Bike Mail

A short poem about bicycle-based deliveries in the style of W H Auden’s “Night Mail”:

Outspoken! Delivery cargo bike

Photo: Outspoken! Delivery

This is the cargo cycle crossing the ring road,
Supplying the city, quick to unload,
Letters for lawyers, mail for the guildhall,
Magazines for cafés, leaflets for a stall,
Parcels for offices, please sign here,
The traffic’s all jammed but our route’s clear,
We’re almost flying, mile after mile,
I love this job, it makes me smile,
They say we’re redefining urban freight,
Clean and green, we’re never late.

Where next for Cambridge cycle investment?

With the news that Cambridge is one of eight cities to share £114m as a sort-of extension to the Cycle City Ambition grants the question is: What to spend it on?

We don’t know what the city’s share is; an equal divide between the cities would give around £14m over three years, yet Cambridge is the smallest of the cities by population so £10 per head per year would be around £5m, although the city did have around £20/head/year under the Cycle City Ambition grants. The government had to announce something as the current grants end in March 2015 and they would have had to go to the general and local elections with no funding for cycling.

Cycle funding is still stop-start

Cycle funding is still stop-start says Mike Davies, Cambridgeshire’s Cycling Projects Team Leader.

Some have questioned if the money has been spent well, or indeed spent at all, while the New Forest National Parks Authority was refused permission to divert funds to other projects. Meanwhile the rest of the country, bar London boroughs and Transport for London projects, have no dedicated funding for cycle improvement at all. We still have stop-start funding that has lead to staff coming and going, and no design guidance or leadership from central government.

The current Cycle City Ambition money centred on Cambridge extends out to the ‘necklace’ villages too and the money has been spent, or will be spent, on Hills Road, Huntingdon Road, Trumpington Road and the Sawston to Granta Park route. See here for details of these schemes.

In Cambridge the forthcoming ‘City Deal’ will fund cycling improvements, though there may be a clash with some of the proposed bus improvements. The list being discussed includes the Cambridge–Royston route and Hills Road/Station Road, with the Chisholm Trail very likely to be funded at least and a bridge over the Cam at Ditton Meadows to be funded from elsewhere.

Here’s my thoughts on what we should spend the addition Cycle City Ambition fund money on. I’m picking a few less obvious projects to get people thinking, but all with a purpose.

Joining up the pieces

A cycle route, or any route, is only as good as it’s weakest link. We now have some good parts to the cycle network that just end. If we are to get people not currently cycling to do so we need end-to-end routes that are segregated and feel safe, convenient and hassle-free. So let’s join up some of the gaps in our existing network and make them super routes.

Harston–Trumpington corridor

The cycle network between Harston and Cambridge. Green shows good quality routes, purple indicates poor quality or missing links

The cycle network between Harston and Cambridge. Green shows good quality routes, purple indictates poor quality or missing links. Map: OpenStreetMap

With the new link avoiding the M11/A10 junction now open it is clear where the gaps are between Harston and Trumpington and thence on to Addenbrooke’s, the Biomedical Campus, colleges, the railway station and the city centre. What’s more the gaps don’t look too hard to fill.

There appears to be sufficient room on the section of the A10 between the Trumpington Meadows path and Harston to narrow the road so a 3m cycle track and 1m buffer strip could be built. This road is no longer a ‘trunk’ road and whilst 50mph at the north end near the M11 this quickly reduces to 40 and then 30 for the village. Narrowing the road, and perhaps dropping the speed limit to 40mph could help to calm traffic in the village too.

By removing the run-off strips on both sides of the road and the ghost island in the centre the narrow shared use path could become a wide cycle track.

By removing the run-off strips on both sides of the road and the ghost island in the centre the narrow shared use path could become a wide cycle track.

Welcome to Great Kneighton. This multi stage crossing near Addenbrooke's Road is a significant barrier to walking and cycling.

Welcome to Great Kneighton. This multi stage crossing near Addenbrooke’s Road is a significant barrier to walking and cycling for a development that has relatively good provision within its boundaries.

