a bus lane could give, even at the busiest times.

What’s happened since?

Over 100 letters were presented to Cllr Heathcock 400 hundred forms
We presented the County Council with more than 400 individual objections to the Hills Road bus lane proposals, and over 100 letters to Cllr Heathcock.

A number of local councillors have publicly expressed their opposition to the scheme, including the local County Councillor, Geoffrey Heathcock. The Cambridge Evening News reported, ‘Many Queen Edith’s residents are against the county council’s proposed scheme to put in a bus lane from Cavendish Avenue to Long Road. Cllr Heathcock said: “This is a scheme full of difficulties and will cost a significant amount of money for very debatable gain. I remain unhappy with it and will write to the Area Traffic Committee at the close of the public consultation. This money can, and should, be better spent on other public transport priorities.”‘

The current situation is that the decision, which was going to be taken by the Area Joint Committee on 20 January, has now been deferred to 7 April. In December the County Council told us:

‘The original timetable was to bring back the results from consultation to the next meeting of the AJC in January. However, to allow enough time to explore the [Cycling] Campaign’s suggestions and to investigate any possible compromises which might make the scheme more acceptable to cyclists, [we] intend to defer any further consideration until the AJC meeting in April.’

Early in January we met County Council officers to discuss this issue and our sets of data. It is clear that the County Council’s aim, despite the weight of objections, is to proceed with the scheme.

What happens next?

The County Council will be repeating their bus timings during February. We have received an assurance that this time they will time bus journeys along the length of the proposed bus lane (that is, not including the additional stretch to the Long Road lights, and not including the wait at the lights).

We have since learnt that Brooklands Avenue will be disrupted by gas works at this time, with a temporary one-way rule. We are very concerned that these works will have a knock-on effect for Hills Road, and may temporarily increase delays to buses, affecting any new data.

In the meantime, Campaign members in the Milton Road area have been telling us that the proposals for a new stretch of bus lane there will be at least as bad news for cyclists as the Hills Road proposals.

The irony of our having to invest significant amounts of effort simply to prevent conditions for cyclists (and, often, for pedestrians too) from deteriorating has not escaped us. We would much rather be spending our time working with local authorities to improve conditions for cyclists, instead of having to protect the status quo.

Clare Macrae