I happened to be in Cambridge this week and I also happened to see some relatively new streets. You would think that in the UK city with the highest rate of cycling that I’d have seen some world class cycling infrastructure? Sadly not.
OK, what I did see in the Eddington development, in the northwest of the city was far better than literally most of the UK, there were some fundamental flaws with what had been built. I think most of the issues lie with the design rather than a lack of skills from the road workers who built it.
I don’t know a lot about the development itself, but from what I have read, it aims to be a highly sustainable development and it certainly looks impressive, but as this is a highways and transport blog, it’s the road details which interest me.
The development sits between Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road with a new spine road connecting the two – Eddington Avenue. Towards the centre of the site, Eddington Avenue has a a bus gate which operates between 7am and 7pm. The bus gate is meant to be controlled by rising bollards, but it is currently staffed because of mechanical problems (the street network being currently under private developer control).
The bus gate is bypassed with Turing Way which immediately creates a potential issue of attracting through traffic. This may or may not prove to be an issue in the future as I don’t know how attractive the route will be and in principle, a distributor road isn’t necessarily an issue. In fact, the road layout largely provides protected and buffered space for walking and cycling.
As can be seen in the photograph above (at the north end of Eddington Avenue) there is a footway, a (one-way) cycle track and a verge buffer on each side of the street. Bus stops are floating and every so often there are communal underground refuse collection areas with laybys for refuse vehicles. Actually, it has a very Dutch feel to it. The cycle tracks are machine laid in red asphalt and the footways are finished in attract concrete block paving.
However, the disappointment for me is three-fold. First the central part of Eddington Avenue loses the cycle tracks and one is expected to mix with general traffic – the designers were trying to create a town square, but in transport terms it doesn’t work for me. Despite the bus gate, there is quite a bit of on-street parking near a new primary school and some of the parking is echelon laid out to encourage drivers to reverse out which is a safety risk for cycling.
There are connections through the The Ridge Way cycle route which are not defined through the town square which means people cycling have to pick their way through people walking and street furniture so it’s less successful for walking too. I don’t know who decided on the town square idea, but for it to have worked well, the connections to The Ridgeway should have been acknowledged, embraced and made legible for people walking and cycling. The area should have been car-free, and if not, the cycle tracks should have been carried through. Despite being an access to the primary school, parents really won’t want to mix with traffic and buses.
Second, the provision for walking and cycling at each end of the development where it connects to the existing road network is poor. The signalised junction with Huntingdon Road doesn’t even have a pedestrian crossing over Huntingdon Road and people cycling are mixing with traffic within the junction, although the paint gives way to protected cycle tracks along Eddington Avenue. There is a toucan crossing over the entrance to Eddington Avenue, but it is two-stage and staggered, the latter being less helpful to the users of non-standard and adapted cycles;
The photograph above shows how people cycling north towards Huntingdon Road are treated – they are essentially dropped into a central advisory cycle lane which ends at an advanced stop line. Also known as a “murderstrip” by the Belgians. It is not a layout which is safe for all and so people jump onto the footways and in fact, there are blue shared-use signs after one is dumped in the road, expect there’s no way onto the footway from the road. At the Madingley Road end, it’s a little better with toucans crossings all round, but again, we have two-stage staggered arrangements.
The layout of the two connections will have been heavily influenced by Cambridgeshire County Council which has prioritised motor traffic capacity over active travel. Huntingdon Road and Madingley Road are both A-roads providing connections into Cambridge City Centre. Despite the Madingley Road end of Eddington Avenue serving a large park which should take out traffic going into the city, the decision has been taken to maintain traffic capacity.
I can’t lay this totally at the County, they are responding to how the UK transport planning is arranged. If a development creates traffic congestion, then there are grounds to refuse planning consent. Therefore, everyone involved works hard to ensure a scheme is (as far as possible) motor traffic neutral and walking and cycling usually suffers. This can be traced back through planning and transport legislation which makes it hard for a planning authority and its councillors form acting differently.
What we should be doing is setting objectives which prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and giving what’s left to the private car. In this location, this would have meant single-stage crossings with walking and cycling have their own separate and protected space.
My third disappointment is the detailing on Eddington Avenue and Turing Way. This is a new build and it should have been world class, but it doesn’t even conform to designs which we managed to build several years ago.
So Near, So Far – The Ranty Highwayman
Saturday, January 11, 2020 I happened to be in Cambridge this week and I also happened to see some relatively new streets. You would think that in the UK city with the highest rate of cycling that I’d have seen some world class cycling infrastructure? Sadly not. OK, what I did see in the Eddington… [Read More]