Bike Mail

A short poem about bicycle-based deliveries in the style of W H Auden’s “Night Mail”:

Outspoken! Delivery cargo bike

Photo: Outspoken! Delivery

This is the cargo cycle crossing the ring road,
Supplying the city, quick to unload,
Letters for lawyers, mail for the guildhall,
Magazines for cafés, leaflets for a stall,
Parcels for offices, please sign here,
The traffic’s all jammed but our route’s clear,
We’re almost flying, mile after mile,
I love this job, it makes me smile,
They say we’re redefining urban freight,
Clean and green, we’re never late.

Where next for Cambridge cycle investment?

With the news that Cambridge is one of eight cities to share £114m as a sort-of extension to the Cycle City Ambition grants the question is: What to spend it on?

We don’t know what the city’s share is; an equal divide between the cities would give around £14m over three years, yet Cambridge is the smallest of the cities by population so £10 per head per year would be around £5m, although the city did have around £20/head/year under the Cycle City Ambition grants. The government had to announce something as the current grants end in March 2015 and they would have had to go to the general and local elections with no funding for cycling.

Cycle funding is still stop-start

Cycle funding is still stop-start says Mike Davies, Cambridgeshire’s Cycling Projects Team Leader.

Some have questioned if the money has been spent well, or indeed spent at all, while the New Forest National Parks Authority was refused permission to divert funds to other projects. Meanwhile the rest of the country, bar London boroughs and Transport for London projects, have no dedicated funding for cycle improvement at all. We still have stop-start funding that has lead to staff coming and going, and no design guidance or leadership from central government.

The current Cycle City Ambition money centred on Cambridge extends out to the ‘necklace’ villages too and the money has been spent, or will be spent, on Hills Road, Huntingdon Road, Trumpington Road and the Sawston to Granta Park route. See here for details of these schemes.

In Cambridge the forthcoming ‘City Deal’ will fund cycling improvements, though there may be a clash with some of the proposed bus improvements. The list being discussed includes the Cambridge–Royston route and Hills Road/Station Road, with the Chisholm Trail very likely to be funded at least and a bridge over the Cam at Ditton Meadows to be funded from elsewhere.

Here’s my thoughts on what we should spend the addition Cycle City Ambition fund money on. I’m picking a few less obvious projects to get people thinking, but all with a purpose.

Joining up the pieces

A cycle route, or any route, is only as good as it’s weakest link. We now have some good parts to the cycle network that just end. If we are to get people not currently cycling to do so we need end-to-end routes that are segregated and feel safe, convenient and hassle-free. So let’s join up some of the gaps in our existing network and make them super routes.

Harston–Trumpington corridor

The cycle network between Harston and Cambridge. Green shows good quality routes, purple indicates poor quality or missing links

The cycle network between Harston and Cambridge. Green shows good quality routes, purple indictates poor quality or missing links. Map: OpenStreetMap

With the new link avoiding the M11/A10 junction now open it is clear where the gaps are between Harston and Trumpington and thence on to Addenbrooke’s, the Biomedical Campus, colleges, the railway station and the city centre. What’s more the gaps don’t look too hard to fill.

There appears to be sufficient room on the section of the A10 between the Trumpington Meadows path and Harston to narrow the road so a 3m cycle track and 1m buffer strip could be built. This road is no longer a ‘trunk’ road and whilst 50mph at the north end near the M11 this quickly reduces to 40 and then 30 for the village. Narrowing the road, and perhaps dropping the speed limit to 40mph could help to calm traffic in the village too.

By removing the run-off strips on both sides of the road and the ghost island in the centre the narrow shared use path could become a wide cycle track.

By removing the run-off strips on both sides of the road and the ghost island in the centre the narrow shared use path could become a wide cycle track.

Welcome to Great Kneighton. This multi stage crossing near Addenbrooke's Road is a significant barrier to walking and cycling.

Welcome to Great Kneighton. This multi stage crossing near Addenbrooke’s Road is a significant barrier to walking and cycling for a development that has relatively good provision within its boundaries.

Once on the north side of the M11 the Trumpington Meadows path takes you to the Great Kneighton junction and a difficult route to join the busway path (for the station and Addenbrooke’s) or the Trumpington Road cycle route to the city. The multi-stage crossing from Great Kneighton is an abomination that is a true barrier to cycling and walking to local facilities. There are two bus-only roads that appear to be unused that could become part of a route to the Shelford Road junction.

Unfortunately the route through the centre of Trumpington village is narrow and a real traffic sewer. Assuming we can’t improve the village by reducing the traffic, perhaps a better route would be to bypass Trumpington and join Church Lane and the good part of Trumpington Road.

As part of this project I would like to see design work done for a route through, or bypassing, Harston to join up with the A10 south of the village.

Hills Road

Gaps in the Hills Road cycle route: green indicates a good quality route, purple poor quality.

Gaps in the Hills Road cycle route: green indicates a good quality route, purple poor quality. Map: OpenStreetMap

There have been a number of projects on Hills Road over the years, the best of which should be the forthcoming ‘Danish’ hybrid cycle tracks on both sides of the road. As you can see from the map there are significant gaps in the route especially around the major junctions on the route and the black hole of cycling that is the Addenbrooke’s hospital site.

