Hills Road Bridge

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 65.

Let us bite the bullet now, and spend the money to do the job properly.

Although we’ve had items on our website regarding proposed changes to Hills Road bridge, the time scales have been such that we’ve always missed Newsletters. We will try to rectify that omission, by giving a summary of events and looking into the future.

Last year two ‘Stakeholder Workshops’ were held to enable people to share ideas with the County Council. The constraints are quite severe, and major developments all around this bridge will lead to far more trips especially on foot and by bike, but one of the advantages of such developments is that ‘developer funds’ (S106) should help pay for improvements. Even though the cost of proposals may look large, they are in fact small compared with spending to construct offices, shops and flats in the immediate area.

Any major changes to the bridge will prove expensive, as neither the current footways nor parapets are built to modern loading standards, and no one wants to see a 38 ton lorry ending up on the rails beneath! In fact I have concerns that some of the ‘do minimum’ options could be wrecked in the near future if regulations now being applied to many bridges were imposed here.

We were very disappointed with all the proposals, as despite extra width, none of the options proposed had any ‘on-road’ cycle lanes for the 4000 who cross this bridge each day. Without such lanes cyclists are effectively reduced to pedestrians at the major junctions at each end. Our concerns were voiced, and following the workshops we had discussions with officers which we thought could lead to an option with on-road lanes, and shared use pavements.

The Campaign’s proposed layout provides for on-road Cycling.
Image as described adjacent

Our disappointment was compounded when no such option appeared in the public consultation. We lobbied our members, and asked them to push for an option with on-road lanes, but when options were then put to Committee we were even more surprised to see another new proposal which again had no on-road lanes.

County Council proposals only consider strengthening the bridge on the station side where about three metres is available for widening. I realise that any option that involves widening the carriageway on the other side, even if just to narrow the footway, will need the bridge strengthening, but it is possible that such work may be required by law in the future.

Cambridgeshire County Council is committed, by the Local Transport Plan, to maintain the modal share of cyclists. Huge developments in the southern fringe as well as those occurring around the bridge itself will lead to far more trips within five years.

We recently put our concerns to Officers from both the County and City Councils at a Cycling Liaison meeting. We believe it should be possible to provide 1.4 metre on road lanes at each side by widening the existing bridge by as much as possible. Any option that effectively keeps 4000 cyclists off the road and dumps them at inadequate toucan crossings at each end is doomed to failure.

Let us bite the bullet now, and spend the money to do the job properly, providing facilities for cyclists that meet modern standards and enable cyclists to tackle safely the junctions at either end. Anything else really is spoiling the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.

Jim Chisholm