Once on the north side of the M11 the Trumpington Meadows path takes you to the Great Kneighton junction and a difficult route to join the busway path (for the station and Addenbrooke’s) or the Trumpington Road cycle route to the city. The multi-stage crossing from Great Kneighton is an abomination that is a true barrier to cycling and walking to local facilities. There are two bus-only roads that appear to be unused that could become part of a route to the Shelford Road junction.

Unfortunately the route through the centre of Trumpington village is narrow and a real traffic sewer. Assuming we can’t improve the village by reducing the traffic, perhaps a better route would be to bypass Trumpington and join Church Lane and the good part of Trumpington Road.

As part of this project I would like to see design work done for a route through, or bypassing, Harston to join up with the A10 south of the village.

Hills Road

Gaps in the Hills Road cycle route: green indicates a good quality route, purple poor quality.

Gaps in the Hills Road cycle route: green indicates a good quality route, purple poor quality. Map: OpenStreetMap

There have been a number of projects on Hills Road over the years, the best of which should be the forthcoming ‘Danish’ hybrid cycle tracks on both sides of the road. As you can see from the map there are significant gaps in the route especially around the major junctions on the route and the black hole of cycling that is the Addenbrooke’s hospital site.

There is a off-road route from the Babraham Park and Ride site north west however it does need bringing up to Space for Cycling standards.

To join this route up means changing the Station Road, Brooklands Avenue, Cherry Hinton Road, Long Road and Fendon Road junctions. At £1m a junction this is too long a list for now, and as Mike Davies ‘still [has the] scars from recent junction projects’ it’s not going to be easy. Yet if we are to get end-to-end cycle routes the junctions have to be done too.

The Hills Road ‘Danish’ lanes are intended to be a showcase/template for future routes and so we also need a template for junctions, and there are none in the UK. (There may soon be some in London on the new cycle superhighways.)

Showcase schemes

Showcase projects can be useful to demonstrate what can be achieved and as a template for future work. When bidding for money and explaining schemes to funders and members of the public you can say ‘go and have a look at such-en-such road, that’s what we will be doing here.’ For example, there is considerable concern about the new-fangled old-fangled floating bus stops on Hills Road that should be allayed when they have been brought in to use and people can go and see them.

In Cambridge we still lack suburban streets with a Dutch (true Dutch not ‘Dutch’) layout, we still lack a Dutch roundabout and these ‘new’ things are scary and impossible to build, so let’s build them! [Various reasons are given why they are impossible, such as: ‘the DfT won’t allow it’, ‘that’s not legal in the UK’, ‘it’s too dangerous’; yet most of these are not true.]

Green End Road

Street layout in Assen.

Street layout in Assen. Photo: kbrumann

Traffic queues along the length of Green End Road making it difficult for people on bikes to pass.

Traffic queues along the length of Green End Road making it difficult for people on bikes to pass.

Green End Road white lining

You can try ‘white lining’ to get past the queuing traffic, if you keep your wits about you.

The section of Green End Road from the junction with Milton Road to Cam Causeway is about 19m wide, exceeding the 15m needed for a Dutch layout. Typically for Cambridge, about one third of the peak time traffic on the road is people on cycles. It is a busy route from Chesterton and the city centre to the Science Park and Cowley Road as well as being on the route to two schools.

The route is horrible with queuing cars blocking the route for cycles, a wide but poor quality shared-use path on one side and parked vehicles on the footway. The route is also unattractive and would benefit from more greenery.

A true Dutch layout here would provide cycle- and car-free pavements for people walking, segregated cycle tracks, dedicated car parking, improved traffic flow and a more pleasant street through more trees.

Green End Road to Science Park

While a Dutch layout on Green End Road would provide many benefits, continuing the project on to the Science Park could make a longer continuous route fixing some of the awful ‘infra’ the County Council has inflicted on us and provide more things to show off.

To do this the Milton Road junction would be replaced one with segregated cycle routes, the various awful shared use paths between that junction and the Science Park would be rebuilt and the roundabout at the Science Park could be rebuilt with a true Dutch layout (you know, annular ring not just geometry). There is plenty of room to build the roundabout, though I don’t know if this part is public highway or a private road.