There is a off-road route from the Babraham Park and Ride site north west however it does need bringing up to Space for Cycling standards.

To join this route up means changing the Station Road, Brooklands Avenue, Cherry Hinton Road, Long Road and Fendon Road junctions. At £1m a junction this is too long a list for now, and as Mike Davies ‘still [has the] scars from recent junction projects’ it’s not going to be easy. Yet if we are to get end-to-end cycle routes the junctions have to be done too.

The Hills Road ‘Danish’ lanes are intended to be a showcase/template for future routes and so we also need a template for junctions, and there are none in the UK. (There may soon be some in London on the new cycle superhighways.)

Showcase schemes

Showcase projects can be useful to demonstrate what can be achieved and as a template for future work. When bidding for money and explaining schemes to funders and members of the public you can say ‘go and have a look at such-en-such road, that’s what we will be doing here.’ For example, there is considerable concern about the new-fangled old-fangled floating bus stops on Hills Road that should be allayed when they have been brought in to use and people can go and see them.

In Cambridge we still lack suburban streets with a Dutch (true Dutch not ‘Dutch’) layout, we still lack a Dutch roundabout and these ‘new’ things are scary and impossible to build, so let’s build them! [Various reasons are given why they are impossible, such as: ‘the DfT won’t allow it’, ‘that’s not legal in the UK’, ‘it’s too dangerous’; yet most of these are not true.]

Green End Road

Street layout in Assen.

Street layout in Assen. Photo: kbrumann

Traffic queues along the length of Green End Road making it difficult for people on bikes to pass.

Traffic queues along the length of Green End Road making it difficult for people on bikes to pass.

Green End Road white lining

You can try ‘white lining’ to get past the queuing traffic, if you keep your wits about you.

The section of Green End Road from the junction with Milton Road to Cam Causeway is about 19m wide, exceeding the 15m needed for a Dutch layout. Typically for Cambridge, about one third of the peak time traffic on the road is people on cycles. It is a busy route from Chesterton and the city centre to the Science Park and Cowley Road as well as being on the route to two schools.

The route is horrible with queuing cars blocking the route for cycles, a wide but poor quality shared-use path on one side and parked vehicles on the footway. The route is also unattractive and would benefit from more greenery.

A true Dutch layout here would provide cycle- and car-free pavements for people walking, segregated cycle tracks, dedicated car parking, improved traffic flow and a more pleasant street through more trees.

Green End Road to Science Park

While a Dutch layout on Green End Road would provide many benefits, continuing the project on to the Science Park could make a longer continuous route fixing some of the awful ‘infra’ the County Council has inflicted on us and provide more things to show off.

To do this the Milton Road junction would be replaced one with segregated cycle routes, the various awful shared use paths between that junction and the Science Park would be rebuilt and the roundabout at the Science Park could be rebuilt with a true Dutch layout (you know, annular ring not just geometry). There is plenty of room to build the roundabout, though I don’t know if this part is public highway or a private road.

Chesterton Road

Between Mitcham’s Corner and High Street Chesterton we could have a true Dutch layout with a high quality crossing of Elizabeth Way. That crossing was described as one of the worst in Cambridge, but really it has quite a bit of competition for that title.

Again this road is wide enough for a Dutch layout and narrowing the road lanes could help to calm traffic.

The Nitty Gritty

Everyday problems: abuse of cycle lanes. A kerbed, protected lane would help here.

Everyday problems: abuse of cycle lanes. A kerbed, protected lane would help here.

Along with all these grand projects there is a myriad of smaller work that could improve conditions for people cycling. There might not be something grand for the leader of the council to open but they will make a difference to everyday cyclists.

Here’s just one: A kerbed segregated cycle lane on Pembroke and Downing Street to deter illegal driving in the cycle lane. The Pembroke Street/Trumpington Street junction also needs fixing so people on bikes can cross this busy junction.

Continued investment

I look forward to more quality cycle infrastructure projects in Cambridge and region that give a benefit:cost ratio of 5:1 or more. If we spend this additional money well we will not only improve the area for people travelling by any mode, we will also be in a strong position to bid for future funds.


Fen Road improvements

Within a relatively small budget Cambridgeshire County Council is seeking a number or improvements to Fen Road, and I think we can squeeze out a bit more value too.

Mostly the changes are about Fen Road yet there is a problem on Water Lane and at the junction of Water Lane and Fen Road that I think can be solved as part of these works.

Congestion on Water Lane

Cars parked on Water Lane can cause an obstruction at busy times

A lorry uses the middle of the road to pass cars parked on Water Lane.

There are about 4–6 cars parked on Water Lane, usually partly on the footway, that can cause traffic jams at busy times. A small number of houses on this street don’t have off-street parking so I would like to see some of the space between the trees on Water Street used for parking and for parking to be prohibited on Water Lane.

One of the proposals for Water Street: I would like to see the area between the trees used for relocated parking.

