This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 72.
Some of the traffic engineers who worked on the report Simon Nuttall reviewed in the last Newsletter commented on the report and on Simon’s review. Here is a summary of the discussions, including comments by two Campaign committee members (Jim and Mark).
Myles Greensmith said it was a very long time ago. On relief roads ‘I think we concluded that, whether we liked it or not, most desire lines for cycle movement came back at some point to using the main radial approach roads and this was where they were most in conflict with other road users: hence the arguments for cycle lanes on these roads.’ The Travers Morgan study recommended the Railway Route eastern relief road which would have taken more traffic out of the central streets. That was scotched largely on environmental grounds.
We also had a very supportive Department of Transport at the time who were keen to try out all sorts of innovative junction design, and the Downing Street contraflow cycle lane, to improve the lot of cyclists.
[Simon asked about the computer technology that was used to make the maps.] We didn’t have computers in those days: it was good old Letratape.
Jim Chisholm expanded on the Railway Route as a road over Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows. This would have connected Barnwell Road and Wadloes Road to Cam Causeway and Kings Hedges Road. It would have needed embankments on the commons to enable a road to gain enough height to cross the railway (already raised) near the existing railway bridge over the Cam.
Brian Human pointed out that relief roads (the M11 and what is now the A14) were essential in getting rid of heavy (both volume and size of vehicles) through traffic. As a cyclist in Cambridge at that time and now I can tell you it was a real benefit and remains so. V-grips were the best available at the time – progress may make [Simon’s] hoops equally redundant in 30 years!
Drew Wallace also reminded us this was a long time ago. He recalled that it was thought then that, without the relief roads, congestion and capacity of the urban roads might have been compromised by cycle facilities. It was felt that any spare capacity on the urban roads created by relief roads could usefully be used in providing cycle facilities such as separate phases for cyclists at junctions for example. Can you imagine what some of the city centre roads (which were the old trunk roads) would be like carrying the traffic now being taken by the M11 and A14?
Mark Irving added that V-grips were preferable to the utterly evil concrete slots which were common when I was a student (starting in 1976) in Cambridge. There are, fortunately for bicycle wheels, now practically none of these left – although you can find a few filled-in ones pretending to be paving slabs. They really were dreadful, 100 times worse than a V-grip. Not only was there nowhere for even the most determined cyclist to lock down her bike, but even if used carefully, you were likely to return to find a bicycle with its wheel bent. One expected to have to replace a trashed wheel every term.
By comparison, the V-grip is luxury. In the 1970s I used to look for these whenever I stopped, as the best cycle parking available. At that time, Sheffield type stands were probably only found in Sheffield, certainly not outside Cambridge lecture theatres, and their merits in, for example, protecting shop entrances from ram-raiding were irrelevant.