Chesterton Road

Between Mitcham’s Corner and High Street Chesterton we could have a true Dutch layout with a high quality crossing of Elizabeth Way. That crossing was described as one of the worst in Cambridge, but really it has quite a bit of competition for that title.

Again this road is wide enough for a Dutch layout and narrowing the road lanes could help to calm traffic.

The Nitty Gritty

Everyday problems: abuse of cycle lanes. A kerbed, protected lane would help here.

Everyday problems: abuse of cycle lanes. A kerbed, protected lane would help here.

Along with all these grand projects there is a myriad of smaller work that could improve conditions for people cycling. There might not be something grand for the leader of the council to open but they will make a difference to everyday cyclists.

Here’s just one: A kerbed segregated cycle lane on Pembroke and Downing Street to deter illegal driving in the cycle lane. The Pembroke Street/Trumpington Street junction also needs fixing so people on bikes can cross this busy junction.

Continued investment

I look forward to more quality cycle infrastructure projects in Cambridge and region that give a benefit:cost ratio of 5:1 or more. If we spend this additional money well we will not only improve the area for people travelling by any mode, we will also be in a strong position to bid for future funds.


Rural cycle tracks: getting the design right

Sunday’s second cycling awareness ride for the A10 corridor showed some of the design decisions that can help to make this route a busy and convenient one for people on cycles.

A pleasant cycle along the A10 cycle track in full Spring.

A pleasant cycle along the A10 track in full spring.

The ride was very pleasant on a lovely Spring day. The countryside was looking beautiful with the cow parsley, hawthorn and horse chestnuts in flower.

Path widths

The path in the picture above is about 1.5m wide, however with the edges starting to break up and the verge herbs growing up the path feels very narrow and you have to cycle in single file. Unlike the verge on the immediate edge of the road this isn’t regularly cut. This is a rural route where there are few people walking on this shared-use path – it’s shared-use in the rural Dutch sense that pedestrians share the cycle track. However when you do meet someone walking they tend to step off the path to let the person cycling past.  While that’s very kind of them, if the path was a bit wider they wouldn’t have to give way. The situation is much different if you cycle up behind someone walking – potentially surprising them – or at night when people walking can be hard to see.

A wide cycle path allows people to cycle side-by-side and chat.

A wide cycle path allows people to cycle side-by-side and chat.

When the path is wider – about more than 3m here at Trumpington Meadows – people cycle side-by-side and chat as they go along. There’s no need to concentrate on the path, instead you can relax as you cycle and talk to the person beside you.

The path narrows and it's back to single file.

The path narrows and it’s back to single file.

A short distance on the path narrows to about 2m and these two riders instinctively moved back to single file and couldn’t chat any more.

With a oncoming coach and a narrow path and no verge these riders pause.

With a oncoming coach and faced with a narrow path and no verge these riders pause.

While most of the A10 path has a verge separating it from the road in some sections this isn’t the case. On leaving Harston I noticed a couple of riders holding back from joining the narrow shared-use path when they saw an oncoming coach. A verge provides reassurance that if you wobble a bit you won’t be hit by a wide vehicle and you don’t get blasted by its wake. The path through Harston village is very poor and will require a careful and considerate design if it is to be convenient for people on foot and bicycles and if it’s not to damage the look of the village in the way that the traffic calming has.

A part of the new path alongside the A10 – opportunity to chat again.

A part of the new path alongside the A10 – an opportunity to chat again.

A section of the path alongside the A10 was upgraded by Cambridgeshire County Council in the last year. The new path is of variable width and in places is about 2.5m wide and this allows people to cycle side-by-side, as the picture shows.

It’s clear that the path should be built to >2.5m throughout to allow people to pass one another (on a cycle or on foot) and so you can cycle side-by-side. There also needs to be a verge to separate the path from the road.

Junctions and crossings

Waiting to cross the steady stream of motor traffic on the A10/M11 roundabout.

