This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 93.
Wait for ages for a cycle route to come along, and then several all arrive together!
We have seen several new routes open in recent weeks with several more to come. These are the culmination of the preparation work that CycleCambridge has been doing since its inception two years ago.
In the late summer we saw a new path opened between the Babraham Road Park & Ride site up the hill to Wandlebury. Like the other new cycleways, this path is built to a much higher standard than we have previously seen in the area. This one is 2.5 m wide and well surfaced.
It has been argued that because of potential high speeds of cyclists coming down the hill, this is still not really wide enough. Nevertheless, it is considerably better than anything we have seen before. It is rather like what the Dutch were doing 20 years ago in similar rural situations. (In the Netherlands now, many such paths are being replaced with 4 m-ish cycleways set back from roads). There is nothing special where the cycleway crosses the arms of the Lime Kiln Hill roundabout: cyclists still have to deviate from a straight line and give way to two streams of traffic.
However, what this route does do is open up Wandlebury and Magog Downs Country Parks for families to cycle to recreationally. Only the most die-hard of cyclists would have done this previously along the dualled section of the A1307. Indeed, a cyclist was seriously injured by a bus on this stretch of road not so many years ago. Linking with the existing rather poorer quality path from Addenbrooke’s and the lanes and paths on Hills Road, there is now a protected route pretty much all the way from town. In this it has the real potential to replace quite a lot of road trips for weekend afternoons out by cycle.
Also in South Cambridgeshire, routes either side of Sawston opened in early November. To the west, an existing footway has been widened and properly surfaced between the Spicers factory just west of the Sawston bypass and Whittlesford village. This has involved constructing a new bridge across the Cam where previously there was a narrow footbridge with steps. At the Whittlesford end, there are two choices: to go through the churchyard or to take the (improved) path out to the Whittlesford to Shelford road. National Route 11, which currently goes down Sawston High Street and along London Road (the main roads through Sawston) and alongside the busy main road to Hinxton, will be re-routed via this new cycleway. Which of the routes through the village it will take before continuing to Duxford has not yet been decided.
Though, at 2 m, this path is not quite as wide as some of the other new paths, it should be ample for the amount of traffic it will carry. It is likely to be popular with students at Sawston Village College. The crossing of the bypass may be a cause for concern, though visibility is much better here than where NCN11 already crosses it further north, and each direction can be crossed separately with plenty of room to wait in the middle.
On the other side of Sawston a new 2.5 m cycleway starts at the edge of the built-up area and runs on the south side of the road as far as Babraham (crossing it and turning left near the end). Land was purchased to achieve the width: the path runs behind the hedge line in what was previously a field. Babraham is only a tiny village, though the new path will again serve Sawston VC students. However, the longer-term aspiration is to surface a path which links to the new one, to complete a route through to Abington, and in particular to the large research park at Granta Park.
The path between Fen Ditton and Horningsea is already proving popular despite not yet being open! Again significantly wider and smoother than previous examples, this scheme is badly let down by the need to cross the extremely busy A14 slip roads. The off-ramp has been signalled for a long time, but not the on-ramp. The plan was to signal this to incorporate a cycle crossing, but County Councillors withdrew funding at the last minute. Cyclists would therefore be best advised to come off the path before the junction and rejoin it afterwards. This rather defeats the point of the scheme and it is very disappointing that Councillors have undermined the Cycle Cambridge project in this way.
Further west, while improvements have been made along the main road through Histon, it now looks as though the cycleway between Histon and Cottenham will also not now go ahead. This time it is not the Council’s fault, though with more time, which the abolition of Cycling England has made impossible, it might have succeeded. The constraint here was land ownership, and it has not proved possible to negotiate deals with the 20 or so separate landowners in the time available.
More positively, construction continues apace along Madingley Road where a wide cycleway on the in-bound side will be complemented by a rather ordinary but long overdue 1.5 m cycle lane on the out-bound side. One notable feature of the cycleway, which we have been calling for for years, is that it will have priority over side roads (except Storey’s Way, where there is a smooth slip off and on for cyclists who do not want to take the diversion across the speed table set well back from the junction).
When work starts on The Tins path between the end of Mill Road and Cherry Hinton in the new year, as we expect, it will be closed for several weeks from Burnside to the fitness centre whilst the footbridge over the stream is replaced and the path as far as the railway bridge is widened. Work has just started on Cherry Hinton Road past the park (which will also feature priority over some side roads, though not all, and with some rather tortuous wiggles, which makes it less appealing than it might have been).