One of the proposals for Water Street: I would like to see the area between the trees used for relocated parking.

Right turns from Water Lane

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction as you turn right.

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction as you turn right.

Most people cycling turn from Water Street in to Water Lane on their journeys between the city centre and Chesterton and the Science Park. At the moment moving to the centre of the road is not very comfortable because of vehicles passing on your inside and oncoming vehicles that may be cutting the corner. One of the aims of the changes is to reduce the problems of vehicles cutting the corner.

I would like to see an area in the middle of the road for turning right that is protected by an island in front and behind. The islands would also help to narrow the road, thereby potentially reducing speeds, and prevent vehicles cutting the corner.

Maintaining the Water Street cut-through

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction looking East. The cut-through to the right of the picture should remain.

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction looking East. The cut-through to the right of the picture should remain.

Dutch-style road layout in option 3.

Dutch-style road layout in option 3.

The current cut-through that allows people cycling to continue along Water Street should be kept. I’m pleased to see a Dutch-style segreggated layout in one of the options for the area. The County believe there is space for a bi-directional track of about 2.5m width.

Tenison Road gets some lipstick

Finally Cambridgeshire County Council has brought forward some proposals for Tenison Road after much delay. About £500,000 of developer contributions (Section 106) money is to be spent in addition to about £150,000 to replace the traffic signals and £150,000 from the resurfacing budget, making a grand total of £800,000 for about 500m of local road, quite a sum.

A portion of the proposal for Tenison Road: the impact of parked cars and moving traffic has been de-emphasised.

A portion of the proposal for Tenison Road: the impact of parked cars and moving traffic has been de-emphasised.

The developer contributions are intended to “help ease traffic impact resulting from the CB1 development” and the proposals are called “traffic improvements”. Herein lies the rub: the proposals are about motor traffic and are not about improving the area. If you want to improve the area then concentrate on that and not on the traffic (see below for the failure of the hierarchy of modes).

The north section of Tenison Road is straight with a sharp bend. Parked cars dominate the streetscape.

The north section of Tenison Road is straight with a sharp bend. Parked cars dominate the streetscape.

The dominant factor shaping Tenison Road is the traffic along it between Mill Road and the railway station. There are about 4,500 vehicles a day on Tenison Road with >80% of these being cars or vans and typically no more than two (number) multi-axle lorries. [Data from Cambridge City Council’s 20mph project base data.] As the blog post on Placefaking makes so clear, if the street is a rat-run then you can’t transform the streetscape without reducing the traffic, you can’t make the street feel like a ‘place’ by adding trees and pretty paving that is simply putting lipstick on a pig. [Hat tip to Hester for the reference.]

There is nothing in the County’s proposals that will reduce or discourage motor traffic on this route, the best they are hoping for is to reduce some of the excesses and encourage compliance with the 20mph speed limit through expensive infrastructure. They hope that a variation in the surface, through coloured block paving, will make drivers a bit uncertain and slow down. By adding parking and some trees (obstructions in the highway) they hope to break up the straight lines and slow drivers. It’s a bit like shared space but it’s not shared space.

While this approach may work where drivers are unfamiliar with the road a large number of the vehicles on this road are taxis, who know the road very well. Many drivers happily speed down nearby Devonshire Road towards the blind corner and overtake cycles despite being unable to see round the corner.

Despite there being around £150,000 to spend on resurfacing this will only be spent on the area between the footways. Despite the claim that this traffic improvement scheme will “maintain safety and comfort for pedestrians” the footways will not be resurfaced despite being in a poor state in some places. The resurfacing budget is only for the benefit of motor vehicles. The County is so disinterested in people walking that they have not even bothered to count them before drawing up these proposals.

The failure of the ‘hierarchy of modes’

Cambridgeshire claims, in the Cambridgeshire Local Transport Plan 2011 – 2026, Policies and Strategy, that a hierarchy “will be used as a guide for setting priorities and allocating funding towards programme areas and schemes”, and the hierarchy is (most important first):

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Public transport
  4. Specialist service vehicles (e.g. emergency services, waste collection, disabled drivers)
  5. Other motor vehicles

But this hasn’t happened on Tenison Road. The County’s representative claimed that people had been put first because an architect had designed the block paving to match the colour of adjacent buildings.

Here’s the effective hierarchy on Tenison Road:

  1. Residents’ parking, which is to be maintained and increased.
  2. Taxis and residents’ private motor vehicles; both groups would object vociferously if Tenison Road were no longer a through road.
  3. Private motor vehicles cutting through this residential area; the imperative to not interrupt the traffic flow.
  4. People on cycles, who had their provision between Devonshire Road and St Barnabas Road removed in some drafts.
  5. People on foot, who get a zebra crossing on a corner and some unspecified changes at the traffic signals.

My view on what should be done

Since there is no appetite to actually reduce motor traffic on Tenison Road in a way that would make a difference to the people living on the road, we should not waste £500,000 on ineffective streetscape changes. Let’s not spend £500,000 on lipstick. The money probably can’t be spent on something ‘useful’ but that’s no reason to waste it here.

