1966 cycle routes

It’s often said that the UK is forty years behind the Netherlands in terms of cycling infrastructure – if we had just started building cycle tracks all that time ago we might have the same level of cycling.  Looking back 47 years at the development plans for Cambridge I found that a network of cycle tracks (in blue) was proposed in 1966:

Note that the location of the routes is approximate and has been transcribed from a paper document that had limited landmarks.

The Future Shape of Cambridge, Report of the City Architect and Planning Officer (March 1966) was one of a series of competing plans for land use and transport in the post war era, and I’ll look in to them in more detail in future posts.  The report recognises the role of cycling in the city:

A proper system of transportation involves a correct balance between the different methods of travel which in Cambridge are walking, cycling, motor cycling and traveling by car, bus and train.

A considerable road building programme was proposed despite the fact that 78% of journeys were within the city according to the 1956 traffic survey.  With the city being not more than 3 miles from the centre to the edges much of this intra-city travel could have been, and can be, by cycle.

Wadloes Road cycle track

Is this a part of the segregated cycle network proposed in 1966? (Wadloes Road, Cambridge)

The report mentions the network of cycleways in Stevenage where a 1964/5 traffic survey found that cycles were 20–33% of the number of motor vehicles on adjoining carriageways and 25–40% of secondary school children used cycles.  However today Stevenage’s cycling levels are only about the same as the national average (less than three percent of journeys).

The Future Shape of Cambridge proposes

The cycleways would normally be physically separated from motor roads with underpasses where necessary.  The only exceptions would be when passing lightly trafficked residential roads.

While the road network proposals considered where the traffic currently flowed and likely destinations there’s no evidence of this happening for the cycle routes apart from marking the location of secondary schools.  There seem some odd omissions from the network such as the southern portion of Hills Road and the entire east of the city.

The road network was assumed necessary yet for the cycle network the report recommended that while

…a cost benefit analysis [be] prepared before its construction became a practical possibility, it seems likely that many if not most of the routes shown will eventually prove justified.

Whilst some of the road network was built none of the cycle network was.

2 thoughts on “1966 cycle routes

  1. The cycle network in Stevenage was not somewhere you’d want to go in the late 70s and early 80s. Poorly lit in many places, subways used (or perceived to be) by junkies, lots of broken glass and other sharp stuff on the paths… basically a basket case. Glad to hear it’s being “averagely” used at least now.

  2. Not only Wadloes Road, but Barnwell Road got done as well. Some of my favourite examples of ‘nearly good enough’ infrastructure in Cambridge. However, no good way was provided from getting across the roundabout from one to the other.

    However you have to wonder about the mind which thought up a grid of cycle routes which had such large wholes in it. What are people who live between Mill Road and Newmarket Road supposed to do to get to the city centre, for instance ? Of course, it was an early proposal and if it had been build, we can hope it would have formed the basis for a more comprehensive network. It took the Dutch another 15 years before they realised how important it was to have a comprehensive grid of high quality routes on a very fine pitch, and from that point they’ve not really looked back. Britain is “forty years behind” now even though the country could have been in front.

    Much the same is wrong in the New Towns, including Stevenage. They had good intentions at the start, but the quality wasn’t high enough to get to modern day Dutch levels of cycling and the paths were not maintained well enough. Perhaps crucially they also didn’t bother expanding the network as the town expanded. Nowadays you simply can’t get to everywhere in Stevenage by using the cycle-path network build there. For that reason the network “failed”, but I think that’s a bit unfair. Stevenage’s network could never logically have been expected to be able to provide for a high proportion of journeys to places where it didn’t go !

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