This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 97.
The ‘Eastern Gate Development Framework’
Ideas have been developing at the city council for regenerating the area around the Elizabeth Way roundabout, especially along Newmarket Road. They are now starting to get serious. There are new buildings to go up, including a hotel, and of course all these will have to be checked for adequate cycle parking etc. However, there are also major changes being considered for the streets themselves.
Of course, even with development gain, whether money can be found to carry all this out is doubtful.
The area under consideration (see below) surrounds the current roundabout, which would be removed. It reaches just beyond Coldhams Lane to the east, along New Street to the south, and takes in the eastern end of Sun Street to the west.
The consultation document recognises that the road network, constructed as it was when the car was all that mattered, presents major barriers and seeks to get rid of them.
The key points for road layout are:
- Abolition of the roundabout, replaced with a signal-controlled crossroads with only one car lane approach on either side of Newmarket Road and decent pedestrian facilities rather than the current subterranean mess. This alone would be an enormous benefit for cyclists.
- Open up the crossing from Occupation Road into Abbey Road as a straight, wide, direct line of access for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Central bus lanes separated from the single road lanes by kerbs and islands (bus stops at these islands).
- Cyclists get 1.5m to 2m cycle lanes to replace their use of the bus lanes, plus advance stop boxes at all relevant places.
- A single car lane along each side of Newmarket Road. Together with the cycle lanes this would make turning right into Coldhams Lane far easier.
- Bus lanes and separate cycle lanes along East Road (presumably only as far as Norfolk Street).
- Remodelling of the St Matthew’s Street / Grafton Centre car park junction, particularly to replace the multi-stage pedestrian crossings with more direct ones.
- Similar remodelling of the Coldhams Lane junction.
- Change of streetscape to narrow carriageways and reduce speeds in the side streets (New Street, Harvest Way). New Street becomes two-way for cars again. Removes the speed humps!
Questions that arise for me are:
- Are separate bus lanes better or worse? Currently many buses don’t use them so they act as wide cycle lanes, and they keep the cars well away. On the other hand, when buses do use them they come uncomfortably close and the cycle lanes within them are very narrow. But with separate lanes, especially as narrow as 1.5m, all the rest of the traffic will be a lot closer. There would likely be less intimidation from motorists currently abusing the bus lanes, which are not enforced.
- Would New Street become a much more attractive rat run to avoid the new Elizabeth Way junction? Does it need a road closure in the middle to stop it up as a through route for cars? Or would a much more benign streetscape such as that proposed, along with lower speeds, be considerably more comfortable to cycle along?
- Though a direct crossing into Abbey Road for bikes would be a very welcome improvement indeed, is there anything that could be done to improve the link from the Abbey Street crossing to link to Abbey Road? The new proposals do nothing to widen that section of pavement, though the crossing and Abbey Street access have recently been much improved. Might an even more radical solution create a two-way cycleway in that section on that side of the road? Or is the Occupation Road proposal enough anyway?
- Would any of the islands create pinch-point effects for cyclists?
View the full proposals at www.camcycle.org.uk/jumpto/nl97eg