Cambridgeshire Design Guide

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 73.

The general approach to street design involves well-connected, permeable infrastructure, as outlined in Manual For Streets, and the need for routes for walking and cycling being ‘clear and direct’ is acknowledged.

Cambridgeshire Design Guide is another major document of relevance to housing developments, but this time locally for Cambridgeshire. Much of it echoes the Manual For Streets (see the article in this Newsletter), but it provides more locally-based examples and guidance.

The Guide has just been published as a draft for comment by the public and relevant committees across the various councils.

The book is only around 30 pages of text, with plenty of illustrations, so not difficult to work through. Its 64 pages in total are divided into 15 chapters, covering areas like the Hierarchy of Places & Streets, issues for pedestrian provision, cycling, parking, street lighting, and other non-transport themes such as drainage.

The Guide has been written by consultants working for Cambridgeshire Horizons, the local councils’ quango dealing with housing issues and the growth agenda. We were invited to an earlier stakeholder consultation at New Hall last year, and the signs back then were promising. It is therefore with some relief that this has been carried through to the draft now before us.

In general, the contents of the Guide seem positive, although a few areas need strengthening as far as cycling is concerned.

Changes we think should be made to the draft

  • Cycle parking information needs to be added
  • Section on speeds should assume 20 mph design speed
  • Cycle paths alongside roads should be of the ‘hybrid’ type and not placed away from the road
  • Home Zones and ‘soft’ measures should be actively promoted
  • The diagram of the hierarchy of road users should be clearer

The general approach to street design involves well-connected, permeable infrastructure, as outlined in Manual For Streets, and the need for routes for walking and cycling being ‘clear and direct’ is acknowledged. The hierarchy of users – pedestrians first, cyclists, then buses, delivery vehicles and lastly private cars – is outlined.

For pedestrians, the need for catering for natural desire lines, particularly at crossing points, are outlined. Footway widths should be at least 1.5 m but 2 m normally in residential streets.

For cycling, the Guide reminds developers that Cambridge itself has 25% of journeys to work by bike (according to the 2001 census data) and that the provision of good cycle routes in new developments will promote cycling in the county.

Cycle routes are required to be ‘direct’ and on-road provision is assumed:

‘Shared use of the carriageway with vehicles is appropriate where traffic levels and vehicle speeds are relatively low. This is likely to be the case for most streets in residential areas.’

There is good advice on junction priority, too, though more clarity of its meaning would be useful:

‘Controlled junctions that allow cyclists to proceed when other traffic is halted will reinforce cycle priority.’


However, the guidance needs improvement where speeds are concerned:

‘Where vehicle speeds are likely to be in excess of 30 mph consider locating cyclists off the carriageway.’

It is our strong view that new developments should be designed for 20 mph speeds, and that 30 mph should be the exception. Even then, the sort of hybrid provision that we have successfully pushed for as part of the demand management announcement (see the article in this Newsletter) should be used instead of off-road facilities, so that cyclists maintain the directness that they need. (That does not, of course, rule out the desirability of specific walking/cycling routes that are more direct than road routes.)

Vehicle speeds are outlined as:

  • Main streets 20-30 mph
  • Secondary streets 20 mph
  • Tertiary streets (including Homezones) 10-20 mph

Cycle parking

Cycle parking advice is practically non-existent – a major omission that must be corrected. As in Manual For Streets, it should directly precede the car parking advice, to make clear where developers’ priorities should lie.

Car parking levels are outlined, but are effectively delegated down to district council requirements.

Other aspects

Areas like tighter corner turns, again mirroring the advice in Manual For Streets, are proposed, which will help reduce speeds and assist cyclists at junctions.

Home Zones are mentioned briefly, but there is no heavy push towards their use, as we would hope. That said, the general advice about street designs, which mirrors that of Manual For Streets, can be said to incorporate many of the principles.

‘Soft measures’ like on-street bus ticketing, real time bus information, individualised travel marketing etc., do not seem to be mentioned. These should be added.

Martin Lucas-Smith

The draft is on-line.