5: Corridor Improvements

5.1 Cycle lane review

Many of the cycle lanes (i.e. on-road, painted white lines) in the city are unnecessarily narrow, with virtually none meeting the government recommended width of 2m, or even the government’s ‘minimum width’ of 1.5m. Cycle lanes under this width provide little practical benefit to cyclists, and indeed can be actively harmful.

A programme is needed to review all cycle lanes, with a view to removing virtually all of those under the width or widening them to 2m (or, if not achievable, 1.5m, where this is shown to provide real benefits to cyclists). In many cases this is easily achievable as the remaining road width is sufficiently wide.

This programme should be achievable within a 3-year period at most. Changes should be simple and cheap to implement.

5.2 East Road

This corridor goes from Barton Road via The Fen Causeway, Lensfield Road, and Gonville Place to East Road. This is the southern bypass of the city centre.

There is massive scope for creating a proper cycle route that joins the outer end of Newmarket Road with the Newnham part of the city. What is needed is simply to join up the bits of cycleway found along this route, and improve those sections that already exist. This would improve an enormous number of cycle journeys and encourage shift from car to bike.

This road has already been identified as having two critical junctions that must be improved. The rest of the route also must be improved. A continuous cycleway should be provided, in the ‘hybrid cycle lane’ style which we have been promoting. A hybrid cycle lane is an on-road cycle lane of at least 2m width, but with an ‘off-road feeling’, implemented by making the cycleway on both sides of the road be slightly higher than the roadway and separated by a 3 inch kerb or a cobbled surface. This gives a clear indication that that space is allocated to bicycle traffic. Each cycleway along each side of the road should be an absolute minimum of two-meters wide along the complete length of this route.

Any car parking that is provided should be provided to the right of the cycleway with room for opening passenger doors. This further provides a buffer between fast moving car traffic and cyclists, increasing the perceived safety for cyclists and therefore increasing their modal share.

The hybrid cycle lane format avoids the typical problem experienced with pavement cycleways of loss of priority when crossing sideroads. Because the cycle lane is on-road, it acts as a standard lane passing the sideroad. This requirement for cars to give way to bicycle traffic on the cycleway at junctions, is achieved by maintaining the raised nature of the cycleway throughout the junctions; this would give the clearest indication to motor vehicle drivers of the presence of the cycleway and the priority of cyclists. It would mean a cycleway worthy of the name: something that would encourage people to cycle, unlike pavement cycle lanes which tend to be disliked and which dilute the message of ‘no cycling on pavements’.

From the Newmarket Road junction, past the Grafton Centre, East Road is currently up to six lanes wide. However, further down the road, the road is only two lanes wide. The road can therefore be changed to provide the following configuration:

East Road

This gives higher priority for buses, and places the buses in the middle of the road for their most common movements – turning right from East Road into Newmarket Road, and turning from East Road into the Grafton Centre bus station.

At some locations along East Road, the road is significantly narrower. At these locations, a footpath in each direction, a raised cycle lane in each direction, and a general traffic lane in each direction can be provided. In some locations, car parking at the edge of the roadway may need to be removed – however, this could still be provided within the car traffic lanes. This may restrict the flow of motor vehicles, and so should only be allowed outside of rush hours – for example in the evenings.

At the Mill Road junction, there is much road space allocated to traffic turning down Mill Road. Mill Road is a highly trafficked cycle route and also very narrow. It is proposed that this junction is tightened up so that left turning traffic from East Road to Mill Road is not just given a sweeping bypass lane with just a give way sign, but instead has to wait at the traffic lights. This would allow the cycle lane to be safely provided through this junction. Advanced green signals for cycles (where a cycles-only light changes before the main traffic light) would be advantageous for right-turning bicycles. Outside the swimming pool, there are typically three traffic lanes provided, and no space allocated for cycling. It is therefore proposed that the road space is reallocated to provide just two lanes for cars, and two raised cycle lanes for bicycles. Use of yellow boxes can be used to ease the turning movements required for accessing the car park.

Raised cycle lanes should also be provided through the Catholic Church junction. There is much car parking along this road, and this parking should be used to separate fast moving car traffic from the vulnerable cyclists. Turning movements from Lensfield Road into Tennis Court Road should not require additional road space to be provided. During rush hour, the traffic speeds along this road are so slow anyway that a yellow box would be sufficient.

