Fen Road improvements

Within a relatively small budget Cambridgeshire County Council is seeking a number or improvements to Fen Road, and I think we can squeeze out a bit more value too.

Mostly the changes are about Fen Road yet there is a problem on Water Lane and at the junction of Water Lane and Fen Road that I think can be solved as part of these works.

Congestion on Water Lane

Cars parked on Water Lane can cause an obstruction at busy times

A lorry uses the middle of the road to pass cars parked on Water Lane.

There are about 4–6 cars parked on Water Lane, usually partly on the footway, that can cause traffic jams at busy times. A small number of houses on this street don’t have off-street parking so I would like to see some of the space between the trees on Water Street used for parking and for parking to be prohibited on Water Lane.

One of the proposals for Water Street: I would like to see the area between the trees used for relocated parking.

One of the proposals for Water Street: I would like to see the area between the trees used for relocated parking.

Right turns from Water Lane

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction as you turn right.

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction as you turn right.

Most people cycling turn from Water Street in to Water Lane on their journeys between the city centre and Chesterton and the Science Park. At the moment moving to the centre of the road is not very comfortable because of vehicles passing on your inside and oncoming vehicles that may be cutting the corner. One of the aims of the changes is to reduce the problems of vehicles cutting the corner.

I would like to see an area in the middle of the road for turning right that is protected by an island in front and behind. The islands would also help to narrow the road, thereby potentially reducing speeds, and prevent vehicles cutting the corner.

Maintaining the Water Street cut-through

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction looking East. The cut-through to the right of the picture should remain.

A view of the Water Lane/Water Street junction looking East. The cut-through to the right of the picture should remain.

Dutch-style road layout in option 3.

Dutch-style road layout in option 3.

The current cut-through that allows people cycling to continue along Water Street should be kept. I’m pleased to see a Dutch-style segreggated layout in one of the options for the area. The County believe there is space for a bi-directional track of about 2.5m width.

Redesigning Riverside – fast!

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.

What?

Diagram of some quick changes to Riverside between Priory Road and Riverside bridge.

Diagram of some quick changes to Riverside between Priory Road and Riverside bridge.

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

Section A, as built

Section A, as built.

The southern end of Riverside was rebuilt in 2011 with a wide boulevard/walkway.

The southern end of Riverside was rebuilt in 2011 with a wide boulevard/walkway on the left adjacent to the river. Credit: Klaas Brumann via CycleStreets

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

Proposal for section B, Priory Road to Saxon Road.

Proposal for section B, Priory Road to Saxon Road.

Riverside is wide here so more parking could be created on the right with the temporary walkway extending from the left out to the dotted white line.

Riverside is wide here so more parking could be created on the right. The temporary walkway would extend from the left out to the dotted white line.

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

Proposal for section C, Saxon Road to River Lane.

Proposal for section C, Saxon Road to River Lane.

With no pavement on the left people walking mix with cycles and cars in the road. By relocating car parking, the temporary walkway would use half the entire width here.

With no pavement on the left people walking mix with cycles and cars in the road. By relocating car parking, the temporary walkway would use half the entire width here, roughly continuing the dotted line in the right foreground of the picture.

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

Proposal for section D, River Lane to Riverside bridge.

Proposal for section D, River Lane to Riverside bridge.

Riverside widens out again and by removing parking the walkway can be widened.

Riverside widens out again and by removing parking the walkway can be widened.

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.

How?

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.

The street on the right of the triangular junction was improved (below) as a trial using paint and planters.

The street on the right of the triangular junction was improved (below) as a trial using paint and planters.

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.

Cambridgeshire defines high quality as shared-use

Back in August Cambridgeshire County Council promised us a “high quality, safe and accessible cycle infrastructure along Cowley Road” as part of its Transport Assessment for the proposed Science Park station and I expressed my skepticism about what “high quality” would mean on the ground.  Now an illustrative proposal shows a shared-use with five give ways in ¼ mile.  So high quality = shared-use to the County despite people on foot and on cycles hating it and cyclists being fined or getting a criminal record for being confused about where they can and can’t cycle on pavements.

I’m not going to dwell on how rubbish this is, it’s a design from the last century.  Instead I will highlight the high risk of death and serious injury that people on cycles will face at the junction where Cowley Road turns north while the station access road continues east.

Here’s the proposed layout:

Cowley Road/Cowley Road junction with proposed shared-use path in mid gray.

Cowley Road/Cowley Road junction with proposed shared-use path in mid gray.

The priority is changing so the north arm of the junction will have to give way, as will people on cycles traveling to the station, which is east of this junction.

Here’s the proposal with the lorry and bus movements superimposed.  Note that the Stagecoach bus depot is to the north while the Hanson aggregates terminal is on the north east corner so there are a lot of large and heavy vehicles at this junction.  Most of this traffic turns the corner.

Proposed junction layout with lorry and bus flows in orange and cycle and pedestrian flow in blue.

Proposed junction layout with lorry and bus flows in orange and cycle and pedestrian flow in blue.

There is a fence adjacent to the north west corner so visibility is poor.

This is the view you will have as you cycle east on Cowley Road.  Note the fence obscures the view of the road to the left

This is the view you will have as you cycle east on Cowley Road. Note the fence obscures the view of the road to the left

Maybe you thought the road was clear?  Suddenly a bus appears from around the corner.

Maybe you thought the road was clear? Suddenly a bus appears from around the corner.

Poster on lorry blind spots.

Poster on lorry blind spots.

As part of the THINK! campaign, Transport for London are advising cyclist not to go on the left on lorries because of lorry blind spots.  As @NotDanEllis (strong language) pointed out “Good point TFL. So why did you build a … cycle lane there then?!”.  (The low visibility is disputed, at least for modern lorries.)