Waiting to cross the steady stream of motor traffic on the A10/M11 roundabout.

Junctions and side road crossings are always a key issue on cycle tracks, especially on busy roads with high speeds. The speed limit on the A10 is 50mph in parts, 60mph in others and 30mph through Harston village.

Fortunately the new route will avoid the A10/M11 roundabout yet the current crossing shows some of the problems. The roundabout is designed to smooth motor traffic flow with relatively high exit speeds from the roundabout. Although it must be relatively quiet on Sunday morning at 10am there was a steady stream of traffic and you have to wait a long time to cross or try and guess which way vehicles are going. Junctions like this need at least traffic signals for people on cycles and foot, or for very busy routes, an underpass.

Crossing the A10 at Frog End can mean a long wait.

Crossing the A10 at Frog End can mean a long wait.

Further along the route we had to cross from the path on the east side of the road to go in to Melbourn. Despite this being a Sunday morning and so not very busy, we had to wait and watch carefully and judge vehicle speeds in this 60mph section. It was easier for us, we had marshals to help. The cycle route needs a safe crossing here. The British solution would be a signalled crossing, the Dutch would probably consider this too dangerous and opt for an underpass or bridge. There is plenty of space here though such a relatively costly underpass or bridge should probably wait until the route is busier.

Looking Forward

As part of the Cycle City Ambition Fund funding for Cambridge and villages a section of the path north of Frog End has been upgraded since last year. Plans are now being made for the section between Royston and Melbourn including a bridge across the A505. I think this will be a key link between Meldreth, Melbourn and Royston that will encourage new people to cycle as the current route on the A10 is very hazardous.

See also: The 2013 awareness ride.

‘Don’t know’ – Highways Agency on A14

The most common answer I got to my questions at yesterday’s A14 consultation was ‘don’t know’, and really it came across largely as don’t care.  Here’s an outline of the discussion I had.

The A14 consultation brochuse uses a picture of a bicycle and an old building as one of the chapter heads. This has nothing to do with the contents and is misleading or greenwash.

The A14 consultation brochure uses a picture of a bicycle and an old building as one of the chapter heads. This has nothing to do with the contents and is misleading greenwash.


I asked what effect the new road would have on air quality in Cambridge city.

The Highways Agency said they didn’t know. The said they will set up monitoring stations along the route and if necessary mitigation measures will be used. I asked what mitigation measures would be used if air quality was poor, I got no answer.  I asked this three times and they mumbled and fumbled. Eventually one mumbled something about ‘reducing traffic’, which seems odd as their estimates show up to a 20% increase in traffic. They think that a reduction in stop-start driving and an increase in speed from 20mph to 70mph will reduce pollution. They had no information or modelling available to prove this.

I find it astonishing that the detailed engineering has been done and yet the effects of pollution on 150,000 people in Cambridge and area has not been considered. This is despite an estimated 250 people per year (1 in 20) in Cambridgeshire dying early due to air pollution according to the government’s own estimates. This is despite the EU preparing to fine the UK government for failing to meet air quality targets. Just a few weeks ago pollution at Orchard Park School monitoring station (adjacent to the A14 in north Cambridge) reach 10 out of 10, or Very High. Air pollution is a serious and increasing issue in the region but the Highways Agency don’t seem to care.

Traffic in Cambridge

The Highways Agency claim they are working closely with Cambridge City Council.

The Highways Agency claim they are working closely with Cambridge City Council.

I asked where all this extra traffic would go when it reached Cambridge.

The Highways Agency didn’t know. They said they had been working very closely with the City Council (and others) on this.

Tim Ward, Executive Councillor for Planning and Climate Change, was surprised by this and hasn’t had any traffic data despite asking for years. Cllr Ward suggested that there could be 35% more traffic down Huntingdon Road (Cambridge). If true, this astonishing increase would likely bring that road to a halt at peak times.

The City Council, to their credit, are setting aside £1.2 million to mitigate the congestion caused by the A14 works. However with changes to just one junction likely to cost £1m it’s open to question how much this can achieve.