5.3 Newmarket Road

This corridor goes from Maids’ Causeway to Newmarket Road out to the Park and Ride site. It is much complained about by Councillors and the public as being poor in transport terms, partly due to a succession of retail developments that are perceived as badly planned. Certainly, the changes that have been made have been piecemeal and not considered in broader terms, leading to the many current problems for transport users of all types here.

Newmarket Road is a major street that connects the Airport area of Cambridge with the retail area and the City Centre. At the moment, the traffic movement along this street is highly problematic, with little provision for pedestrians or cyclists. For example, a pedestrian wishing to go from PC World to Comet has to walk 100 meters in the wrong direction, cross six signalized crossings and then walk 100 meters back, all because there is no provision for crossing the five lanes of high speed traffic. On a Saturday, when the traffic is moving along at a crawl, many people just walk directly across the road with children in tow.

A radical suggestion for this road is to move the bus lane to the centre line of the road space. Next to this bus lane on each side would be a general purpose car lane, then a raised cycle lane and a pedestrian footway raised still further.

Where bus stops need to be provided, large zebra crossings would be provided to allow pedestrians to safely cross the cycle and car lanes to waiting areas in the centre of the road. The zebra crossings would continue over the bus lanes, allowing pedestrians to cross the entire road safely.

Moving the bus lane to the centre of the road would also allow cars turning left into the various retail areas to perform this turning movement safely without risk of a car or taxi suddenly appearing in this lane.

By raising the cycle lane higher than the road, the implicit priority of bicycle traffic that is continuing straight on will be clearly shown to car drivers crossing the bicycle lane.

At each junction along the road, advanced green lights should be installed for bicycles, allowing them to make right turn movements safely. The timing of the traffic lights along this road should also be made such that during the morning rush, the green phase of traffic lights into Cambridge should be timed for a bicycle moving at 20 km/h. Similarly, the traffic lights out of Cambridge in the afternoon should be timed to provide a ‘green wave’. Countdown timers for bicycles could be provided to allow cyclists to adjust their speed for maximum speed and minimum effort.

Newmarket Road would thus be changed to provide a single motor traffic lane in each direction. All the additional roadspace that is therefore made available can be allocated to a central bus lane, and raised pedestrian and cycle lanes. Given that this road is effectively a single traffic lane for most of its length already, this change would not reduce the traffic flow along the road, but would increase the number of people that walk, cycle or use the bus, increasing the total flow of people along this corridor.

5.4 Huntingdon Road

This corridor includes Magdalene Street, Castle Street and Huntingdon Road out to Girton College and the A14.

The roadspace can easily be reallocated along most of this corridor by removing central reservations and replacing them with zebra crossings. This would therefore allow a 2m wide raised cycleway along the complete length of this route. In locations where significant cycle turning movements are made, traffic signals should be used to stop the car traffic and allow cycles to turn safely across the road. These traffic signals could also be used by pedestrians by using Toucan signals.

At the moment, the speed limit of this road is 40mph with a lower limit of 30mph near the centre of town. The redesign of the road space to provide cycle lanes and the effective narrowing of the traffic lanes should be accompanied by a reduction in the speed limit along this road to 30mph from Girton College all the way into town.

5.5 Histon Road

This corridor goes from Castle Street along Histon Road out to the A14 junction.

The roadspace along Histon Road can be easily allocated along most of its length to provide a 2m wide raised cycleway, or 3m shared cycleway / footway in each direction.

At major junctions, for example the Gilbert Road / Warwick Road junction, the traffic lanes should not result in the absence of cycleways. For example, a single traffic lane could be provided at each location, and advanced green signals for bicycles provided to allow increased safety for bicycles.

At the southern end of Histon Road, the requirements for car parking may necessitate a different solution. This area may require reduced speed limits so that cycles can safely move along this section of road. Space for cyclists should still be provided, perhaps by moving the centre line of the road where cars are parked on one side of the road.

5.6 Riverside

This corridor goes from Ditton Meadows, through Stourbridge Common to Riverside and then through Midsummer Common to Lower Park Street.

The riverside paths are a major route for cyclists, and pedestrians, yet are currently very narrow. It will become necessary to widen these riparian paths slightly to accommodate ever-increasing levels of bicycle use within the city.

Some locations along the riverside path however provide additional difficulties. For example, the single lane cattle grids under the Elizabeth Way bridge cause significant congestion for cyclists and pedestrians. It is therefore suggested that these are upgraded to dual cattle grids (as used in other locations in the city), allowing unimpeded flow for ever-increasing cycle flows in both directions and pedestrians.