The incomplete Eastern Ring Road

Diagram of the Eastern Ring Road from the First Review of the Town Map for Cambridge 1961

Diagram of the Eastern Ring Road from the First Review of the Town Map for Cambridge 1961. The red parts are proposed.

In a city like Cambridge that sits astride a river the bridges are always key in getting around. In addition to the Chesterton Bridge Route (built as Elizabeth Way) the first post-war plan for Cambridge, the Cambridgeshire Development Plan (published March 1952), proposed to complete the eastern bypass route by crossing the river at Ditton Meadows and connecting Fendon Road to Cambridge Road.

An eastern bypass around Cambridge was being built in stages before the Second World War with the intention that traffic on the A10 could avoid Cambridge (a much smaller place at the time).  By the time the post-war plans were prepared the route was complete from Hills Road (near the current Addenbrooke’s site) as far as Coldhams Lane in the south and from Milton Road via Green End Road and Cam Causeway in the north.  A glance at a modern day map shows that Cam Causeway stops abruptly but continue on the line with your eye and it matches up with the curve at Wadloes Road.

Indicative route of the southern extension of the Eastern bypass in orange.  © OpenStreetMap contributors

Indicative route of the southern extension of the Eastern bypass in orange. Mapping © OpenStreetMap contributors

In the south Fendon Road would be connected to Cambridge Road (A10) north of Harston via a 2¼mi (3.6km) road with two railway crossings.  The estimated cost in 1950 was £150,000,[2] or about £4.5 million in 2013 allowing for inflation although today’s cost may be higher.

It was recommended that the bypass was continued between Coldhams Lane and Newmarket Road (modern day Barnwell Road) however the portion across the river and in the south were not expected to be built before 1970.  By the first review of the plan the southern part appears to have been dropped.[3] With the M11 (in the west) opening in 1980, the A14 northern bypass in 1976/7 and A11 to the east Cambridge is now comprehensively bypassed and this route is not needed for long distance traffic.

In my last post I detailed the damaging proposals for urban motorways from 1966 and this link would, not just to modern eyes, have had a substantial effect on Ditton Meadows. The road would have required “…a high embankment across Stourbridge Common and a new bridge carrying the road over the railway at a point near to where the existing railway bridge now crosses the river.”[1] In 1950 two railway crossings were needed as the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway, that ran across the top of Ditton Meadows, was still open. The bridge over the railway would have been about 10m high, substantially larger than Elizabeth Way bridge. The cost was estimated at not less than £300,000 for nearly a mile of road,[2] which is about £9 million in 2013 allowing for inflation although today’s costs may be higher.

Modern day Wadloes Road has a long sweeping curve after leaving Newmarket Road and the Eastern Ring Road was have continued across Ditton Meadows at the sharp turn in the distance.

Modern day Wadloes Road has a long sweeping curve after leaving Newmarket Road and the Eastern Ring Road would have continued across Ditton Meadows at the sharp turn in the distance.

Mashup of what the Eastern bypass may have looked like on Ditton Meadows

Mashup of what the Eastern bypass may have looked like on Ditton Meadows viewed from the path from Wadloes Road.

Cam Causeway looking south: the unusual width of this road, flanked by intra-war houses with a modern house at the end hints at the purpose being its construction.

Cam Causeway looking south: the unusual width of this road, flanked by inter-war houses with a modern house at the end hints at the purpose behind its construction.

Sources:

  1. Planners and Preservations, The Cambridge Preservation Society and the City’s Green Belt 1928–85. Anthony J Cooper, Cambridge Preservation Society, 2000.
  2. Cambridge Planning Proposals, A Report to the Town and Country Planning Committee of the Cambridgeshire County Council.  William Holford, H. Myles Wright. Cambridge University Press 1950. Also known as the Holford Report.
  3. The First Review of the Town Map for Cambridge. County Planning Department, County of Cambridge 1961.
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Green Dragon cycle traffic

With the recent discussion over walking and cycling on Green Dragon bridge I thought I would take a look at the actual number of cycles on the bridge.  There is an automated cycle counter at the bottom of the bridge although there are no automatic counters for pedestrians.

The headline figures are that there are in excess of 1000 cycles a day are counted at the bridge in both directions and the peak flow is typically around 250 cycles per hour.  That is a lot of people that could be inconvenienced by any changes to the bridge, and a lot to be accommodated in a path of only 2.3m width.  We also see that Cambridge people cycle year round, not just in the Summer.

Please read the notes below about the counters and what is actually counted.  I would like to thank Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cycling Projects Team for providing the data.

Seasonal hourly flows

Here I plot the figures per season to see what seasonal variation there is.  Inbound means towards the city centre, outbound means towards Water Street.

