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.

8 thoughts on “Riverside – trial needed

  1. To make it easier to see how busy this road is, could you compare it to other roads in Cambridge that get the same level of traffic, but of cars (or mostly cars) instead of bikes and peds? What does a 300 car-per-hour road look like?

      • I had a glance through a few likely streets from the data you linked, comparing numbers for Saturday 11th Jan. 11:45-12:45 The closest streets I found were Tenison Road (275) and Birdwood Road (276). I don’t use Birdwood Road often, but I know Tenison Road is the main route for taxis going from anywhere NE of Mill Road to the station (or vice-versa). Mill Road E registered 485 vehicles in the same period, so Riverside gets > 60% the traffic of this section of Mill Road.

      • The northern portion of Cromwell Road is also close in numbers with a total of about 300 for that time slot.

  2. I live in one of the 13 houses most affected by this. I think it’s a good idea. My main concern would be ensuring there was no reduction in parking spaces overall given the loss of 10/11 spaces in the narrow section of road, and a similar number in front of the flats (your section D). In addition to your ideas a few more parking spaces could be added by extending residents’ parking slightly further down Saxon Road (and possibly River Lane) as that would no longer be near a corner but there’s still a significant net loss, including pay and display which is important for visitors and tradesmen. Also the blocked off section would need occasional access for emergency vehicles or removal vans and there is one disabled resident in that stretch who would be losing his disabled parking bay.

    All that said, I’m generally in favour of trying it out. Riverside is an important pedestrian and cycle thoroughfare and it’s not fit for purpose in several sections at the moment.

    Could you also please think of a way to sort out the noise from late night drunks and early morning rowers!

    • I’m pleased to hear you are in favour of trying something out on Riverside. There would be a bit of juggling with parking and it can be tricky to try and work out what will actually happen beforehand. It appears to me that a fair portion of the parking between River Lane and Riverside bridge is commuter parking.

      I notice that the road surface is now cracking in many places on Riverside so it will need replacing soon one way or another.

  3. “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.”

    Personal experience would suggest the road is rather busier at weekends, although peaks at rush hour in the week may well affect the overall statistics significantly.

    • The County Council have a count taken at the Riverside bridge which would give an indication of the number of people using this road on a weekday. I haven’t gotten round to asking for the counts yet!

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