There seems to be a view that money from developers is somehow ‘free’ money, in reality of course it is paid for by the businesses and individuals who buy or let the buildings in the CB1 development. Think of it this way: “The price of your flat is £370,000 plus £5,000 towards block paving, trees and car parking for other people on Tenison Road. No, you can’t have a parking space.”

I also have some ideas on cheap and effective changes that would slow and discourage motor traffic on Tenison Road.

Traffic signal priority

Traffic calming at work at the St Barnabas Street junction. Red signals slow motor traffic.

Traffic calming at work at the St Barnabas Road junction. Red signals slow motor traffic.

When the traffic signals are renewed at the Devonshire Road and St Barnabas Road junctions the priority should be set so the side roads are normally green, or the pedestrian phase is normally green, and vehicles on Tenison Road normally have to stop at a red and wait. This will give priority to people crossing and to people cycling between the station and the city centre. It will slow down vehicles on Tenison Road and it will make this route less attractive as a fast through route.

The cost of this is within the signal replacement budget.

Narrow gates

This narrow gate in Romsey Town slows traffic to a near standstill and discourages rat running.

This narrow gate in Romsey Town slows traffic to a near standstill and discourages rat running.

A ‘gate’ could be added at the corner on Tenison Road with a very narrow gap. We know from the gates between Romsey Town and Cromwell Road that these slow traffic and discourage through trips.

The gates in Romsey Town are a bit ugly, so how about a narrowing the road by lowering it by about 0.5m between tight kerbs? A lowered channel would be largely invisible in the street.

A sense of place

The junction with Felton Street has a series of hazards for people walking and this junction isn't needed.

The junction with Felton Street has a series of hazards for people walking and this junction isn’t needed.

Two of the side roads off Tenison Road, Wilkin and Felton Streets, could be closed entirely to motor vehicles, or closed at the Tenison Road end (one has parking the other does not). With the junctions on to Tenison Road closed these streets could be given a sense of place with, for example, a pocket park, play equipment, cycle parking and a larger outside area for the Salisbury Arms pub. In addition the footway on Tenison Road will be improved by removing two roads that cut across it.


So should we be spending £800,000 on a few trees and some pretty paving (aka lipstick) that will have minimal impact on traffic on Tenison Road? If there’s no appetite for a meaningful change to this road let’s be more cautious with our money.

Rural cycle tracks: getting the design right

Sunday’s second cycling awareness ride for the A10 corridor showed some of the design decisions that can help to make this route a busy and convenient one for people on cycles.

A pleasant cycle along the A10 cycle track in full Spring.

A pleasant cycle along the A10 track in full spring.

The ride was very pleasant on a lovely Spring day. The countryside was looking beautiful with the cow parsley, hawthorn and horse chestnuts in flower.

Path widths

The path in the picture above is about 1.5m wide, however with the edges starting to break up and the verge herbs growing up the path feels very narrow and you have to cycle in single file. Unlike the verge on the immediate edge of the road this isn’t regularly cut. This is a rural route where there are few people walking on this shared-use path – it’s shared-use in the rural Dutch sense that pedestrians share the cycle track. However when you do meet someone walking they tend to step off the path to let the person cycling past.  While that’s very kind of them, if the path was a bit wider they wouldn’t have to give way. The situation is much different if you cycle up behind someone walking – potentially surprising them – or at night when people walking can be hard to see.

A wide cycle path allows people to cycle side-by-side and chat.

A wide cycle path allows people to cycle side-by-side and chat.

When the path is wider – about more than 3m here at Trumpington Meadows – people cycle side-by-side and chat as they go along. There’s no need to concentrate on the path, instead you can relax as you cycle and talk to the person beside you.

The path narrows and it's back to single file.

The path narrows and it’s back to single file.

A short distance on the path narrows to about 2m and these two riders instinctively moved back to single file and couldn’t chat any more.

With a oncoming coach and a narrow path and no verge these riders pause.

With a oncoming coach and faced with a narrow path and no verge these riders pause.

While most of the A10 path has a verge separating it from the road in some sections this isn’t the case. On leaving Harston I noticed a couple of riders holding back from joining the narrow shared-use path when they saw an oncoming coach. A verge provides reassurance that if you wobble a bit you won’t be hit by a wide vehicle and you don’t get blasted by its wake. The path through Harston village is very poor and will require a careful and considerate design if it is to be convenient for people on foot and bicycles and if it’s not to damage the look of the village in the way that the traffic calming has.

A part of the new path alongside the A10 – opportunity to chat again.

A part of the new path alongside the A10 – an opportunity to chat again.

A section of the path alongside the A10 was upgraded by Cambridgeshire County Council in the last year. The new path is of variable width and in places is about 2.5m wide and this allows people to cycle side-by-side, as the picture shows.

It’s clear that the path should be built to >2.5m throughout to allow people to pass one another (on a cycle or on foot) and so you can cycle side-by-side. There also needs to be a verge to separate the path from the road.

Junctions and crossings

Waiting to cross the steady stream of motor traffic on the A10/M11 roundabout.