A lorry turning left on Cowley Road with cyclist on proposed cycle route.

A lorry turning left on Cowley Road with cyclist on proposed cycle route.

The junction on Cowley Road will have a similar layout with people on cycles using the shared-use path likely to be in the blind spot of turning lorries.  As the lorry slows to turn the corner a cyclist could move alongside it and become invisible.

The illustrative proposal is neither safe nor high quality, I look forward to the next iteration.

The black mat indicates the area that is invisible to the driver

The black mat indicates the area that is invisible to the driver

Buses overgrowing the current shared-use path push people very close to traffic, such as the lorry visible on the edge of the picture.

Bushes overgrowing the current shared-use path push people very close to traffic, such as the lorry visible on the edge of the picture.

Update: The planning application for the station was approved at the Joint Development Control Committee on 18 December 2013 subject to various conditions (as recommended by Tim Watkins, Head of Planning Services) including:

The development shall not be occupied until details of the footways/cycle ways have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority and have been implemented including a route to a minimum width of 2.5 metres along Cowley Road.

Although this does mean the County has to agreed details with itself it is very disappointing that the minimum width specified is less than Department for Transport guidance.

Pretty or practical: the cycle route through the West Cambridge site

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 existing cycle route to the West Cambridge site from Adams Road.  It looks like a conventional road.

The existing cycle route to the West Cambridge site from Adams Road. It looks like a conventional road.

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 junction where the route extension leaves the bridleway to Coton.  This is where the design changes.

The junction where the route extension leaves the bridleway to Coton. This is where the design changes.

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 extended cycle route.

The 7m wide extended cycle route.

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

West Cambridge path road crossing

The junction of the extended cycle route and the road to the Sports Centre.

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

A path linking the site to the Coton bridleway with a shared use marker.

A path linking the site to the Coton bridleway with a shared use marker.

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

Conclusions

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?

A10 corridor cycle route

Cambridge has a close relationship with its ‘necklace’ villages.  On the A10 south Harston, Foxton, Meldreth, Shepreth and the town of Royston not only have people traveling to Cambridge for work, shopping and leisure but there is considerable movement in the other direction to employers at Harston Mill and the technology and science parks in Melbourn as well as leisure destinations such as Shepreth Wildlife Park.

The A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign is working to improve cycling facilities on this route and organised an enjoyable campaign ride on 19 May 2013 to highlight some of the issues.

Accommodation bridge across the M11 at Trumpington Meadows

Accommodation bridge across the M11 at Trumpington Meadows

By special permission we were able to use the accommodation bridge that will become the cycle crossing of the M11.  The bridge is vital as it allows cyclists to avoid the roundabout junction of the M11 and A10 south.

The bridge was built to provide access to farmland when the M11 divided the land.  It is someway off the line of the A10 and it needs to appear to be a short and convenient link so people are not tempted to take a shortcut across the roundabout.  A route is needed from the end of the busway path across the bridge to the corner of the A10 at the crossing of river Granta.  This would be about the same length as crossing the roundabout.  We took a route that felt like a diversion.

Map showing the accommodation bridge with our temporary route in blue and desire routes in orange and pink.

The route alongside the A10 as far as Frog End, north of Melbourn, has a tarmac surface and is shared use though pedestrians are rare.  Like so many of these paths there appears to be no maintenance and if you travel along the path you have to dodge overhanging trees and skirt round cracks in the surface.  It’s also narrow, requiring constant attention and I could hardly imagine trying to cycle it at night being blinded by the lights of oncoming cars.

The route was OK for a leisurely cycle at low speed but at typical commuting speeds of 12–16mph[1, 2] this isn’t suitable or attractive, so you have the choice of playing with motor vehicles on a very busy road or not cycling.  I’m not sure this could become a big leisure route simply because riding next to rushing traffic for a long time isn’t what I go out to cycle for, though I might do it for a stretch to get somewhere.

There are relatively few junctions on the route but crossing a side road to a trunk road can be a dangerous and intimidating experience.

A typical scene along the A10 shared-use path: a narrow strip of tarmac with encroaching trees, overgrown edges, a cracked surface and a wide verge

A typical scene along the A10 shared-use path: a narrow strip of tarmac with encroaching trees, overgrown edges, a cracked surface and… a wide verge.

As part of its large Cycle City Ambition Grants (Wave 3) application Cambridgeshire County Council is proposing “to widen the existing path to a 2 metre wide shared use facility, with a 1 metre verge strip to keep users away from the carriageway” on the Harston–Foxton–Shepreth route.  While I welcome this investment it should be more ambitious still.

The aim should be for a 4 metre wide cycle track that, outside the villages, is shared use in the Dutch sense, i.e. as there are very few pedestrians those on foot can share the cycle track.  The key thing is that it is built as cycle track that is direct, smooth, convenient route so cyclists can travel at 20mph+.  In the villages the aim should be for full segregated of pedestrians and cyclists.

Why a width of 4 metres?  Firstly that’s what the Dutch have found works for cycle tracks and I suspect that this A10 route will become very busy if built as a high quality route – the experience of the busway path, amongst others, backs this up.  Secondly a wide path means machinery can get on the path to build a smooth, flat surface and for sweeping, gritting and other maintenance.  We need to consider maintenance when these tracks are built otherwise maintenance will be too expensive and may be neglected.

The picture above shows that in parts of the route there is space for a wide cycle track.  Clearly achieving this through the villages is going to be difficult and in the rural areas there may be resistance to replacing the verges with cycle tracks.

I hope the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign will follow Ely Cycling Campaign’s ‘Go Dutch’ approach and that Cambridgeshire County Council will change their strategy to aim for a world-class route along the A10.