Gonville Place crossing: recent developments

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 69.

As most readers of this Newsletter will know, Gonville Place pedestrian and cycle crossing links Parker’s Piece with Gresham Road and forms part of the award-winning South-East Cambridge cycle route from the city centre via quiet roads to the station and on over the railway pedestrian cycle bridge to Cherry Hinton and beyond. Earlier this year the County Council Signals Team drastically altered the crossing. Without clearly explaining to local councillors the nature of the changes they proposed and without consulting the Campaign, they converted it from a crossing which in spite of some minor weaknesses functioned well into one which is almost universally regarded by the cyclists and pedestrians who use it as entirely unsuitable. The former crossing enabled cyclists and pedestrians to cross over a very busy road efficiently and without coming into conflict with each other on the crossing. The design of the new crossing has produced chaos and pedestrian-cyclist conflict and is particularly problematical for vulnerable users – the elderly, the disabled and those with young children. The main defects are described by Martyn Smith in Newsletter 67 and in the array of other relevant material on our website.

Since then both the Campaign and local councillors have been active and much has happened. We organized a petition addressed to members of the Cambridge Traffic Management Area Joint Committee (AJC), which consists of equal numbers of County and City Councillors, asking for remedial action. A few hours spent collecting petition signatures at the crossing brought home to us the scale of the dissatisfaction. At times people queued to sign the petition. Campaign members sent in their signatures by post and email. A total of well over five hundred Cambridge residents signed and if the AJC’s rules had accepted the eligibility of non-resident users, twice as many signatures could easily have been obtained in the short time available to us to prepare and submit the petition.

We presented the petition at the AJC meeting on 16 October and were given just five minutes to put our case. We said that the remodelled crossing was unacceptable and must be put right now and stressed that the issue was as important for pedestrians as it is for cyclists. A count we had carried out on 2 October recorded 529 cyclists and 199 pedestrians crossing during the morning peak between 8 am and 9 am. Both the number and the proportion of cyclists using the crossing were extraordinarily high, among the highest for any crossing anywhere in the UK.

Burrell’s Walk crossing: how Gonville Place should look. ‘We stressed that Cambridge crossings must be suited to Cambridge conditions and said that the local crossing which best exemplified what was needed was the Burrell’s Walk crossing of Queen’s Road’
Image as described adjacent

The design of the previous crossing had taken account of the high volume of cyclists. In contrast the remodelled crossing was a more or less standard one and totally unsuitable for so many cyclists intermingled with pedestrians. We stressed that Cambridge crossings must be suited to Cambridge conditions and said that the local crossing which best exemplified what was needed was this, the Burrell’s Walk crossing of Queen’s Road.

Councillors asked us questions but in accordance with the committee’s rules discussion and decision had to be deferred to the next meeting on 29 January. County Council officials would prepare a report on the issue for this meeting. However it was very clear that a high proportion of the committee members shared our concern and it was accepted that, if all parties agreed, interim measures could be implemented before then.

On 19 October, local councillors, the Signals Team who had designed the crossing, the local authority’s cycling officers and ourselves met on site. We pointed out and explained the defects of the new crossing. The Signals Team tried to justify their changes admitting only minor weaknesses with their new design. Some councillors were very indignant about the changes. There is no doubt that there is widespread support for our case among both Liberal Democrat and Labour local councillors.

Further meetings are planned at which we will go into the issues in detail. We are determined to secure a change of policy so that this crossing is put right and all new crossings are designed to be safe and convenient for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The Petition

We, the undersigned, call on Cambridgeshire County Council to restore Gonville Place crossing and to make it again convenient and safe for both cyclists and pedestrians. In particular we ask that the following changes are implemented without delay:

  1. The crossing should be made as wide as it was before recent alterations.
  2. The detector loops which change the traffic signals as cyclists approach should be reinstated.
  3. Full size traffic signals should be reinstated. They should be at the same height as those for motor vehicles and be clearly visible to approaching cyclists.
  4. Posts and other obstructions should be reduced in number to allow free movement of pedestrians and cyclists.

Background information, copies of the Campaign’s letters and the latest position can be found on the Gonville crossing page.

To take part in online discussions about this and other crossings join the crossings discussion email list.

James Woodburn