More fuss over Mill Road contraflows

This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 82.

The problem is the cars and the signs, not the cyclists.
Image as described adjacent

Are we now going to see public meetings called over every new signpost in Cambridge? That was the case before Christmas regarding the way in which contraflow cycling was signed in Mackenzie Road, Mawson Road, Kingston Street and Covent Garden, all in Petersfield off Mill Road. (The other one-way streets off Mill Road remain: Willis Road, Guest Road, Emery Street and Perowne Street.)

No Motor Vehicles: it means what it says, but unlike a No Entry sign, motorists are prepared to wilfully ignore it or just don’t understand it. It doesn’t help that it is often used with a pretty much carte-blanche exception ‘Except For Access’, so the sign is often interpreted in this way. It doesn’t help that there are at least two such signs in Cambridge which are plain wrong: Corona Road, for example, has No Motor Vehicles signs without any qualification, but is a dead-end street which residents have access to. The Transport Research Laboratory has said that these signs are apparently well observed. Clearly they are wrong!
Image as described adjacent

As we reported in previous newsletters, instead of using a ‘plug’ where cyclists get to pass a No Entry sign to the left of an island, the way in which these four streets were made two-way for cyclists was by using the No Motor Vehicles sign. This has caused problems because some motorists haven’t a clue what it means so ignore it while others apparently wilfully ignore it.

Two of the Labour councillors for Petersfield had already perversely turned the issue of allowing cyclists to use these streets in both directions into a political football even though this is widespread practice throughout Cambridge and elsewhere. The poor implementation just plays in­to their hands. They distributed an appalling leaflet (see photomap) around Petersfield misrepresenting the petitions sent to the Council. They claim to support increased provision for cyclists, but the evidence of the way they have repeatedly behaved at decision-making committees belies this. They have frequently opposed even the most minor improvements for cyclists in numerous Area Joint Committee meetings and elsewhere. Councillor Bradnack even had the audacity to object to the presence of cyclists at the public meeting.

Our proposal to do it properly at Kingston Street.
Image as described adjacent

Do it properly

Department for Transport intransigence over alternative signing which would permit a No Entry sign to be used without a physical island is the ultimate cause of the problem. Almost by definition there is frequently not enough room for an island – if there was the street often wouldn’t need to be one-way in the first place. Cambridge, now a Cycling Demonstration Town, ought to be able to do better. We think our traffic engineers should be negotiating actively with the Department for Transport rather than taking the dogmatic jobs-worth approach that they have taken so far over these streets.

If simple, effective things like contraflow cycling can’t be done without all this angst, we despair of Cambridge ever making any serious progress for cyclists

Even so, it could be done properly within the current rules. It is proposed to do so now at Mackenzie Road. We have called on the Council to do so also at Kingston Street by removing or moving the miserable planting tub at the end of the street and at Mawson Road by using a slightly narrower than usual island. Covent Garden is less of a problem (though it has traffic problems, these don’t seem to be directly related to the contraflow).

If simple, effective things like this can’t be done without all this angst, opposition and effort, we despair of Cambridge ever making any serious progress for cyclists.

David Earl