Chesterton Crossing

This article was published in 1996, in Newsletter 7.

In the face of mounting criticism, the County Transport Department has now decided on a major revision to the recently completed redesigned pedestrian crossing on Chesterton Road, which is widely perceived as yet another attack on Cambridge cyclists.

These works, described as ‘imminent’, involve:

  • Reducing the north side footway build-out by 1.7m (the south side, by the bridge, staying as it is)
  • Painting ‘hatchings’ by the approaches at either side of the crossing
  • Introducing 0.85m-wide advisory cycle lanes on the approaches.
  • At a later date, surfacing the approaches with anti-skid dressing, and cycle lanes with red dressing

From the point of view of cyclists on Chesterton Road, this looks quite unsatisfactory. Cycle lanes this narrow – the standard minimum recommendation is 1.2m – beside a 6m-wide carriageway provide scant protection for bikes, and we are making urgent representations to the Council before yet more ill conceived and costly engineering work is undertaken.

Aside from the obvious absence of consultation (save the anonymous ‘motorists’ referred to by the press), how did this shambles come about? The project, we have learned, enjoys a confused and confusing history. It was planned 3 years ago on the basis of an accident investigation report revealing 16 injuries ‘at or near this junction’ in 3 years to ’93. However, 5 of these are sited ‘at the junction of Carlyle Rd’, and only 4 ‘involved pedestrians or cyclists crossing on the zebra’. The site was then stated to rank 26th on the city accident problem list – thus having no chance of qualifying for finance under the regular crossings budget.

Nevertheless, a major ‘upgrading’ was, we are told, approved by some committee two years ago. At one stage it was designed as a Pelican; hence, presumably, the misleading Evening News account, which proved to be wrong in nearly every detail. The north side build-out, we’re further told, ‘was never intended to be that wide’. But why is it needed at all? The given aim of increasing visibility of and for people on bikes or on foot applies to those emerging from the footbridge, on the other side of the road. As to how the finance was found, yet another Transport Department source tells us it comes from a special ‘accident mitigation’ fund, without reference to Council members. The project was complicated by subcontracting the design from the County to the City, and changes to the design not being communicated, as evidenced by the addition of bollards and the resiting of belisha beacons, now fetchingly replete with extra street lamps atop.

The current vogue for footway build-outs at pedestrian crossings, to the peril of cyclists on the carriageway, is something we must pursue with vigour. On the other hand, the benefits for cyclists crossing the road are, in this instance, readily demonstrable. In the new configuration they now ride, not just off the bridge but from all directions, onto the crossing with much greater ease than before, with motor traffic appearing to behave with markedly greater deference. In the so-far felicitous absence of any collision involving injury, there seems to have been created a de facto cycle priority crossing, where we can cycle across the road without having to push a button and wait for the cars. Whether this is worth the other imposition is another matter.

Note: We recognise that cycling across zebra crossings is unlawful, and the Cycling Campaign doesn’t condone illegal behaviour. However, it is noteworthy that the way cyclists are in fact using this crossing both brings delays to a minimum and calms the traffic.


Stop Press!

The Campaign has written to the County Council objecting to the revised design on the grounds that:

  • the overall carriageway width is inadequate
  • the cycle lanes are too narrow
  • the dangerous railings at the side of the road are retained


Cycle Friendly Infrastructure – Guidelines for Planning and Design, 7.6.4: Advisory cycle lanes can help to visually decrease the width available for motor vehicles. However, they should be a minimum of 1.2m, and preferably 1.5m, so as not to encourage unsafe overtaking within the narrowing.