The current path from the Orchard Park playing fields up the embankment to the roundabout at the A14 interchange at Histon is steep and slippery. People have to climb two fences before they get to the mud path and then climb over the crash barriers before reaching traffic lights with no pedestrian phase, to cross the A14 slip roads. People use it, because it avoids a ten- minute walk.
The Campaign was expecting that Section 106 developer funds from the Orchard Park development would be used to upgrade the traffic lights on four sides of the A14 interchange to toucan crossings for the north-south axis. According to Council officers, these traffic lights have come to the end of their lives anyway, and a complete replacement and new wiring are required, which is expected to cost in excess of £400,000, though we would normally expect that replacing old traffic signals would be financed out of the County’s budget ‘maintenance block’ and not from S106 funds. In any case, building what we call Ring Fort Path as a shared-use path would provide a direct access to the new crossings, one which people with wheelchairs, pushchairs and bicycles would be able to use.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s Orchard Park subgroup campaigned for Ring Fort Path to be built and presented a petition to Cambridgeshire Cabinet on 6 September 2011. Councillor Ian Bates was familiar with the petition and had visited the site. To Campaign members’ surprise, no questions about the scheme were asked by the officers and Councillors present at the meeting. Cabinet will respond to the petition in October 2011.
The recent withdrawal of public transport from penetrating Orchard Park as originally intended has left the development car-dominated. Ring Fort Path could help residents of western Orchard Park avoid driving south towards Cambridge City when they want to travel north to places like the Firs House doctors’ surgery, the Holiday Inn, Impington Village College, the Sports Centre, pubs, churches, Histon FC, Histon & Impington Recreation Ground and other destinations, and it would encourage them to walk or cycle more often.
As a better route between Arbury Road and Histon and integrating with the Northern Area Corridor Transport Plan, this proposal has also received 400 signatures and cross-party support from councillors in Arbury, Kings Hedges, Histon and Impington.
Ring Fort Path would reduce the distance from the Premier Inn Hotel mini-roundabout at Orchard Park to, for example, the many offices at Vision Park on Chivers Way in Histon to well below one mile. Cycling trips from Cambridge Road in Histon to, for example, the Beehive Centre in Cambridge would be reduced to just 18 minutes, a time difficult to achieve by car.
Where to cross the B1049
It is currently difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the B1049 near Cambridge Road. Either a toucan crossing near The Coppice path should be built or a phase for cyclists and pedestrians crossing the B1049 should be added to the existing lights at the T-junction with Cambridge Road in Histon.
St Laurence is a Roman Catholic primary school on Arbury Road with a Sustrans Bike It scheme. The school expects its already improved levels of cycling to increase further, if Ring Fort Path gets built.
Building a ramp up the embankment for the proposed Ring Fort Path, close to the playing fields and BMX park, would also increase the natural surveillance of a currently hidden area of Orchard Park that is suffering costly acts of vandalism.
To date Orchard Park has generated some £7 million for transport, linked to schemes in the Northern Area Corridor Transport Plan. A new planning permission (in June 2011) has generated approx. £100,000 more, and it is likely that applications will be submitted by the ‘Master Developer’ Gallagher Estates for additional dwellings on the Kings Hedges Road / Histon Road site frontage and around the retail centre site, which will generate several hundred thousand pounds more.
The proposed Ring Fort Path could complete the upgrade to the A14 interchange crossing with infrastructure relevant to the people of Orchard Park, creating greater permeability for walking and cycling. Now we have to ensure that some of the developer funds generated by Orchard Park will be spent on infrastructure for cycling which, unlike the bus route, is not likely to be taken away once it is in place.