Radical traffic restraint proposed

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 73.

This information became publicly available very late in the production of this Newsletter. At the time of writing we are uncertain how much detail of relevance to cycling will appear in other media.

As you’ll probably have seen in the press, Cambridgeshire County Council is to submit a bid to the government for Transport Innovation Funding (TIF) for a scheme which will involve charging motorists to drive in Cambridge in the morning peak hours.

This wouldn’t be a ‘cordon’ system where you are charged for entering a zone, but an ‘area’ one with any significant trip within the area charged as well as those that cross the boundary. The system of charging will be a combination of tags read by beacons, which would probably attract some form of discount, and number plate matching systems. Passing any beacon or camera would attract the charge for that period. Just the anticipated 10% reduction of traffic in Cambridge would vastly reduce the congestion and pollution in the city.

So a congestion charge is the stick, but what are the carrots, and when will this happen? For carrots for cyclists and walkers see below.

Proposals to improve bus services include ‘smart card’ and on-street ticketing, hybrid buses to reduce pollution, and more dedicated bus routes. But, before you say ‘horror! does this mean the removal of on-road cycles?’ read on. Of course we’ve been told that improved ticketing will come next year for some years now, but I gather Stagecoach are serious about this promise, and it should happen ‘soon.’

We will also see a doubling, at the least, of spaces at Park and Ride sites in the ring around Cambridge, and possibly extra spaces further afield.

North and north-west Cambridge

New links for buses, or guided buses, are proposed beside the railway from Milton Road to Newmarket Road, and from Histon Road and Madingley Road to Huntingdon Road. A link for car traffic across from Huntingdon Road to Madingley Rd will permit the section of Huntingdon Road south from (closer to the city than) the NIAB site to carry buses and cycles in dedicated lanes.

East Cambridge

The bus link from Milton Road via the new Chesterton Parkway rail station and over the river next to the rail bridge will enable buses to access a dedicated bus lane on Newmarket Road to the city centre. Other changes here are proposed but can wait until the big ‘Cambridge East’ development which is still many years away. For instance, the question of some kind of public transport route over Coldham’s Common is not fundamental to the demand management proposed.

Cambridge South

Planned changes, the first of them already under construction, for the guided busway and the Addenbrooke’s Access Road mean fewer major infrastructure changes here, although a ‘bus bridge’ will probably be needed over the M11 close to junction 11.

Rail improvements

The Chesterton Parkway station has been in the planning stage for some time, and will remove some car movements to the city, but to gain most benefit and enable more trains to run to Ely or Newmarket and beyond, the long-awaited island platform at Cambridge station will be needed.

All this is serious stuff and involves serious money: local authorities will be able to bid for a minimum £1.2bn of TIF funding and it is anticipated that few will do so. The Transport Innovation Fund money provided by Government should enable at least some of the major capital programmes to be completed before any charging starts.

Of course we can’t be certain that this scheme will be accepted by government, but on the evidence it seems likely that a scheme on these principles will be accepted and implemented as part of the national pilot for Demand Management. A business case will be worked up by the County Council and submitted to government in the autumn, with a decision in early spring (I’ve always been told to beware of completion dates that mention seasons.)

I believe the ‘aspiration’ is to turn on charging in 2011, but clearly this can’t happen until a significant number of the alternatives are in place, and of course some of the things that will benefit cyclists can’t easily be started until after other traffic is reduced by congestion charging.

Chisholm Trail is go

One important part of this proposed package is a step change in cycling (and walking) provision, with a number of new routes, major upgrades to others, ‘hybrid’ provision on a number of main radial roads, and segregated “lanes (where cars are excluded)” for both buses and cyclists on others.

As no guided bus route is now proposed along the rail corridor from Newmarket Road to the railway station, this is now proposed as a major cycle route, and we believe discussions have already taken place with Network Rail. Including the routes beside the guided busway (under construction or proposed) a segregated cycle route – our long-proposed ‘Chisholm Trail’ which we were pleased to see added to the latest Local Plan – would then exist from Histon and Milton in the north to Addenbrooke’s, Trumpington, and Shelford in the south. This should be grade separated at major road crossings, and achieve nearly all of the proposals detailed in our 1998 Newsletters!

See Newsletter 17 ‘The Chisholm Trail’ and related articles in Newsletters 18, 23, 32, 41 and 42.

Hybrid cycle lanes

Continental provision: ‘hybrid’ provision, as proposed by the Campaign: on-road but partially segregated from traffic
Hybrid provision

Hybrid cycle lanes, alongside main roads, but slightly raised and in contrasting colour or material, are proposed on a number of roads including Cherry Hinton Road, Hills Road, Milton Road, and Trumpington Road, with removal of bus lanes from some of these roads as part of the plan. This sort of provision is found on the continent, and is a proposal we have been directly pushing to the County Council’s consultants for this scheme. We are glad they have taken our suggestions on board.

On those parts of Hills Road and Huntingdon Road closer to the city centre where normal motor traffic is excluded, it is proposed to provide these separate dedicated on-road (but protected) lanes for cyclists.

A number of routes away from main roads, such as the Tins, Snakey Path and those across Coldhams Common would receive new bridges suitable for cycling as well as major upgrades, even if some of this requires compulsory purchase.

New routes of similar high standard are proposed from from ‘necklace’ villages.

Currently little detail exists for many of these cycle route proposals, although basic costing will provide part of the autumn submission to government. If all this goes ahead, a design team will need to be assembled, but we hope that the routes can be joined up long before any charging takes place.

Major changes are also proposed at a large number of road junctions, and we will be asking that, as part of this work, experiments should be conducted with such things as separate lights for cyclists that change to green several seconds before the main lights.

The scheme also offers the potential for widespread new cycle parking provision across Cambridge, something we have pushed for over many years.

We will be working with the consultants who have been drawing up the whole scheme to get more detail into the cycling proposals as they develop and to ensure they retain a focus on quality. We have already attended presentations and discussions on the cycling aspects and have found the consultants genuinely willing to engage with, and incorporate, our ideas.

What about ‘soft’ measures?

Firstly what are ‘soft’ measures? These are the ones not involving civil engineering: Travel Plans, incentives to use a more sustainable mode such as free bus tickets, or vouchers to spend in cycle shops. These will come forward as part of new developments, but the Campaign will be very keen to see other issues that will be of great benefit to cyclists included as part of these plans and we mention a couple below.

Elimination of car parking in selected locations (such as Lensfield Road) has always been high on our menu of ‘quick wins’ and with reduced traffic entering the area and less dependence on income from on-street parking, this should be achievable. We hope that this reduction in car parking will appear in the detailed plans when they are drawn up.

We are also very keen to see some of the extra provisions in the Traffic Management Act 2004 enabled. These would extend the roles of the civilian parking attendants, to allow them to issue penalty charging notices for infringements of cycle lanes, including moving vehicle offences, using fixed cameras. With more cycle lanes it will become even more important to remove the role of enforcement from the police, whose limited manpower has to be devoted first to other priorities, and move it to a more motivated agency.

In conclusion

We’ve seen this coming, and several committee members have been consulted at various stages, as part of involvement in the Cycling Liaison Group and other specific ‘workshops’. We’d hoped it would be radical, but were concerned that it might get diluted. We think it is radical, and although we expect to find things to criticise, especially in the details not yet designed, it should result in a huge step forward in cycling provision long before 2020.

Let us all work to ensure this isn’t a mirage that disappears as we get closer.

Jim Chisholm