Gilbert Road cycle lanes: approved at last!

This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 93.

After years of campaigning, Cambridge cyclists should soon have more effective and safer cycle lanes along the whole length of both sides of Gilbert Road. What should be the final step in a very long series of county council and city council consultations and committee meetings was taken by the Cambridge Environment and Traffic Management Area Joint Committee (AJC) on 18 October. We are told that the lanes will be installed by Christmas and that the double yellow lines etc. will be put in early in the new year.

Gilbert Road: proper cycle lanes rather than what were effectively parking lanes will hopefully lessen pavement cycling like this, but speed reduction measures (which were originally proposed) are probably still desirable.
Image as described adjacent

The lanes will, we are assured, be a good clear red colour. They will be advisory (non-mandatory) which means that they can be wider than if they were mandatory. They will be 1.7 metres wide which is more than almost all other cycle lanes in Cambridge apart from the new Hills Road bridge lanes which are 2.1 metres.

The main problem with the existing cycle lanes is that car parking has been allowed in them throughout the day and night. This is very unusual in Cambridge where almost everywhere car parking is banned in both mandatory and non-mandatory lanes. As a result of this anomaly, cyclists have been forced to pull out into fast traffic which is intimidating and potentially dangerous, especially for children and other less experienced or less confident cyclists. There are more schools in the Gilbert Road area than almost anywhere else in the city and providing conditions that will encourage more children to cycle to school is an important aim which in general the schools have strongly supported. Good quality lanes along this key cycle route to the city centre will also encourage new residents in the extensive new developments planned beyond Gilbert Road to cycle rather than use their cars.

At the AJC meeting an overwhelming majority of councillor members (from both the city and county councils) voted to approve the 24-hour ban on car parking in the cycle lanes. Loading and unloading will be prohibited during the peak hours in the morning and afternoon but the original proposals were modified so that the loading ban will start at 8 am instead of 7 am. At the meeting a council officer explained that picking up and dropping off car passengers will be permitted at all times but no waiting will be allowed even if the driver remains in the vehicle. Almost all residents have parking space, usually for more than one vehicle, on their own land so these regulations will cause less difficulty than in those parts of the city where residents cannot park off-road.

The speed of traffic along Gilbert Road remains a problem. The road layout encourages some drivers to break the 30 mph speed limit but the width and the prominence of the new cycle lanes might lead to some speed reduction. The speed reduction measures originally proposed, which were backed by a majority of those responding to the county council’s consultation, have not been brought into effect. However, the county council will reconsider the speed issue when the operation of the improved cycle lanes is reviewed. We hope that future speed reduction will be an issue over which we can work in cooperation with local residents and with schools as well as with local councillors of all political parties

Our thanks to the county council’s cycle officers for designing and consulting on the cycle lane scheme, to Cycle England for contributing funds for it and to councillors for approving it.

James Woodburn