Waiting to cross the steady stream of motor traffic on the A10/M11 roundabout.

Junctions and side road crossings are always a key issue on cycle tracks, especially on busy roads with high speeds. The speed limit on the A10 is 50mph in parts, 60mph in others and 30mph through Harston village.

Fortunately the new route will avoid the A10/M11 roundabout yet the current crossing shows some of the problems. The roundabout is designed to smooth motor traffic flow with relatively high exit speeds from the roundabout. Although it must be relatively quiet on Sunday morning at 10am there was a steady stream of traffic and you have to wait a long time to cross or try and guess which way vehicles are going. Junctions like this need at least traffic signals for people on cycles and foot, or for very busy routes, an underpass.

Crossing the A10 at Frog End can mean a long wait.

Crossing the A10 at Frog End can mean a long wait.

Further along the route we had to cross from the path on the east side of the road to go in to Melbourn. Despite this being a Sunday morning and so not very busy, we had to wait and watch carefully and judge vehicle speeds in this 60mph section. It was easier for us, we had marshals to help. The cycle route needs a safe crossing here. The British solution would be a signalled crossing, the Dutch would probably consider this too dangerous and opt for an underpass or bridge. There is plenty of space here though such a relatively costly underpass or bridge should probably wait until the route is busier.

Looking Forward

As part of the Cycle City Ambition Fund funding for Cambridge and villages a section of the path north of Frog End has been upgraded since last year. Plans are now being made for the section between Royston and Melbourn including a bridge across the A505. I think this will be a key link between Meldreth, Melbourn and Royston that will encourage new people to cycle as the current route on the A10 is very hazardous.

See also: The 2013 awareness ride.

‘Don’t know’ – Highways Agency on A14

The most common answer I got to my questions at yesterday’s A14 consultation was ‘don’t know’, and really it came across largely as don’t care.  Here’s an outline of the discussion I had.

The A14 consultation brochuse uses a picture of a bicycle and an old building as one of the chapter heads. This has nothing to do with the contents and is misleading or greenwash.

The A14 consultation brochure uses a picture of a bicycle and an old building as one of the chapter heads. This has nothing to do with the contents and is misleading greenwash.


I asked what effect the new road would have on air quality in Cambridge city.

The Highways Agency said they didn’t know. The said they will set up monitoring stations along the route and if necessary mitigation measures will be used. I asked what mitigation measures would be used if air quality was poor, I got no answer.  I asked this three times and they mumbled and fumbled. Eventually one mumbled something about ‘reducing traffic’, which seems odd as their estimates show up to a 20% increase in traffic. They think that a reduction in stop-start driving and an increase in speed from 20mph to 70mph will reduce pollution. They had no information or modelling available to prove this.

I find it astonishing that the detailed engineering has been done and yet the effects of pollution on 150,000 people in Cambridge and area has not been considered. This is despite an estimated 250 people per year (1 in 20) in Cambridgeshire dying early due to air pollution according to the government’s own estimates. This is despite the EU preparing to fine the UK government for failing to meet air quality targets. Just a few weeks ago pollution at Orchard Park School monitoring station (adjacent to the A14 in north Cambridge) reach 10 out of 10, or Very High. Air pollution is a serious and increasing issue in the region but the Highways Agency don’t seem to care.

Traffic in Cambridge

The Highways Agency claim they are working closely with Cambridge City Council.

The Highways Agency claim they are working closely with Cambridge City Council.

I asked where all this extra traffic would go when it reached Cambridge.

The Highways Agency didn’t know. They said they had been working very closely with the City Council (and others) on this.

Tim Ward, Executive Councillor for Planning and Climate Change, was surprised by this and hasn’t had any traffic data despite asking for years. Cllr Ward suggested that there could be 35% more traffic down Huntingdon Road (Cambridge). If true, this astonishing increase would likely bring that road to a halt at peak times.

The City Council, to their credit, are setting aside £1.2 million to mitigate the congestion caused by the A14 works. However with changes to just one junction likely to cost £1m it’s open to question how much this can achieve.

Traffic on the A14

Department of Transport traffic forecasts vs actual. Source: Better Transport

Department of Transport traffic forecasts versus actual. Source: Campaign for Better Transport

The Highways Agency were keen to say that they are ‘adding one more lane in each direction’. This isn’t accurate, they are adding an additional six lanes around Huntingdon. At some points they were claiming the work was to improve safety because of the poor junction designs of the existing roads, at other times it was about long distance travel. They did say that the road will have average speed cameras from end to end. They also said that the new road will be ‘busy’ in the Bar Hill section due to additional building, so it’s not even clear that congestion due to commuters will even be lower after widening. We could spend £1,500 million and end up with the same jams!

At times they said there would not be a 20% increase in traffic and I had to point to their display information to correct them.

I pointed out that the DfT’s traffic forecasting had been incorrect for 20 years, they said the ‘models were better now’.

Knock-on Costs

The existing four-lane road from Fenstaton to Huntingdon will be bypassed by a six lane motorway and the existing road ‘de-trunked’ and passed to Cambridgeshire County Council to maintain. Although there will be some funds passed to the County in compensation, the County will bear the cost of this road. The County is currently almost broke and unable to maintain its roads and fund its schools yet its burden will be increased.

