Footway Buildouts and Chesterton Road Crossing (Continued)

This article was published in 1996, in Newsletter 8.

As most members will be aware, the promised alterations to the disastrously-remodelled Jesus Lock crossing are now in place, minus the expected cycle lane on the south-side approach; ‘zig-zag lanes’ extend 20m either side, (presumably) serving a similar function. The result remains unsatisfactory. (For history, see Newsletters passim.)

‘Footway Buildouts at Pedestrian Crossings’, a position paper now produced by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, outlines what to most people seems obvious about the undesirability of imperilling cyclists in this needless fashion, quoting liberally from the official guidelines. It has been presented to relevant County Council officers and the Cycling Liaison Group.

We now have, in response to our formal complaint over Chesterton Road, an explanation of the Transport Department’s policy and its justification for this particular project. While it remains unclear why it enjoyed sudden priority in the ‘black-spot’ hierarchy, the crossing “has featured in the list of accident sites for some time”. These accidents, we are told by Mr. R D Menzies, Head of Accident Investigation and Prevention, involve “rear end shunts at the crossing, pedestrians and cyclists injured while crossing by drivers who had failed to see them and accidents at the adjacent Carlyle Road, most of which involved cyclists being struck by turning vehicles.” This sounds to us like a catalogue of motoring offences and the appalling driving habits about which little or nothing is done, but according to Mr. Menzies – who offers no excuse for ‘cyclists being struck by turning vehicles’ – the rest “can be attributed to the lack of conspicuity of the crossing and of the common practice of cyclists and pedestrians coming straight from the footbridge or Carlyle Road onto the crossing”. While we might take the view that a motorist who cannot see a zebra crossing is totally unfit to drive, the Council expresses no interest in this angle, finding the remedy instead in build-outs to “a minimum of 2.2m. Any greater reduction [i.e. from the first version – more than 3m] would result in the crossing [and people about to use it] being hidden behind parked cars and buses”. Yet parking is already banned on the approaches; if the bus-stop on the south side is a problem, it could surely be moved with little cost or inconvenience.

Must cyclists, then, be deliberately endangered because this is the only way the Council can respond to dangerous driving and promiscuous parking? So it seems, although Mr. Menzies, despite the very clear advice to the contrary given in the ‘Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure’ guidelines, does “not consider that 0.85m is unsafe”, albeit conceding “that cyclists would feel more at ease with wider lanes” – especially, presumably, those with wide handlebars; whether he thought the previous arrangement, with cycle lanes 0.0m wide, was ‘not unsafe’, he omits to say.

In future we will be included “in consultation on schemes of this type”. This may be seen as a threat of more such projects, since Mr. Menzies remains convinced of their alleged merits, at least so long as he is “not aware of any cases where they have resulted in a personal injury accident problem”. If this is so, it could well result from cyclists’ perception of such an obvious hazard and their avoidance of it, or the route, or of cycling altogether – which is certainly one way of reducing cycling accidents.

The uncharitable might conclude that the whole episode demonstrates the futility of a statistics-driven, black-spotting approach to highway engineering. It represents the opposite of Road Danger Reduction.