Chesterton Road crossing critique

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 74.

Image as described adjacent

Upgrade near Hamilton Road

The section of Chesterton Road between Mitchams Corner and Elizabeth Way roundabout is popular with cyclists. Many cyclists cross Chesterton Road to get from Milton Road (Herbert Street, George Street, Chesterton Hall Crescent) to the Fort St. George Bridge and Midsummer Common. The pedestrian crossing between George Street and Hamilton Road is being upgraded to a Toucan. The scheme includes on both sides of Chesterton Road short sections of cycle lanes. The main traffic lane is being narrowed through a sharp buildout (a kerb jutting out more than a metre) on the northern fringe. There is then a 1 metre drop back to the existing kerb before the junction with George Street. The scheme also provides a red surface cycle lane at the George Street and Hamilton Road junctions to warn motorists of bicycles when turning. Flush kerbs allow less confident cyclists to get onto the pavement to cross at the lights. The scheme also includes a new anti-skid surface in the run-up to the crossing. With the lane narrowing and a lot of paint applied on the tarmac it probably achieves some speed reduction with motorists.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign in its objection to the scheme (9 July 2007) stated that ‘cycle lanes should only be installed where they provide a direct benefit to cyclists.’ Due to the introduction of a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes on Maid’s Causeway, Chesterton Road has to accommodate many more heavy vehicles. A two metre wide, mandatory cycle lane on both sides of Chesterton Road and for the full length from Elizabeth Way to Mitchams Corner would be both possible and justified. According to the minutes of the Cambridge Environment and Traffic Management Area Joint Committee (AJC) from 16 July 2007 ‘it was resolved unanimously to approve the crossing upgrade, subject to the provision of 1.5 metre wide mandatory cycle lanes.’ This has been implemented only at the pinch points and not across the whole of the new scheme.

The scheme as installed has a number of shortcomings that need to be addressed:

Insufficient width on brand new cycle lane

In its objection to the scheme, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign wrote on 22 May 2007 that ‘the recommended width for an on-carriageway, with-flow lane is 2.0 m. As Chesterton Road is of generous width, 11 m at this point, we can see no reason why the recommended 2.0 m width cannot be achieved.’ Between Elizabeth Way and Mitchams Corner there was previously no on-street cycle lane on the southern fringe of Chesterton Road. The new scheme starts to introduce such a lane starting at the new anti-skid surface near the crossing upgrade. However, this new cycle lane is not mandatory and is only 1.2 metres wide and therefore does not seem to follow the AJC resolution. Due to poor surface finishing cyclists are confronted with two surface materials and a poor joint, reducing the lane effectively to 1 m. An overgrowing tree pushes cyclists further into the main lane with cars, buses and lorries. Chesterton Road is 11 metres wide, a two metre mandatory cycle lane is required and nothing less should be accepted for new installations.

Cycle lane curls into the mouth of the side roads

The substandard width of cycle lane across the mouth of George Street and Hamilton Road (both are two way traffic at this point) is exacerbated by very poor alignment. The cycle lane actually curls into the mouth of the side roads and then has to step out again when it reaches the kerb at the other side. This will tempt drivers to try and pass at the junction mouth and then create a potential clash point as cyclists have to move in towards the path of other vehicles.

This is the exact opposite of how it should be designed. Cars waiting at side roads have a tendency to creep forward, past the stop line and into the cycle lane for the driver to get a better view. The build out will exacerbate this tendency by pushing large traffic further from the kerb, and the step in after the build out takes cyclists out of the driver’s immediate field of view. At a junction mouth, the cycle lane needs to be as wide as possible to allow cyclists to get past encroaching vehicles without straying into the traffic lane, the traffic lane should be as narrow as possible to discourage passing at the junction, and the stop line should be pulled forward as far as possible without encroaching on the cycle lane, in order to give waiting drivers a clear view of approaching traffic (including cyclists).

Bus stop build-out hindrance

Image as described adjacent

On the northern fringe of Chesterton Road the new cycle lane starts at the Herbert Street junction, doubling as a bus stop. A sharp, 1 metre wide build-out juts out in front of cyclists marking also the end of the bus stop. Buses are even worse than bicycles at sharp bends and therefore bus drivers tend to stop at a distance from the build-out, so the rear of the bus obstructs cyclists coming from Herbert Street.

The national recommended width for cycle lanes is two metres

On the northern fringe ‘consistency’ was used as an argument to provide an insufficiently wide cycle lane. ‘The width of the cycle lanes shall be 1.2 m. This is to maintain consistency with the existing cycle lane which is located east of George Street.’ However, with the build-outs and red tarmac crossings and the cycle lane not continuing to Elizabeth Way, ‘consistency’ cannot be accepted as an argument for cycle lanes that keep cyclists too close to the kerb and where motorists who drive right up to the line may be too close to cycle traffic.

Central refuge

Cambridge Cycling Campaign questioned in its objection to the scheme whether ‘a central refuge, with consequent narrowing and creation of a pinch point, is necessary in a road of this width. A central refuge is only necessary if insufficient crossing time is being given, so pedestrians should instead be given more time to cross, which ought not to cause undue delays to traffic in this location, given the length of the road.’ The narrowing results in a lane width where drivers of wider vehicles may attempt to overtake cyclists at too close a distance.

Sharp, metre-wide build-outs jut out in front of cyclists

Build out obstruction for both bikes and bus stop
Image as described adjacent

The zigzag cycle lane between the pinch-points at the crossing is a ‘theoretical’ 1.5 m wide. At the critical sharp edge where the build-out recedes at George Street, the cycle lane is reduced to 1.3 metres. The kerb build out is poor. At the very least a 1:10 taper should be hatched out on the approach to warn cyclists, and the cycle lane should run parallel to it. It also limits the visibility from George Street. It would be better to continue the line of the build out and cycle lane straight past the mouth of George Street, only widening out once past the junction. Putting cycle lanes between HGV wheels and a sharp buildout is unacceptable.

Visual contamination

A lot of paint has been applied and the visual aspect of the new scheme is poor.

More images from the Chesterton Road Crossing Upgrade (Hamilton Road) can be found at the our photo map image gallery.

The objections and part of the correspondence by Cambridge Cycling Campaign can be found on our campaigning letters page.

Klaas Brumann

Stop Press

The County Council’s contractors did not build the George Street build-out to the plans, and have been instructed to change it to a taper of 1:20. By the time you read this Newsletter, the taper should be done and traffic lights installed.