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.

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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.

Crossing Milton Road: 3 minutes of your life you won’t get back

If you were building a railway station and most of the passengers were coming and going by foot or cycle wouldn’t you make it most convenient for these people?  Not so the proposed Cambridge Science Park station.

Estimated trips for the station by mode.

Estimated trips for the station by mode.

60% of trips to and from the station are estimated to be by foot or cycle, with just 1200 trips by private car. The Transport Assessment spends 31 pages on a Traffic Impact and a Junction Capacity Assessment, and “traffic” here means motor vehicles.  The assessment looks at queue lengths and delays in 2016 and 2026 at seven junctions/routes.  Pretty comprehensive for <20% of the trips.

But then the Transport Assessment picks up pace and dismisses all other trip modes (80% of trips) in just seven pages with lots of pictures.  Elsewhere the Assessment notes the complex crossing at Milton Road/Cowley Road and the delays caused to pedestrians and cyclists by the signal sequence but dismisses this as “far from significant”.  This is complete rubbish.

Pedestrian route when crossing from Cowley Road to the Science Park.

Pedestrian route when crossing from Cowley Road to the Science Park.

If you are walking from the Science Park station to the, err, Science Park you will walk down Cowley Road and cross Milton Road at the huge junction at the entrance to the Science Park and Cambridge Business Park.  This is a three-stage crossing that apart from being very uninviting causes significant delays.

Red lights and fencing: the hostile environment for pedestrians.

Red lights and fencing: the hostile environment for pedestrians.

The cycle time of the signals is two minutes.  On stage one of the crossing pedestrians have just seven seconds of green.  On stage two there is nine seconds to cross and on stage three 55 seconds.  However due to the phasing you have to stop part way across and so the minimum time to cross is 75 seconds.

If you miss your seven second window to start crossing it could take you 188 seconds, or more than three minutes to cross the road.  None of the motor traffic on major routes has to wait this long to move through the junction.

It should take you only about 10 minutes to walk from the near parts of the Science Park to the station so crossing the road could add 25% to your journey time!  This is very significant and not “far from significant”.

Pedestrians and a cyclist cross Milton Road between queuing traffic because they refuse to wait for the long cycle time of the traffic signals.

Pedestrians and a cyclist cross Milton Road on red between queuing traffic because they refuse to wait for the long cycle time of the traffic signals.

This also matters because if you are rushing to catch a train you will not wait at a crossing, instead you will cross on red against the traffic and potentially put your safety at risk.

The station will be increasing the number of pedestrians in the area but largely ignores their needs; this is also true on several of the other routes to the station.  The Transport Assessment snubs “sustainable” transport modes and instead concentrates on the minority using private cars.

Will Cambridgeshire County Council amend its plans to put pedestrians and cyclists first (in line with its own policies) and make it convenient for the majority traveling to the new station?

Cycle parking in Kite

Is cycle parking a ‘problem’ in the Kite area of Cambridge and should car parking spaces be replaced by cycle parking?  This is what Cambridge Cycling Campaign asked the County Council election candidates and from their responses there is limited support for this.  Ed Cearns, the Liberal Democrat candidate, thinks there is not a problem with cycle parking because “a number of properties have railings and many other residents have secured loops on the front wall of their property” (he also supports more cycle parking across the city).  Simon Sedgwick-Jell, the Green Party candidate, points out that the “parking of bikes in [the] street [is] a crime problem”.

Informally parked cycles on Victoria Street. Cycles can obstruct the pavement.

Informally parked cycles on Victoria Street. Cycles can obstruct the pavement.

On this wide pavement on Parkside cycles are out of the way.

On this wide pavement on Parkside cycles are out of the way.

There are some 200 cycles parked on the pavement in Kite, I wonder how many of these Mr Cearns tripped over while canvassing the area?  For able-bodied people with normal eyesight a little more care is needed but unfortunately cycles parked against railings and walls in terraced streets are a hazard to those with impaired eyesight (amongst others) in the same way that wheelie bins and cars on the pavement are.  Obstructions and trip hazards caused by cycles are a problem for anyone trying to walk in the streets of Kite.

While many of the cycles are secured to special hooks and railings as Mr Cearns points out, not all are.  Those not secured are at risk of theft with some 163 cycles reported stolen in Market ward in the three months to March 2013.[source]  Due to a concerted effort by Cambridgeshire Police neighbourhood teams cycle theft is falling.  Obviously with many thousands of cycles parked in the city centre theft is not only from residents in Kite.  There are also probably more thefts that have not been reported.

Cycles are not welcome on these railings on John Street.

Cycles are not welcome on these railings on John Street.

The City Council has approved a project to create up to 710 additional on-street cycle parking spaces, in addition to continuing to look for a location for a third cycle park.  However none of these on-street spaces are in Kite.  Market LibDems’ residents’ parking update newsletter says that some new residents’ car parking bays will be added, but there is no mention of cycle parking.

I believe we need some cycle parking for residents in Kite (and other areas of the city).  This parking needs to be convenient and secure.  By providing cycle parking we remove obstructions from the pavement, help reduce the opportunity for crime and make it easier for those who choose to travel by bike.

Cycle parking counts by street

On Saturday 27 April 2013 at around midday I took the following count:

Warkworth Street 36
Victoria Street 27
Parkside (east side, excluding police station) 23
Earl Street 19
Eden Street 19
New Square 18
Grafton Street 17
Warkworth Terrace 14
Orchard Street 9
Clarendon Street 7
Parker Street 6
Prospect Row 5
James Street 4
City Road 4
Adam and Eve Street 4
John Street 3
Elm Street 2
Eden Street Backway 1
Napier Street 1
Total 219
Just a few of the 36 cycles parked in Warkworth Street.

Just a few of the 36 cycles parked in Warkworth Street.

I did not count on East Road, Burleigh Street, Fitzroy Street or the Parker’s Piece side of Parkside because these are more likely to be cycles visiting the area.

The count includes cycles in front gardens as well as actually on the street because I want to estimate the demand.  Note that some properties in the area have internal cycle parking and some have garages that may have cycles in them.  So the total number of cycles parked in the area is unknown but is at least 219.

The vast majority of the cycles counted will be those of immediate residents however we cannot be sure of this.

Update: I did not count formal cycle parking (hooped stands) or car parking.  There is some cycle parking in the area, particularly at the edges, and yet hundreds of cycles are parked on the street.  It has also been pointed out that some bikes may have been abandoned.

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!