Planning for changes on Hills Road

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 71.

Two major changes on Hills Road are now being planned. Cambridge Cycling Campaign was represented at a stakeholders’ workshop in early March prior to presentation of plans to the Cambridge Area Joint Traffic Management Committee in April.

Station Link Road

Firstly, Cambridgeshire County Council has obtained funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of the Communities Infrastructure Funding (CIF) to help with the construction of a link road from Cambridge Station to Hills Road.

Buses and cycles will soon be able to reach the station from the Brooklands Avenue junction, although space alongside the Earl of Derby pub is a limitation.
Image as described adjacent

The proposal is for an extra arm at the Brooklands Avenue junction, but only for buses and cyclists (no doubt pressure will be applied to allow use by taxis). Suggestions were that the link would be only ‘left out’ and ‘right in’, but it is clear that, at least for cyclists, there will be significant demand for ‘straight across’ to and from Brooklands Avenue. There should be no problem banning ‘right out.’

One problem here is that the Earl of Derby pub restricts space at the exit from this junction. All parties at the workshop thought that gaining a route for cyclists and pedestrians off the link road to the rear of the pub must be achieved, preferably in the short term using a route through the Network Rail signalling centre car park, but later integrated into ‘CB1’ plans for the station area.

Plans suggest about 25 buses per hour (one every two minutes) each way, so sharing road space on the link with pedal cycles should not be a problem, especially as it is short and speeds should be slow. At bus stops some (usual) problems will arise, but the design of this area was not considered at this meeting, as it does not form part of the CIF funding. The Stagecoach (bus company) representative would prefer no cyclists on the link, but this would of course relegate them to congested pavements with the road empty most of time (a road like this could take around 1000 vehicles per hour and still be shared with bikes).

Hills Road bridge would need to be widened to accommodate both better cycle facilities and a turning lane into a new station access road.
Image as described adjacent

The northbound road from the bridge would be widened to provide a right turn lane some 50 m long. At times when traffic speeds are high many cyclists might find it difficult to access this lane, but a two stage crossing for pedestrians just short of the right turn lane will provide an alternative. This proposed crossing may not be deliverable in the time-scale and budget of the CIF funding, but must form a vital part of the whole scheme.

There was much discussion from the powers that be about the need to ‘preserve’ capacity for motor vehicles, despite the Local Transport Plan affording a priority for cyclists and pedestrians. There will of course be serious capacity problems over Hills Road Bridge during the construction of Cambridge guided bus (and cycle) underpass here, and at that time many drivers will make an alternative route choice. When capacity increases again following that work, an opportunity could be taken to transfer some phase time at the lights to pedestrians, cyclists and buses, without much effect on motorists.

Hills Road Bridge

Some eighteen months ago there was a consultation regarding options for widening this bridge and these have now resurfaced including a new option C1, although the time scale for actual work is unclear.

The proposal we made for improving cycling over Hills Road Bridge, from an article in Newsletter 65. Whatever happens on this bridge, we are adamant that there must be on-road provision for cyclists.
Image as described adjacent

At the workshop we were shown a new modified arrangement of proposal C in the original consultation. This is extremely similar to the option suggested in our Newsletter 65.

This new option provides for ‘on-road’ lanes for the vast majority of cyclists, giving them the opportunity to tackle the adjacent junctions as ‘vehicles’ rather than ‘pedestrians’. It also allows timid cyclists or those doing trips which would otherwise involve crossing this busy road twice within a few hundred metres to use ‘shared space’ on pavements which would be over three metres wide.

Options A and B are now not considered worth doing (too little gain for the disruption). The C options involve widening the bridge on one side with strengthened footways and parapets at a cost of £3.8 million (2005 costs). The original option C had no on-road cycle lanes, giving severe problems for cyclists at junctions, and we strongly opposed that at the time. Option D, which is a separate ‘box’ bridge, is felt by many to be poor due to ‘personal safety’ problems, and has no ‘on-road’ cycle lanes.

One person at the meeting vehemently condemned any shared-use as they say that irresponsible cyclists hassle mothers and children off the (shared use) footpath beside Cherry Hinton Road. This line clearly needs to be countered: you don’t ban all cars from a road because of a few anti-social drivers.

The section of path referred to is severely sub-standard and the road is littered with parked cars, making many cyclists feel (probably incorrectly) that the path is a safer option than the road.

Some may feel that the shared use over the bridge should be segregated but I feel that unsegregated shared use is the best footway option. Segregation would leave both widths inadequate, but encourage two-way off road cycling. At busy times pedestrians will naturally tame cyclist speeds, (have you ever tried even walking against the fluid mass of Hills Road Sixth Form College students?), but off-peak plenty of space will be available for mums with kids on bikes as well as pedestrians.

Jim Chisholm