Safety at Girton Corner

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 69.

Girton Corner today
Image as described adjacent

As part of the 300-dwelling Wellbrook Way development in Girton, one planning condition laid on the developer was the improvement of access from the village to Huntingdon Road at Girton Corner. The Parish Council (of which I am a member) was most surprised to find the works being undertaken at the beginning of this year, before it had seen any plans or been invited to comment.

The new works provide a cycle lane which is bounded by a build-out with a very low kerb. This was not in the plans and is currently under investigation by Highways officers.
Image as described adjacent

We determined to request that the work should stop until the plans had been discussed and approved. Finding the relevant officers was not a trivial procedure as the condition had been imposed by South Cambridgeshire District Council (as the Planning Authority) but was implemented by the County Council (as the Highways Authority). However, and rather to our surprise, after 3 days’ frenzied work we managed to persuade both parties, and the works were stopped. From the designs visible on the road the Parish Council was worried at safety implications, and so we decided to undertake our own Safety Audit. John Franklin (of Cyclecraft fame) was invited to Girton and spent the best part of a day in discussion with Parish Councillors and other interested people, including representatives from Girton College. He investigated the site in detail and cycled round Girton to get a feel of the layout and traffic flows. He produced a clear and coherent report, which the Parish Council has put onto the village website (see end). The conclusion of this study was, in effect, that any alteration in the layout of the corner would serve to increase the dangers of an already dangerous site. We were also doubtful that any changes could increase the flow of traffic into the Huntingdon Road where in rush hour traffic is often stationary.

Meanwhile a revised plan was presented to the Parish Council, with a comment that there would be a subsequent request for comments. And again work began before the proposed consultation, and again the Parish Council successfully stopped the work. Finally a plan was presented which was sufficiently close to the original layout to enable the Parish Council to have no significant objections, and the work was very recently completed – though with some oddities which are still being investigated.

Faded flowers mark the place where a Girton College student was knocked off his bike and crushed to death in November 2005.
Image as described adjacent

However, the Parish Council and Girton College remained concerned that the corner is very dangerous, particularly for cyclists and pedestrians. There have been several accidents at Girton Corner, including one fatality just a year ago, which may be directly due to design factors of the corner.

Though now completely redundant this post remains in the middle of the shared-use path by Girton College.
Image as described adjacent

The Parish Council and the College therefore set up a joint task-force to look at these concerns. This consisted of members of Girton Parish Council, Girton College and Cambridge Cycling Campaign, with other interested persons. We had access to the Safety Audit carried out for the Council by John Franklin, and we produced a Report which is on the Parish web-site (see below), with seven proposals to encourage the Highway Authority to introduce some simple measures to improve safety.

Briefly, the seven measures called for are:

  • To reduce the speed limit on the Huntingdon Road from 40 to 30 mph.
  • To remove a redundant traffic post which obstructs the pavement in front of Girton College.
  • To improve the state of cycle access to Huntingdon Road before Girton Corner.
  • To raise the sign on the central island, which currently obstructs visibility of oncoming vehicles.
  • To remove the railings between the road and footpath by the College where they run right down to the kerb.
  • To add hatchings to the shoulder of the north access to Girton Road to encourage vehicles to take the corner as wide as possible.
  • To move the Huntingdon Road bus stop southwards so that stopping buses do not obstruct vehicles entering from Girton.
The seven measures called for in the petition to improve safety.
Image as described adjacent
The shared-use path suddenly directs cyclists into Huntingdon Road very close to the corner where they may remain invisible to some vehicles.
Image as described adjacent
At the corner these railings extend right to the kerb, potentially trapping a cyclist and preventing escape from danger.
Image as described adjacent
The directional sign at Girton Corner obscures drivers’ vision of oncoming traffic.
Image as described adjacent
The siting of the bus stop causes buses to obstruct the cycle exit and creates serious conflict between cyclists and other road users.
Image as described adjacent

The full report, including John Franklin’s safety audit, is available on the Girton Village website, with a petition form which can be downloaded and signed. Copies are also available in all of Girton’s shops and pubs.

Signed forms will be sent to the relevant Council officers, and also to our MP (Andrew Lansley); our County Councillor (John Reynolds) and our two District Councillors (Eustace Bullman and Tom Bygott).

Douglas de Lacey