This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 88.
As early work gets underway on the village connections, the Cycle Cambridge project team is now consulting on plans for in-city routes along Cherry Hinton Road, Gilbert Road, Madingley Road and The Tins.
The aim of the Cycle Cambridge project is to provide much higher quality facilities especially to attract new cyclists. In these proposals, the off-road parts are much wider than we have typically seen before, which makes them much better quality.
One of the persistent complaints we have had about such facilities is the ubiquitous Give Ways at side roads, however minor. These new off-road sections take what the engineers see as a brave step by providing cycle priority at most side roads, a feature we strongly welcome. The deviations from the straight line that some of these introduce is excessive, though. Continental examples don’t do this: they force the turning traffic to wait in the main road before turning.
Nevertheless, as a first step in this direction, this is an excellent development and particularly on Madingley Road may well provide a facility which both the target market and nearly all existing cyclists would be happy using.
Cherry Hinton Road
Plans released so far only address the eastern end of Cherry Hinton Road from the Perne Road roundabout (which is a significant and largely unaddressed obstacle in its own right) to the Robin Hood junction at Cherry Hinton.
The proposal is for:
- A 1.5 m on-road cycle lane westbound (which, at long last, will link up properly with the run-in to the Perne Road roundabout). The lane is shown extending across all the junctions but for some reason doesn’t start right at the eastern end.
- An off-road shared-use route along the line of the existing shared-use path, but properly constructed as a cycleway and, notably, with cycle priority at many of the junctions. Sadly this involves a wiggle at each junction, with a particularly large deviation at Walpole Road, but it is inevitable that this first significant use of cycleway priority over side roads will be a cautious one. The cycleway extends around the corner at the Perne Road roundabout, allowing cyclists coming from the north to avoid the roundabout.
At the Cherry Hinton end, the path just ends. As at present, there is no way to continue straight on towards Fulbourn (especially as there is a left-turn lane on the road here), and there isn’t a proper merge into the road to Cherry Hinton. This needs further thought.
This is the well-used path that starts almost opposite the out-of-town end of Mill Road (actually Brookfields at that point), crosses the railway and ends up in Cherry Hinton by the level crossing, with an exit onto Coldham’s Lane after the sports centre and hotel complex.
Alongside the Holiday Inn and David Lloyd gym is one of the better cycleways in Cambridge, improved as a side effect of those developments. The area is the site of an old cement works (still working when I came to Cambridge in 1984). The remainder of The Tins (so-called because it was, years ago, lined with corrugated iron fencing) is blighted by tree roots which break up the surface, though recent remedial work has improved this tremendously.
The proposal here is still rather tentative as it involves buying land to widen the route. The option being consulted on provides partly for a 2.5 m off-road cycleway and a separate 1.8 m footway, and in other sections a combined segregated cycleway 4 m wide and footway alongside. There would be a decent width bridge at the Brookfields end to replace the tiny structure there now. In some places the cycleway will be separate from the footway, and in others will run alongside it like a road. For comparison, this is a little wider than the bridge at the railway station.
East of the sports centre, the really narrow path through to Orchard Estate will be widened to 4 m, divided between cycles and pedestrians.
This will undoubtedly be a major improvement. There are some notable omissions though:
- Although the bridge is part of the railway and cannot be widened, it is a shame that there is no proposal to lessen the steepness of the ramps, especially on the City side, and to widen and improve the visibility on the sharp bend on the Cherry Hinton side (the existing wide cycleway stops short before this bend);
- The proposals stop at Orchard Estate: there needs to be continuity across this side road with the path on the other side: ideally a cycle priority crossing (the road carries an insignificant amount of traffic);
- There is nothing proposed to improve the access out onto Coldham’s Lane (it is mainly levelling and tidying up that are needed).
Gilbert Road is a fairly busy link between Histon Road and Milton Road. It currently has useless advisory cycle lanes: they are universally used for parking. Two options are offered, both of which involve removing all car parking, adding moderately wide cycle lanes which are enforceable, and introducing traffic-calming speed cushions in the remaining roadway:
- 1.7 m advisory lanes with double yellow lines (though loading would be allowed, and vehicles can legally enter them, e.g. to get past right-turning traffic – though most motorists don’t know the difference between these and mandatory lanes);
- 1.5 m mandatory lanes (no vehicles are allowed in these at any time, except for access to property).
The wider lanes seem like a no-brainer to us, but the attraction of the poorer cycling option for residents is that they would be able to park on the grass verges. All but a very, very few houses have off-road parking, and that’s not what verges are for. We are astonished the Council is even considering this option.
We should remember that 1.5 m (as also proposed in-bound on Cherry Hinton Road), though wide by Cambridge standards (Coldham’s Lane, for example, has more typical 1.2 m lanes), are still right at the bottom limit of acceptability, the minimum provided for by national standards, so neither option here is particularly adventurous.
The message here is one of improving the abysmal current provision.
Eastbound, from the Park & Ride site, we start off into town with a 1.5 m advisory cycle lane which quickly diverts into a wide, 3 m shared-use cycleway and footway with priority over the four side roads. At Storey’s Way there is a big, awkward diversion to cross on a hump set well back from the main road. But this is mainly so that cyclists can use it in both directions. In-bound cyclists can merge seamlessly with the road onto a cycle lane. There doesn’t seem to be a way back onto the wide cycleway though, which is odd; but it is convenient for those turning right into Grange Road. There’s a somewhat similar arrangement at Lady Margaret Road near the city end, but without priority on the path (no integration with the traffic lights either, so far as I can see) and the 3 m width on the verge continues right up to the roundabout at the Queen’s Road junction.
Westbound the existing poor-quality shared-use path between town and Grange Road is retained but augmented by a 1.5 m advisory lane on the road west of Lady Margaret Road. There are advanced stop lines at the appropriate places. The lane continues, with red surfacing across side roads, all the way out to the Park & Ride site. Cyclists can also use the shared-use path on the north side to head out of town if they want, though there would be a problem getting off it at the out-of-town end.
The side-road priority is much better done here than in the Cherry Hinton Road proposals – much less deviation from the straight line, and well thought-out alternatives. This will be a fast route if well surfaced and will probably appeal to nearly all cyclists, even those who might normally want to use the road.