In mid February I went to the opening ceremony of this mile-long, £480,000 cycleway at the southern end of Horningsea village.
At 2.5 metres, the width of this cycleway is highly commendable, and since the weeds that were growing through it last year have been eliminated the riding surface quality is excellent. It is studded with solar lighting and the edges are marked with dashed white lines to help keep you on the track.
Building quality cycle links to villages like this has been one of the main objectives of the Cycle Cambridge project, which seeks to boost the number of cycle journeys crossing the city boundary.
I felt that the consensus among the groups of officials and campaigners attending was that although this cycleway is ‘open’ it is not really finished. Lacking a safe-enough crossing of the A14 on-ramp and needing a way to help cross the very busy road in Fen Ditton into the school, this route is likely to be considered ‘dangerous enough’ to stop Horningsea losing its school bus service.
Loss of priority at the slip road
Fen Ditton village and the road through Horningsea are undoubtedly blighted by the high volume of traffic using this route to access the A14. Before the cycleway was built, cycling northbound I had a few unpleasant experiences passing the slip road onto the A14. I found that traffic was often so eager to get onto that slip road that they would sometimes cut across me at the on-ramp. The occasions where I tried to hold my position by cycling assertively were more successful, but unless I got the timings of my manoeuvres right, were sometimes accompanied by impatient blasts from the vehicles that I was trying to keep behind me.
Using the cycleway means the riders do not have this choice at the slip road junction, and they do not have to summon up courage to claim their right to exist. There the cyclist must give way to traffic turning left or right onto the slip road. At busy times this can be a bit of a wait and the angles require craning the neck, but when I watched this junction I did occasionally notice motor traffic cede right of way to the pavement cyclist.
I went to survey how well the cycleway was being used between 8.15 and 9.15 on the morning of the opening day. It was term- time and despite being mid-February it was a bright spring-like day. I have to report that I saw only about half a dozen riders on the cycleway in the hour I spent mostly standing at the A14 turn, but also going to watch people arriving at the school in Fen Ditton.
The shared-use cycleway on the west side of the road in Fen Ditton village is narrow, but it is largely free of driveways and has very low pedestrian traffic. There’s also a bit of a rough byway down to the river. With these links this new cycleway joins Horningsea to the centre of Cambridge with a continuous very quiet route. The long-term success of this project will be measured by the numbers of riders from all age groups who use the route.