The Highways Agency thought that the growth that the road would bring would offset the costs. It will also bring additional costs and I don’t believe they have any figures to prove their point. Cambridge City Council has not contributed to the cost of the A14 because it will not unlock development within the city. The Highways Agency said the City supported the project, I would say muted support at best.

Cycle Proofing

Prime Minister says 'cycle proof', Highways Agency says 'Did he?'

Prime Minister says ‘cycle proof’, Highways Agency says ‘Did he?’, Cambridge MP says ‘Groan’.

Proposed cycle crossing of A14 at Bar Hill.

Proposed cycle crossing of A14 at Bar Hill.

The Prime Minister said that all future trunk road schemes would be ‘cycle proofed’, though it was unclear what this meant in practice. So I asked what this would mean for this scheme.

The Highways Agency’s first response was ‘Did he?’ Clearly the message isn’t getting through.

The Agency’s approach to cycling can be seen in two parts of this scheme. Firstly the crossing of the A14 at Bar Hill. The snaking, sharply sloped path in the plan (right) is the cycle route. This route is far from the desire lines to Longstanton/Northstowe and to Cambridge.  What would the Dutch do? Probably build an underpass.

If you want to cycle from Bar Hill to Cambridge the proposed route is circuitous but it could be improved by an ≈0.5km section of cycle route connecting the south east edge of the Bar Hill perimeter road to the new local road that is roughly on the line of Oakington Road. Others have suggested this.

The Highways Agency’s response was that they wouldn’t build it because they ‘couldn’t accommodate everyone’. So that’s the usual two fingers to cycling!


The Highways Agency seemed unprepared or unwilling to answer my questions in any depth with any supporting information. Of course they won’t have to live with the consequences.

Riverside – trial needed

I’m hopefully that there will be some changes to Riverside in 2014. On 25 March 2014 a motion proposed by Councillor Ian Manning was overwhelming passed by Cambridgeshire County Council endorsing temporary trials for streetscape schemes. By trying out schemes on the ground we can do them cheaper, faster and better.

As the motion says, concerns about schemes can become more strident and polarised because once the schemes are implemented they are very difficult to change. By the time we have discovered the problems with a scheme the contractors have finished building it, the money has all been spent and officers are working on the next schemes. This leaves us having to cope with the problems and locals and councillors working hard to find money to rectify the work.

At Cambridge City Council’s East Area Committee on 10 April I asked the City to do a trial on Riverside in 2014. City officers have said that the idea is feasible.

Consultation on the ground

The idea behind doing trials on the ground is so it’s possible to try out a few ideas in a short time, and so we can try them out in practice. Although there might be concerns about, say, traffic congestion we won’t really know until we try it, so let’s just try it and see! It might not be as bad as you think it could be. As it’s temporary it can be removed.

Councillor Richard Johnson (City Council, Abbey ward) is supportive, as is the residents’ association, Cllr Johnson said:

[Riverside Residents Association are] supportive in principle but stressed the need for proper consultation with the residents most affected… [they] proposed that a working meeting, to discuss the practicalities, with County and City officers would be a useful way forward before holding a full public meeting and going further in working up plans.

I hope that a public meeting would lead to a couple of ideas that could be tested out on the ground within a few weeks of the meeting.

Balancing the needs of everyone using Riverside

The reply from Cllr Joan Whitehead (County Council, Abbey ward) at East Area Committee was that no changes could be made unless residents agreed. I am very hopeful that there is a design that will please everyone. The people living on Riverside want to see changes too and are asking what’s happening with the ‘Vision for Riverside’. I believe temporary changes are the way to get the ball rolling. Once the design is agreed it’s easier to seek out funding.

A narrow section of Riverside from Saxon Road to River Lane.

A narrow section of Riverside from Saxon Road to River Lane.

We need to do some trials on Riverside because it’s unclear what the best design would be. The pavement needs to be widened and this probably means changes to the parking arrangements, which always raises concerns. Recent proposals to speed up buses on Histon Road were thrown out by councillors because of concerns over parking, and this is after a great deal of time had been spent designing the scheme in detail, consulting on it and in discussion in committee. How much time was spent by officers, residents, councillors and many others discussing this scheme for it to come to nothing? What a waste of time and money.

We should do some trials on the section between Saxon Road and River Lane because this is the narrowest section and has no footpath, so people walk in the road. This section of Riverside has 13 houses fronting on to it and there are 11 car parking spaces (at most). I believe that some of the car parking can be relocated a short distance along Riverside to the other side of Saxon Road if angled parking is used, and a number of the Pay&Display spaces further up Saxon Road could change to residents’ permits so there is no overall change in the number of residents’ spaces.

Riverside is busy with people walking to work or walking to visit town, people jogging and people cycling. It’s easy to forget how busy it is because this quiet activity merges in with the sounds of birds and the river.

