As the University’s West Cambridge site grows the primary cycle track linking it to the city centre has been extended but in a different style to the original section. Is the new section simply pretty or is it practical as well?
The West Cambridge site is a university development of academic, leisure, commercial and residential uses in the area between the M11 and Wilberforce Road to the south of Madingley Road. In 2006 the path that runs to Coton was upgraded to near Dutch standards with a 2m wide footway separated from a 3m cycle track with a kerb. The path is paved with smooth tarmac and lit. Although it has some issues it is probably the best quality track in Cambridge and with a clear separation between pedestrians and cyclists there seems to be no conflict.
With the development now building beyond the Hauser Forum the path has been extended. The new portion is in a very different style, yes it fits in with the campus style better than the existing path (that looks like a road) but does it work as well?
The change in design is clearly seen where the extension leaves the Coton bridleway and crosses the ditch along the site’s boundary. As you can see in the picture the new section has a white block paving, with three silver bollards 1.25–1.3m apart at the far end. These bollards will be hard to see in poor light and a hazard for those with poor vision. The bridge is 5m wide with an angle that will require cyclists to slow down but it is shallower than 90°.
Prettiness: 1 Practicality: 0
The route continues with a 7m wide straight section with no segregation between pedestrians and cyclists other than a gray coloured strip of paving that is flush with the surface. Both pedestrians and cyclists dislike areas like this. The bollards in the distance appear to have lights at their top.
Prettiness: 1 Practicality: 1
The route crosses a road that leads only to the Sports Centre, which itself has limited parking. You can see the junction in the adjacent picture. The cycle route continues on the same level and with Stop signs the priority is clearly to cyclists. However the road is also level (there is no ramp) and I am dubious how many drivers will actually stop as instructed.
Prettiness: 0 Practicality: 0
The route connects to the roughly parallel Coton bridleway around the lake via this 2.9m wide shared use path constructed of bonded gravel that currently has a lot of loose material on it although this will be lost over time. There are markers in the path indicating that is is shared use; these are in a similar style to the path. I think these are too subtle and not easy to see. While I do not advocate large blue and white signs on posts everywhere I think the signs need to be clearer.
Prettiness: 1 Practicality: 1
The total score is: prettiness 3/4, practicality: 2/4. It’s fantastic to see a 7m wide path with minimal crossing points and interruptions, it’s disappointing that care has not been paid to the visibility of bollards and the road crossing. It’s disappointing that there isn’t a clear segregation between people walking and those cycling, is it any wonder that there are cyclists on some paths where they shouldn’t be?