Traffic on the A14

Department of Transport traffic forecasts vs actual. Source: Better Transport

Department of Transport traffic forecasts versus actual. Source: Campaign for Better Transport

The Highways Agency were keen to say that they are ‘adding one more lane in each direction’. This isn’t accurate, they are adding an additional six lanes around Huntingdon. At some points they were claiming the work was to improve safety because of the poor junction designs of the existing roads, at other times it was about long distance travel. They did say that the road will have average speed cameras from end to end. They also said that the new road will be ‘busy’ in the Bar Hill section due to additional building, so it’s not even clear that congestion due to commuters will even be lower after widening. We could spend £1,500 million and end up with the same jams!

At times they said there would not be a 20% increase in traffic and I had to point to their display information to correct them.

I pointed out that the DfT’s traffic forecasting had been incorrect for 20 years, they said the ‘models were better now’.

Knock-on Costs

The existing four-lane road from Fenstaton to Huntingdon will be bypassed by a six lane motorway and the existing road ‘de-trunked’ and passed to Cambridgeshire County Council to maintain. Although there will be some funds passed to the County in compensation, the County will bear the cost of this road. The County is currently almost broke and unable to maintain its roads and fund its schools yet its burden will be increased.

The Highways Agency thought that the growth that the road would bring would offset the costs. It will also bring additional costs and I don’t believe they have any figures to prove their point. Cambridge City Council has not contributed to the cost of the A14 because it will not unlock development within the city. The Highways Agency said the City supported the project, I would say muted support at best.

Cycle Proofing

Prime Minister says 'cycle proof', Highways Agency says 'Did he?'

Prime Minister says ‘cycle proof’, Highways Agency says ‘Did he?’, Cambridge MP says ‘Groan’.

Proposed cycle crossing of A14 at Bar Hill.

Proposed cycle crossing of A14 at Bar Hill.

The Prime Minister said that all future trunk road schemes would be ‘cycle proofed’, though it was unclear what this meant in practice. So I asked what this would mean for this scheme.

The Highways Agency’s first response was ‘Did he?’ Clearly the message isn’t getting through.

The Agency’s approach to cycling can be seen in two parts of this scheme. Firstly the crossing of the A14 at Bar Hill. The snaking, sharply sloped path in the plan (right) is the cycle route. This route is far from the desire lines to Longstanton/Northstowe and to Cambridge.  What would the Dutch do? Probably build an underpass.

If you want to cycle from Bar Hill to Cambridge the proposed route is circuitous but it could be improved by an ≈0.5km section of cycle route connecting the south east edge of the Bar Hill perimeter road to the new local road that is roughly on the line of Oakington Road. Others have suggested this.

The Highways Agency’s response was that they wouldn’t build it because they ‘couldn’t accommodate everyone’. So that’s the usual two fingers to cycling!


The Highways Agency seemed unprepared or unwilling to answer my questions in any depth with any supporting information. Of course they won’t have to live with the consequences.

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.

Hills Road cycle tracks

Montage of segregated cycle tracks

Montage of segregated cycle tracks

I warmly welcome and support the proposals to rebuild a section of Hills Road with segregated cycle tracks. I urge you to see the Big Picture and ambition of this scheme and unequivocally support the proposals.  Please also get involved in the discussion on the details but don’t let that overshadow the overwhelming benefits that the scheme will bring.

The Big Picture

About 1km (0.7 miles) of Hills Road will be rebuilt on both sides to provide three networks that are segregated from one another.  People walking will have a pavement to themselves, people cycling will have an uninterrupted track segregated from motor vehicles, and those in motor vehicles will have fewer worries about cycles.  The three network approach is part of how the Dutch have succeeded in transforming their towns and streets in to liveable places.

Making getting about on a bicycle easy for everyone. Credit: kbrumann

Making getting about on a bicycle easy for everyone. Credit: kbrumann via CycleStreets

Although a huge number of people in Cambridge cycle at the moment this is despite the infrastructure and not because of it.  Many people don’t want to cycle on the road and mix with cars and buses – they perceive it as dangerous.  Some of them cycle on the pavement, where they are separated from cars by a barrier – a kerb – and not just a white line.  If we are to encourage these people to cycle there has to be a network designed for cyclists, and that means one not shared with people walking and driving.