Here’s a count taken on Saturday 12 April for one hour from 11:45:

Count Percentage
Cycling 158 52
Walking 107 35
Car 32 10
Dog 6 2
Motor scooter 2 1
Mobility scooter 1 0
Total 306

It’s clear that on a Saturday there are several thousand people using Riverside, I suspect the number is at least as high on a weekday.

So yes, we must carefully consider the needs of the 13 households on this part of Riverside and we must also consider the needs of 1000+ people using the highway every day.

Since the beginning of the year the County Council has overwhelming endorsed doing highway changes using trials and two local councillors and a residents’ association are supportive. This is a great base for positive change on Riverside in 2014.

Hills Road cycle tracks

Montage of segregated cycle tracks

Montage of segregated cycle tracks

I warmly welcome and support the proposals to rebuild a section of Hills Road with segregated cycle tracks. I urge you to see the Big Picture and ambition of this scheme and unequivocally support the proposals.  Please also get involved in the discussion on the details but don’t let that overshadow the overwhelming benefits that the scheme will bring.

The Big Picture

About 1km (0.7 miles) of Hills Road will be rebuilt on both sides to provide three networks that are segregated from one another.  People walking will have a pavement to themselves, people cycling will have an uninterrupted track segregated from motor vehicles, and those in motor vehicles will have fewer worries about cycles.  The three network approach is part of how the Dutch have succeeded in transforming their towns and streets in to liveable places.

Making getting about on a bicycle easy for everyone. Credit: kbrumann

Making getting about on a bicycle easy for everyone. Credit: kbrumann via CycleStreets

Although a huge number of people in Cambridge cycle at the moment this is despite the infrastructure and not because of it.  Many people don’t want to cycle on the road and mix with cars and buses – they perceive it as dangerous.  Some of them cycle on the pavement, where they are separated from cars by a barrier – a kerb – and not just a white line.  If we are to encourage these people to cycle there has to be a network designed for cyclists, and that means one not shared with people walking and driving.

By getting more people cycling their health will improve, congestion will be reduced and air quality will improve.  It means we won’t need to build expensive and ugly new roads as Cambridge grows.

Yes, this part of Hills Road is just a small part of the transport network, however these changes are hugely important.  They will become a model for future improvements in Cambridge (and elsewhere) and once built and successful there will be added pressure to continue the rebuilding south to Addenbrooke’s and north to the city centre (as well as other routes).

Some details

Kerbs needed

The ‘fully segregated’ option should be built where the cycle track is separated from the road by a standard height kerb, about 100mm. When people cycle on the pavement it’s quite clear that they feel safe with a kerb between them and motor vehicles. The ‘raised’ option with a kerb of only 25mm isn’t going to give that perception of safety.

Street profile

My proposal for the cross section

My proposal for the cross section

The cycle track should be dropped slightly, 25–40mm, from pavement level using sloped kerbs. A small difference in height provides very effective segregation between people walking and cycling, we see this on Carter Bridge where people mostly keep to ‘their’ side. However a sloped kerb with a small drop does not present a major barrier to anyone trying to cross, including those with limited mobility or with a pushchair or luggage.

A small drop will limit the amount of leaves and debris that could build up in a deep cycle track. It also makes the cycle track feel wider.  There is some concern that a width of 2.1m may not be enough,  however if the kerbs are low you can cycle right up to the edge of the track, something you can’t do with high kerbs.  Low kerbs mean cycles can make use of the entire width whereas high kerbs reduce the usable width.

Side road crossings

The proposal describes the cycle track as having priority over side roads, though it only has priority in the same way as on-road cycle lanes have.  This should be improved in two ways.

Firstly the cycle track and pavement should continue at the same height across side junctions, and not drop down to road height.  This is similar to what exists at the junction of Luard Road and Hills Road.

The shared use pavement continues at the same height across Luard Road.

The shared use pavement continues at the same height across Luard Road.

The view from Luard Road view of the junction with Hills Road.

The view from Luard Road of the junction with Hills Road.

In the new scheme the cycle track would be closer to the main road, set back by only the 600mm kerb width, and there would not be give way markings on the cycle track. The change in height means motor traffic has to slow.  The ramps would be sharper in the new scheme as the width of the ramp would be only 600mm.

Most of the side roads on this section of Hills Road are minor and do not have much traffic, the exception perhaps being Luard Road that has rat-running traffic. If you think that motor vehicles won’t give way to the cycle track, have a look at this video from Luard Road, though I’m not claiming that all vehicles slow.

An existing ramp to provide access over the shared use path to a private driveway.

A ramp to provide access over the shared use path to a private driveway.

The ramps across side roads would be similar to the existing ramps to driveways, though not quite as wide.

Kerbs at side roads

A problem where on-road cycle lanes cross side roads is that I have to look over my shoulder to check that a car isn’t about to overtake me and cut across – a ‘left hook’.

Having the cycle track raised across the junction will help to slow turning traffic however a second improvement would be to end the kerb should as close as possible to the junction. In the proposals the end point seems set back from the junction, which will encourage faster turns.

