This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 66.
King’s Hedges Road to Cambourne Business Park
In a recent article I described the joys and pitfalls of cycling in the vicinity of Cambridgeshire’s newest town, Cambourne. This time I would like to describe the journey which I have been making to Cambourne from my home in King’s Hedges Road two or three times a week since my employer relocated from Fulbourn to Cambourne last September.
The problem with cycling to Cambourne is that there is really only one direct route from Cambridge, involving mostly quite busy roads, the worst being the A428 between Hardwick and Cambourne. There are slightly quieter alternatives, but these involve increasing the distance from just under 11 miles to over 15 – I’m afraid I just don’t have the time to do that extra bit most of the time.
When cycling around town, I usually go at a fairly easy pace and make extensive use of off-road routes. However, when commuting I like to travel at between 15 mph and 20 mph most of the time, so tend to stick to the main roads. From my home at the junction of King’s Hedges Road and Lovell Road, I therefore start by heading for the Golden Hind junction with Milton Road. Unless it seems likely that I will catch a green light, I usually cut through Ramsden Square, bump up on to the shared path at Milton Road and then cross the road into the cycle lane on the southbound side as soon as a gap in the traffic permits. I then follow Milton Road all the way down to the Arbury Road junction. (Coming home on this stretch I have given in to the well known ‘Milton Road effect’ and use the path on the northbound side to avoid conflict with impatient drivers behind, though I tend to get back on the road as soon as the ‘cohort’ from the lights has cleared.)
Continuing down Milton Road, I reach Mitcham’s Corner, where I find it’s usually quicker to stay on the road – at the time of day I’m there (just before 8 am) it’s not usually too bad, though I often get stopped twice by the lights. Then it’s all along Chesterton Road, where a new traffic island creates an additional potential hazard, across the bottom of Castle Hill and along to the mini-roundabout where I turn right into Madingley Road.
Approaching the mini-roundabout can be quite tricky when it’s busy, as the lanes are very narrow, and squeezing between them isn’t a safe option – sometimes I can pass both queues of traffic on the right, keeping an eye out for anything large coming the other way.
Once on Madingley Road, the route is quite straightforward. There’s no cycle lane here, just a very grotty shared path which is poorly surfaced and crosses far too many driveways and side roads, so I never use it. The road is a reasonable width, so I seldom have any hassle here. Past the Park and Ride junction, I have to watch out for traffic turning left across me into the M11 slip road, but again I’ve not had any problems.
Up the hill!
Once over the M11, Cambridge is left behind. The road actually dips down slightly before the drag up Madingley Hill ; begins, so I get a bit of a run at it. If traffic is queuing into Cambridge, I occasionally have larger vehicles stuck behind me at this point – usually once they’ve slowed to a safe speed I can pull right into the kerb to let them past, and all is well. Once I’ve passed the Coton and Madingley cross-roads, I finally pull on to the cycle path. It’s on the right side for me at this point, wide and well surfaced, with very few driveways and even fewer Give Way markings, so I’m quite happy to use it.
It’s nice to get away from the trucks and buses grinding their way up. (Coming home, I stick to the road all the way down ; – no point in wasting all that lovely gravity by having to stop at the Coton turn on the steepest part of the descent! I have had a recent bad experience with a speeding 40 ton truck getting impatient behind me and nearly running me off the road, but most other motorists can get past safely, and are mostly patient if they can’t – after all I do reach 35mph on the steepest bit!)
At the top of the hill I take the road through Hardwick. There is a reasonably surfaced cycle path here, but I seldom use it because of the ‘Cyclists give way to everything’ ; crossing at the Comberton turn and the absurd angle at which the path joins the road later on, with a ridiculous ‘Cyclist Dismount’ sign . Where the path ends, there is an on-road advisory cycle lane, but it’s rather too narrow to be of much use, and the width of the road means that most vehicles have their inside wheels on the line, so have to pull out to pass anyway.