By getting more people cycling their health will improve, congestion will be reduced and air quality will improve.  It means we won’t need to build expensive and ugly new roads as Cambridge grows.

Yes, this part of Hills Road is just a small part of the transport network, however these changes are hugely important.  They will become a model for future improvements in Cambridge (and elsewhere) and once built and successful there will be added pressure to continue the rebuilding south to Addenbrooke’s and north to the city centre (as well as other routes).

Some details

Kerbs needed

The ‘fully segregated’ option should be built where the cycle track is separated from the road by a standard height kerb, about 100mm. When people cycle on the pavement it’s quite clear that they feel safe with a kerb between them and motor vehicles. The ‘raised’ option with a kerb of only 25mm isn’t going to give that perception of safety.

Street profile

My proposal for the cross section

My proposal for the cross section

The cycle track should be dropped slightly, 25–40mm, from pavement level using sloped kerbs. A small difference in height provides very effective segregation between people walking and cycling, we see this on Carter Bridge where people mostly keep to ‘their’ side. However a sloped kerb with a small drop does not present a major barrier to anyone trying to cross, including those with limited mobility or with a pushchair or luggage.

A small drop will limit the amount of leaves and debris that could build up in a deep cycle track. It also makes the cycle track feel wider.  There is some concern that a width of 2.1m may not be enough,  however if the kerbs are low you can cycle right up to the edge of the track, something you can’t do with high kerbs.  Low kerbs mean cycles can make use of the entire width whereas high kerbs reduce the usable width.

Side road crossings

The proposal describes the cycle track as having priority over side roads, though it only has priority in the same way as on-road cycle lanes have.  This should be improved in two ways.

Firstly the cycle track and pavement should continue at the same height across side junctions, and not drop down to road height.  This is similar to what exists at the junction of Luard Road and Hills Road.

The shared use pavement continues at the same height across Luard Road.

The shared use pavement continues at the same height across Luard Road.

The view from Luard Road view of the junction with Hills Road.

The view from Luard Road of the junction with Hills Road.

In the new scheme the cycle track would be closer to the main road, set back by only the 600mm kerb width, and there would not be give way markings on the cycle track. The change in height means motor traffic has to slow.  The ramps would be sharper in the new scheme as the width of the ramp would be only 600mm.

Most of the side roads on this section of Hills Road are minor and do not have much traffic, the exception perhaps being Luard Road that has rat-running traffic. If you think that motor vehicles won’t give way to the cycle track, have a look at this video from Luard Road, though I’m not claiming that all vehicles slow.

An existing ramp to provide access over the shared use path to a private driveway.

A ramp to provide access over the shared use path to a private driveway.

The ramps across side roads would be similar to the existing ramps to driveways, though not quite as wide.

Kerbs at side roads

A problem where on-road cycle lanes cross side roads is that I have to look over my shoulder to check that a car isn’t about to overtake me and cut across – a ‘left hook’.

Having the cycle track raised across the junction will help to slow turning traffic however a second improvement would be to end the kerb should as close as possible to the junction. In the proposals the end point seems set back from the junction, which will encourage faster turns.

Maintaining the streetscape

Bridge Street, Cambridge - an ugly clutter of signs and bollards

Bridge Street, Cambridge – an ugly clutter of signs and bollards. Credit: Simon via CycleStreets

Hills Road is a relatively attractive approach route to the city due to the verges, the trees lining it and the relative sparsity of street furniture such as signs and railings. The cycle tracks should attempt to improve the streetscape or at least not degrade it. Adding cycle tracks must not mean a forest of bollards and signs and paint everywhere on the road, if the road looks ugly there will be understandably opposition to building cycle tracks elsewhere.

With some changes to the proposals I can see this being a very popular cycle route. Please look at the proposals and comment via the County’s consultation page.

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.


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.


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.