Riverside in Cambridge is a very busy walking and cycling route, an important commuting route to and from the city centre, and it could also be a fantastic leisure walkway connecting the city to Stourbridge Common and further afield. It used to be an industrial area with the town gas works situated there amongst other uses, now it’s bordered by homes but the highway remains in a poor state with narrow pavements, poor drainage and a lumpy road surface. Prompted by a ‘2014 wish for Riverside’ on Shape Your Place I investigated how we can improve things quickly.
As local councillor Richard Johnson points out, rebuilding this stretch with a boulevard is a long-term project, not least because of the cost. However the city of New York is transforming its streets into places for people using the mantra ‘do bold experiments that are cheap to try out‘. Let’s do that on Riverside by summer 2014.
Let’s improve the next 300m from Priory Road (the end of the existing scheme) to Riverside bridge. We can quickly create a continuous walkway to make Riverside better for people walking and cycling.
The layouts below are just an example, go to Streetmix and try out some alternate layouts for yourself!
Section A – As built
For comparison this is what has already been built: the walkway has a clear area 3m wide and the driving lane is 3.6m wide.
Section B – Priory Road to Saxon Road
In this section a portion of the parking is changed from parallel to the kerb to perpendicular to provide more spaces. The existing narrow pavement is widened by 2m and there is still space for a wide lane for cars and cycling.
Section C – Saxon Road to River Lane
The space is very limited here and there is no pavement on the river side. By relocating the parking to the other side of Saxon Road this section of the Riverside can be closed to motor traffic and the walkway can continue uninterrupted.
Section D – River Lane to Riverside bridge
The existing parking on this section is removed so the walkway can be widened by 2m while keeping a wide driving and cycling lane. The bollards could be moved forward from the bridge to the bottom of the path up to Newmarket Road/Tesco.
The as-built scheme cost in excess of £300,000 for about 200m and took about nine months to build. I want the next 300m to be tried out quickly and cheaply. We can do this using only paint and planters or bollards both of which are inexpensive and easy to remove.
New York City is testing out new schemes quickly and cheaply as this 15 minute TED Talk by Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner of New York City, explains.
So let’s use paint and planters to try a continuous walkway on Riverside. I don’t know what this would cost; suppose it was £10,000? The County Council and the City Council’s Area Committees all have money they can allocate to small schemes like this, so how about a split between the County and the North and East Area Committees? I think they could each find £3–£5k for this trial. The changes could be made within a few weeks, so let’s have them in place by summer 2014.
Some people will say this scheme isn’t possible because of the removal of parking or because closing a portion of Riverside would cause problems, and that’s exactly why we need a trial: to see how it will work and what problems there might be. And remember that the paint and planters can be easily removed.
The trial won’t fix the dodgy paving, the poor road surface or the bad drainage but it will improve Riverside for people walking by giving them more space and it could largely eliminate the contention between people walking, those on bicycles and in cars. It will mean we have a rough design so when money becomes available we can start building it.
So how about it councillors? Can you find the will and a small amount of money to start the transformation of Riverside? Can you ‘do bold experiments that are cheap to try out’?
Update: One week on we have some commitments!
Update 2: On 25 March 2014 a motion from Ian Manning was passed by Cambridgeshire County Council with all but one councillor in favour. It calls on the County to deliver projects using this fast trial approach. The motion gives some very good reasons for doing this. I congratulate Ian Manning on getting the motion passed and thank councillors for their support but most of all I look forward to faster, cheaper, better changes to our streets.