Roundabouts and Roadworks
As I leave Hardwick, I travel along a short stretch of a no through road , at the end of which is a cut through to the footpath running beside the A428. At this point, there is no choice but to go either on or alongside the main A428. Even as an experienced and confident cyclist I simply will not risk the road – there are too many trucks travelling at 60 mph or more on a fairly narrow carriageway. I use the footpath next to the road, which is bumpy and narrow, not actually legal, but just ridable . The roar of the nearby traffic means that it is never pleasant. (If my return journey is in the dark, the path is even less pleasant, with it being on the wrong side of the road so that oncoming headlights often dazzle.)
A significant hazard on this route is the garage at the Caldecote roundabout, where cyclists on the path must cross the forecourt entrance and exit roads. ; The latter has no dropped kerb, so you have to stop and haul your bike up (I’ve never learnt how to bunny hop). To avoid this, I join the road for the last few yards to the roundabout, but coming home there is no alternative but to drop down the kerb.
The route from this point on is in the process of being radically altered, due to the dualling of the A428 between Hardwick and Caxton Gibbet. In the long term, this should be of significant benefit to cyclists, since the old road is being retained for local traffic. However, it is unclear how cyclists will fare during the construction process. The old road will be carried over the new dual carriageway on a flyover which is now quite well advanced, and I think once this is completed, the path which I currently use will be ripped up – it’s not clear how cycle-friendly the interim route will be.
The entrance to the industrial site on Bourn Airfield has been moved to the Caldecote roundabout via a new bit of concreted road, which in the short term is a good thing as the old entrance was quite a hazard for cyclists – it’s now possible to use this bit of concrete road and cross to the path by the A428 later, so avoiding directly crossing the path of heavy trucks coming in and out of the site.
The already grotty path beside the A428 has been somewhat damaged by the work, and is sometimes strewn with mud and rubble, so I’m glad I’m now coming home in daylight – but it is still passable. I bump my way along this, past the speed camera and on to the turn into Broadway towards Bourn.
When the dual carriageway is complete, and maybe before, it will be possible to safely continue straight on down the old road to the Cambourne junction . For the time being however, as noted in my previous article, the path runs out at this point, so I’m faced with a half-mile stretch of fast, narrow single carriageway before reaching the dual carriageway and the Cambourne junction.
I’m not brave enough for that, so I turn left down Broadway towards Bourn and then just opposite the entrance to Bourn Airfield I turn right on to an overgrown but ridable concrete track . This is an ‘unofficial’ route in, and I’ve already said a lot about it. Suffice to repeat that it would be nice to think that in future planning processes, proper, safe and convenient cycle access to new town developments will be thought of well in advance and not have to rely on the benevolence of a landowner, welcome as that may be.
The track joins on to Eastgate, which accesses the Vine School, Cambourne’s second primary school, which has been open less than a year. Many parents and children use the cycle paths on either side of the road. I presume the lorry driver who ignored the Stop sign on the haul road crossing and tried to intimidate me out of his way thought that I should be on the path too – quite frankly it’s too short a stretch to be bothered with – that was the only bother I’ve ever encountered so far in Cambourne.
After that it’s a straightforward route, all on the road, to Jeavons Lane, turn left and straight on down the High Street, right into Broad Street, past Morrisons and on to building 2020 on the Business Park. The wheel benders in the cycle stand still haven’t been replaced: apparently we have to persuade the landlords, even though the business park management are all for the change. The distance is 17.2 km, just under 11 miles, which takes me as much as 55 minutes coming into work in a head wind when I’m tired, and as little as 35 minutes going home in a tail wind. Because of the traffic, it’s by no means the nicest ride around, but I still enjoy it most of the time. Riding through Hardwick is usually quite pleasant, and coming down Madingley Hill can be exhilarating provided there isn’t a 40-tonner on my tail. It keeps me fit, which is no bad thing as I approach my half-century this year!