Since my employers moved from Fulbourn to Cambourne almost two years ago, things have changed significantly for cyclists travelling between this new town development and Cambridge. For most of that time, major roadworks for upgrading the A428 to dual carriageway between Hardwick and Caxton Gibbet have made the ride interesting, but slow and at times downright inconvenient.
However, all that changed dramatically at the end of May when the dual carriageway opened. The old road, where once only the very brave or foolhardy dared to pedal, has suddenly become quite pleasant to ride on. Gone is the constant stream of 40-tonne trucks and impatient commuters. No longer do cyclists feel the need to cower on the footpath and creep across boulder-strewn works entrances. Instead we can pedal smoothly along a near empty road.
Going towards Cambridge, there is a lovely glide down the slope of the flyover at Childerley Gate, across the roundabout and on down to Hardwick. It’s easy to maintain 20+ mph on this section, even more with a tail wind. This will make a huge difference in the winter, when previously a bumpy path and dazzling headlights served to make progress slow and uncomfortable. All in all I typically save up to ten minutes on my previous journey time, often for somewhat less effort than before.
There are still a few problems. At the time of writing, there are two sets of roadworks, with single alternate lane traffic. The timing of the traffic lights rarely allows a cyclist to get through the works before traffic starts coming the other way. Fortunately there is usually a way round either on the path or just inside the line of cones, provided there isn’t a JCB swinging about in there.
Also, the small amount of remaining motor traffic can be very fast, as the road is mostly straight and wide. Technically there is still a 40 mph limit because of the present roadworks, but this is widely ignored away from the works themselves, and in any case the national 60 mph limit is due to be reinstated once the works have been cleared. The majority of motorists leave plenty of room, but there is always the pig-headed ‘it’s only a cyclist’ brigade who whiz past a couple of feet away even when the road is empty.
Entry into Cambourne can be a bit exciting. If I wanted to use the absurd cycle path over the A428 junction, with its four sets of barriers and two push-button crossings, I would find it difficult to actually join the path as there is no obvious access which avoids the roundabout. As it is I stay on the road to cross the junction. On leaving the second roundabout, I need to make an immediate right turn on to the cycle path which leads to the business park. In effect this is a right turn from the ‘fast’ lane of a dual carriageway on to the central reservation, but it’s not as scary as it sounds because the roundabout is quite small and traffic is forced to slow significantly. Choosing the right position on the road stops anything trying to cross my path. Some motorists are a little surprised by my manoeuvre, but I’m usually gone by the time they’ve realised what I’m doing.
We may not always like it when millions of pounds are spent on a few miles of dual carriageway, especially when you think how many miles of decent Dutch-quality cycle paths might have been provided for that money. But if roads are going to be built, it’s good when there are beneficial spin-offs for cycling.