This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 69.
In recent years obstructive pram arms have been replaced by cattle grids at most places where cycle routes enter and leave Cambridge commons grazed by cattle and horses. The grids are generally popular with cyclists, especially those who remember the problems of the pram arms.
When the grids were first installed they turned out to be slippery, especially when cyclists rode across wet or ice-covered metal bars of the grids at an angle. Campaign members reported a number of accidents. Recently Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Councils have taken helpful action to deal with this problem by replacing the smooth metal bars of the grids with threaded bars which seem to have largely resolved the issue. We continue to recommend care and caution when crossing the grids but we are encouraged by the fact that we haven’t heard of accidents since the threaded bars were installed.
I am writing now to propose a further improvement. As soon as it is really clear that the grids with threaded bars are safe for cyclists, including those crossing at an angle, I think that single grids which allow only one cyclist at a time to cross should be replaced by double grids, or rather by twin single grids alongside each other, to permit cyclists travelling in opposite directions to cross at the same time. Double grids do already exist, as at the entrance to the Butt Green area of Midsummer Common from the Fair Street crossing of Maid’s Causeway. But at present by far the majority of cattle grids, even on major cycle routes, are single ones.
I was particularly struck by the recent installation of a single rather than a double grid at the bottom of the new ramp leading up to the Sheep’s Green bridge over the river. The ramp is much used by pedestrians and cyclists at peak hours and is sufficiently wide to permit a double grid to be installed without in any way impinging on pedestrian space or the greenery of the common. Pedestrians would continue to have their route clear of grids. The pedestrian gate would remain where it is.
Double grids are obviously more convenient because they reduce the need to stop. But there are also other advantages to be considered. Cyclists waiting to cross a grid may unavoidably obstruct pedestrians and other cyclists. One location where this occurs is on the route to Sheep’s Green and Newnham at the entrance to New Bit Common from the Trumpington Road-Brooklands Avenue junction. There cyclists who have stopped before crossing the single grid may obstruct those using the shared-use footpath alongside Trumpington Road at a point where visibility is not very good. Parents with very young children on the back of their cycles or in trailers may fear shunts by other cyclists.