Friday 7 September 2012

The Chisolm Trail. A great idea that misses the point?

Much has been said locally about 'The Chisolm Trail'.

The idea is that we could connect the for the most part good Guided Bus cycle route (when its not flooded...) with the South of Cambridge is a good one. No one could disapprove the concept of linking the new Chesterton railway station to the City (although I'd argue this trail fails to do so), nor would anyone say that safe, direct cycling to the Science Park from Cambridge Station isn't beneficial. Good on you Cambridge Cycle Campaign for this idea. But lets take a step back and ask what this is really for.

In the cold light of day we've got to to work every day. That might mean Arbury Road, where most vehicles are travelling well above 30mph, looking to squeeze cyclists into parked vehicles. It might mean Milton Road, where if I want to go straight on at the roundabout I’ve got to negotiate my way out of the cycle lane into fast moving traffic that wants to turn left, right through me. It could be Histon Road, where the shockinly narrow cycle lane provides no protection whatsoever from articulated lorries as they thunder by. Or the claustrophobically narrow Mill Road, on which Cambridgeshire Constabulary have publically given up policing the speed limit. These big project cycle routes are great, but please can we get back to an emphasis on making ALL routes safe for cyclists in this city? Cambridge has many access points from many directions and we're getting het up over something that largely skirts around the outside of the city?

The route of the Chisolm Trail can be thought of as a bypass for cyclists. It isn't taking us into the City Centre, its not directing us to most of the University departments of collegest (and the University is our largest employer). Its taking cyclists around the city from the station to the Science Park. And for those living out in, say, Petersfield or Romsey it'll be a lovely way to go to such locations without at any stage giving them access to the shops or employment of the city centre.

We’re meant to be a great cycling city, and by British standards we are. But globally? Until ‘Cambridge’ can be named in the same breath as ‘Assen’ or ‘Copenhagen’ then we’ve got nothing to boast about. What I’m missing from schemes such as this is how we intend to make safe, efficient, enjoyable cycling the norm on ALL of our roads. Good luck with the Chisolm trail, but please, a little reality check, a little reminder that we need safety for the rest of our roads. Lets have less emphasis on 'big ticket' cycling projects, why aren't we claiming ALL of the roads for safer cycling?

The Chisolm Tail is a creative way of explouting a potential route that is potentially there. The fact is, unless you're on that route, its not very helpful.


  1. Well, yes, I do want all routes to be safe, and toward that goal we have to start somewhere. Piecemeal upgrades aren't going to get new people cycling: whole car-free routes might. If we can get more of the non-cyclists on bikes, or increase the usage of nervous cyclists then we have much more support to continue to work towards a complete network.

    Where as if we give better on-road junction design to the existing cyclists then yes, it will be safer, but it doesn't provide any momentum for further improvements.

    And I disagree that it isn't an important route. There is substantial university presence and employment on the Addenbrookes site as well as the hospital and the Chisholm trail will make it much more attractive to cycle there.

    There is also, of course, substantial university employment on the West site, which is already partially served by the excellent Coton path. The fact that the university is the biggest employer doesn't mean everyone is trying to access the town centre.

    My biggest problem with Mill road is not cycling along it (which I avoid as much as possible through route planning) but cycling across it, which is harder to avoid without a very large detour onto roads which are just as bad. The Chisolm trail achieves this, which for me will be the single most valuable section of the trail.

    Any single improvement isn't helpful if it's not a journey you make. Short of upgrading everything at once, which will never happen, something has to go first. I think Chisholm is an excellent candidate, with potential to grow cycling rather than just make it better for the people who already do it.

  2. Please understand, I'm not opposing the Chisolm trail, merely hilighting the fact that while it connects SOME sites it doesn't fit comfortably with a view that cycling is a way of getting anywhere and everywhere. Road networks evolve in a way that links outlying routes to the centre, THEN we work towards producing bypasses and ringroads. Chisolm Trail does connect some important sites, and it (like the Guided Bus cycle route) is useful, but potential to grow cycling? Really? We're ignoring the City Centre entirely here; we're connecting a great Easterh bypass for cycling. We won't grow cycling in Cambridge by providing said bypass, we'll grow cycling by making the main routes people want to ride on safer.

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  4. "...the claustrophobically narrow Mill Road, on which Cambridgeshire Constabulary have publically given up policing the speed limit"

    That's because they're too busy cashing cyclists on pavements.