Maintaining the streetscape

Bridge Street, Cambridge - an ugly clutter of signs and bollards

Bridge Street, Cambridge – an ugly clutter of signs and bollards. Credit: Simon via CycleStreets

Hills Road is a relatively attractive approach route to the city due to the verges, the trees lining it and the relative sparsity of street furniture such as signs and railings. The cycle tracks should attempt to improve the streetscape or at least not degrade it. Adding cycle tracks must not mean a forest of bollards and signs and paint everywhere on the road, if the road looks ugly there will be understandably opposition to building cycle tracks elsewhere.

With some changes to the proposals I can see this being a very popular cycle route. Please look at the proposals and comment via the County’s consultation page.

Michael Bond: A new approach to parking controls in Cambridge

At Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee on 6 February 2014, Mr Michael Bond called for parking controls on commuters using streets in Chesterton.  Here’s the text of his letter to the committee:

North Area Committee 6th February 2014

A new approach to parking controls in Cambridge

  1. There has been an increasing problem of long-term commuter parking in the City as the Controlled Zone has been extended outward from the City Centre. The only tool being used at present is to introduce Residents Only Parking zones with limited short term pay and display for occasional visitors.
  2. There is a clear benefit to the County and City Councils from the present situation as they can collect revenue from car parking charges and the issue of residents’ parking permits, the latter with no obligation to ensure that supply is matched to available Residents Only parking space.
  3. The recent extension of “Residents Only” parking into the de Freville Estate was controversial and has resulted in commuter parking being pushed east into East Chesterton and further north across Milton Road. The area beside Elizabeth Bridge lately dominated by commuter parking is now mostly empty as E1 an hour is more than anyone is prepared to pay.
  4. With the advent of Chesterton Sidings Station commuter parking is expected to come to areas of the City where the streets are simply too small to handle any significant levels of additional on-street parking and the introduction of Residents Only parking is likely to reduce the available road space for parking for residents as it has to comply with specific installation standards that limit which stretches of road can be used for parking bays. The addition of pay and display short-term parking will further limit the space for residents.
  5. We therefore propose an entirely different approach: the creation of No Commuter Parking Zones that can be policed by residents and enforced by existing traffic wardens or PCSOs on application from residents for action on a persistent commuter parker.
  6. The designation of a No Commuter Parking Zone would be indicated by signs at entry points to estates with repeater signs as and where necessary. Once in place residents would be able to note the appearance of commuter parking by noting the time of arrival and departure of cars that are left all day. These car numbers can then be checked against DVLA records to identify the keeper and if found to be a non-resident the vehicle can be ticketed on its next appearance with a warning that any further all-day parking will attract a fixed penalty notice.
  7. It is expected that the message will get through quite quickly so there will be a brief and very active period of action followed by occasional flurries as new people try there luck and test out the system. By placing the initiative with local residents supported by statutory authorities we expect this to prove a simple and effective system that can be applied to other parts of the City.
  8. The corollary to such a system is that there should be sufficient commuter parking provision to cater for actual demand. This will require a radical change of approach to parking by Cambridge City Council and the recognition that public transport is often non-existent or badly located for some of our growth areas.
  9. We consider that adequate parking provision is essential for shops, offices and other premises offering 24/7 services and ensuring that such provision is made available for very short term needs by waiting time restrictions of 15 minutes for on-street parking for local shops and multi-level provision for larger complexes to conserve limited building space within the city.

Michael Bond
26 January 2014

As ever, parking is one of the most talked about local issues.  At the same meeting there were repeated requests for the police to act on pavement and verge parking, which they refuse to do.

Riverside one week on

It’s just a week since Stan made his 2014 wish for Riverside on Shape Your Place and a few days since I posted about Redesigning Riverside – fast! yet there’s been lots of interest and some action already:

  • Richard Johnson, City Councillor for Abbey (that covers Riverside), is going to pass on the ideas to councillor colleagues and officers and report back on the feasibility.
  • Ian Manning, County Councillor for East Chesterton, has added this to the list of schemes for the North Area Committee to consider.
  • Ian Manning will put a motion in front of Cambridgeshire County Council in February to get street schemes tried in a quick and cheap manner.  Sometimes, despite lengthy consultation over paper plans, we spend a great deal of money on something that has an obvious fault once it hits the ground; then we have to wait years to spend money to rectify it.  Cllr Manning thinks cheap trials could save money.  He has been in contact with the New York Mayor’s office!
  • Peter Roberts, City Councillor for Abbey, expected to talk to a representative from Riverside residents today.

When I created the original post I had no real idea what to do next or what interest there would be; I created the sketches as a talking point. So far the post has been seen by about a hundred people.  I’m really pleased that the concept of trying things out quickly and cheaply – paint and planters – has been picked up.

What can you do?  Please contact your County or City councillor and let them know your views.  Don’t assume that they already know about these ideas as they are busy people and many don’t use social media.

There are 357 days left in 2014…

Finally, a five minute video on the transformations in New York City:

NYC Streets Metamorphosis from Streetfilms, click to go to Vimeo to watch.

NYC Streets Metamorphosis from Streetfilms, click to go to Vimeo to watch.