This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 77.
First a stylish bridge and now an almost traffic-free promenade in prospect
Just too late for the last Newsletter came the excellent news that Councillors decided to make permanent the closure of Riverside to motor traffic alongside the new bridge. At the same meeting, they decided to allocate about a quarter of a million pounds to improvements for cyclists and walkers at the Midsummer Common end of Riverside.
Because half the road width has been allocated to the bridge ramp, there would only have been one lane through which to put traffic had the road been re-opened. We know from our members’ survey a couple of years ago that the river corridor has one of the highest levels of cycling of any route in the city. It is of course also part of National Cycle Network routes 11 and 51. The case was very strong for the closure.
The case was also helped by a good measure of support among residents – about three-quarters of respondents to the consultation were in favour. It had its critics too (when is there consensus on anything to do with transport in Cambridge?!), primarily people on the out-of-town end who didn’t like the prospect of turning out from Stanley Road into Newmarket Road in a car. A large-ish local petition supported the closure: congratulations to Ms M Symonds for organising it.
The closure should mean less motor traffic on Riverside overall (not that it is all that busy now). We will see the details of how the closure point is to be managed before long. However, the problem of the blind corner where Abbey Road meets Riverside remains. Plans are now being developed to address this.
If these go ahead as planned, the river corridor, and especially the route from Chesterton to the city centre via the new bridge, will be one of the most appealing cycle routes in the city.
The idea is to close Abbey Road at the sharp corner onto Riverside so both streets become dead ends. The hundred metres or so between Priory Road and the corner would become a kind of promenade along the river, with new tree planting in the road and a narrow carriageway for cyclists and the few residents’ cars that need to use it. This would end at a small turning loop joining to the existing cycle track under Elizabeth Way Bridge and also with a short cycle link to Abbey Road.
Abbey Road would end after the sharp left turn under the bridge. This provides access to the Walnut Tree Avenue cul-de-sac at the back of Cambridge Regional College. Here lies one fly in this otherwise rather pleasant ointment. The College is planning to shut up shop here. This would mean the valuable site would be redeveloped for housing (good) but with 160 underground parking spaces. The chances are all the vehicles accessing these will be directed to the rather tortuous route through the Abbey area, down Abbey Road, under the bridge and up the other side.
While being clear of the Riverside changes, cyclists using Abbey Road (which is an excellent route given that it is closed to cars at the Elizabeth Way roundabout) and the Abbey area in general would face this increased traffic. We would prefer direct access as at present from Newmarket Road, but we have been told that the County Council transport people object to this because it is too close to the roundabout. We expect to see a planning application for this development before long.