Green Dragon hourly flow SpringGreen Dragon total flow SpringIn Spring we saw:

  • A peak of 350 per hour
  • 366 total in the morning peak
  • 1482 total a day

(average figures for weekdays)
Green Dragon hourly flow SummerGreen Dragon total flow SummerIn Summer we saw:

  • A peak of 300 per hour
  • 266 total in the morning peak
  • 952 total a day

Green Dragon hourly flow AutumnGreen Dragon total flow AutumnIn Autumn we saw:

  • A peak of 350 per hour
  • 392 in the morning peak
  • 1403 total a day

Green Dragon hourly flow WinterGreen Dragon total flow WinterIn Winter we saw:

  • A peak of 310 per hour
  • 302 in the peak
  • 1171 total a day

Totals table

Here is the total counts per two hour period in table form

Time period Total cycles
Spring Summer Autumn Winter
(18 Mar – 11 June 2012) (18 June  – 10 Sept 2012) (17 Sept – 10 Dec 2012) (17 Dec – 4 Mar 2013)
00:00–02:00 12 9 9 8
02:00–04:00 2 2 2 2
04:00–06:00 21 18 16 12
06:00–08:00 153 111 143 101
08:00–10:00 366 268 392 302
10:00–12:00 91 62 95 83
12:00–14:00 81 45 77 78
14:00–16:00 103 55 109 102
16:00–18:00 236 128 243 213
18:00–20:00 243 139 194 166
20:00–22:00 116 73 78 63
22:00–24:00 57 42 46 36
All day 1482 952 1403 1171

Year-round flow

If you thought that people only cycle in the summer, the following chart shows the daily total number of cycles per weekday (based on a 5-day average).
Green Dragon Inbound total by weekThere is a noticeably lower level during the summer, no surprise in a city with two universities and other colleges and schools.  You can also see a pronounced dip over the Christmas and New Year period.

It’s clear that people in Cambridge cycle all year, and over this year we had very mixed weather!

About the numbers

The grey box on the right is the solar-powered cycle counter at Cutter Ferry bridge that sends its data over the GSM network

The grey box on the right is the solar-powered cycle counter at Cutter Ferry bridge that sends its data over the GSM network.

There are a number of cycle counters on key routes around the city that count the number of bicycles passing them every fifteen minutes.  The Cycling Projects Team at Cambridgeshire County Council kindly provided the data for the counters at Green Dragon bridge.  There are two counters here, one on the route to Fen Ditton and one near the start of the ramp to Green Dragon bridge.

Due to the location of the counters and their sensors neither record the number of cycles actually crossing the bridge.  Some cyclists continuing along the river and not crossing the bridge get counted on both counters while those going to/from Fen Ditton and crossing the bridge also get counted on both.  Rather than trying to combine the figures from the two counters to come up with an uncertain estimate of cycles actually crossing the bridge I decided to use just the figures from the single counter.  The typical numbers on the path to Fen Ditton are about 10% of the number at the other counter.

The cycle counter has two channels and on the advice of the Cycling Projects Team I have had to infer the direction of travel from the data.

I have just under a year’s worth of data that I have grouped in to four quarters, the start and end dates of which are somewhat arbitrary.  I hoped to get some insight in to these questions: Are there any seasonal variations?  Do people in Cambridge only cycle in good weather?

A tale of two bridges – path width

A local politician recently decided to stir up the hornets nest that is cycling on the Green Dragon bridge.  This bridge is the last crossing of the River Cam in the north east of the city and a vital link for pedestrians and cyclists traveling across the city (the bridge is unsuitable for motor traffic).  Some people believe it is simply too narrow for cycling on, others believe that it ‘works’ because most cyclists are considerate and with no prospect of widening or replacement we should just get on with it.

Advisory no cycling signs on Green Dragon bridge north ramps

Advisory no cycling signs on Green Dragon bridge north ramp

Tempers are probably frayed because some believe that cycling on this bridge is illegal. At the end of the bridge is a tatty array of signs ‘NO CYCLING’ ‘CYCLISTS DISMOUNT’ which being on a blue background are advisory.  The bridge has a width of 2.3m (ramps are wider) and has a peak flow of around 250 bicycles an hour in the morning peak (more on this in a later post).  The combination of poor signage and a narrow path is causing avoidable problems here, as in many other places.  Pedestrians don’t like shared use, cyclists don’t like shared use and motorists don’t like shared use, so why do we continue to build it?

The Dutch don’t do shared use paths.  They have a cycle track width of (generally) 2.5m for one way and 4m for two way[Hembrow].  I’ve not looked up guidance for UK infrastructure, let’s learn from the best of the Dutch experience.

So I am dismayed that the initial plans drawn up by WS Atkins for the Ely Southern Bypass show a 2m shared use path.  (Check out the video of the bypass that replaces the roar of traffic with peaceful music.)

Excerpt from proposals for Ely station road underpass

Excerpt from proposals for Ely Station Road underpass

What was a two lane road has been narrowed to about one and a half lanes and a sub-standard shared use path squeezed in.  Note also the sharp angles on the path so there is space for ghost islands on the road!  All we need is some ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs and a forest of bollards on the path to keep out cargo bikes and pushchairs and this could be a showcase of dismal UK design.  There will be complaints if this is built as shown.

Fortunately Ely Cycling Campaign are on the case, who have a ‘Go Dutch‘ strategy for infrastructure. There are no details yet but they are seeking to use the approximate 3.5m width of the removed road lane for pedestrians and cycles.  I look forward to seeing the amended designs!