Friday 6 September 2013

Hate to say I told you so... Catholic Church Junction

Well, but for some filling in holes in the pedestrian ghettos, errm, I mean redoubts (refuges?), its done.

I'm referring to the Catholic Church Junction, in Cambridge. One of the key crossing points that, really, cyclists can't avoid. I've touched on the scandalously bad plans presented to, then approved by councillors before.

Lets be clear - from a cyclists perspective the plans had little to commend them. It looked like a large proportion of the budget for cycling improvements was about to be nicked on the flimsy pretence that some red paint would make our lot in life better. Cambridge Cycling Campaign opposed this plan, I opposed this plan, in fact pretty much everyone involved in cycling in this city opposed the plan. It was a bad plan.

But on the plus side its a bad plan well implemented. They've made it more or less precisely as shit as they said they would.

 (thanks to RadWagon for his video)

On all four approaches we've got ASL's (Advance Stop Lines). We've got a cycle lane feeding to one of them - to reach any of the others you'll have to squeeze in between two lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, through a gap thats probably no wider than you are. And if the lights change and the traffic starts moving as you approach, you're fucked. You'll be stranded between two accelerating rows of vehicles with no safe escape route because the ASL's exist purely to demonstrate to non-cyclists that Cambridge is cycling city; designers and councillors couldn't give a wet slap for our safety or convenience.

You'll see in Rads video up there you can't even get to the one ASL with a feeder lane safely. If you can, there's a 5 second head start - and thats the only positive we can take from this. Thats all cyclists get for £450k - hald of the £900k spend came specifically from a cycling budget. But every time I've been down there that has been impossible to do safely - just like in the video above. If you're heading down towards the Station end of town you'll see this...

Oh look, there's an advance stop box under the bus there...
So, yes, there's an ASL. That would be really useful if I could get to it, and if upon getting there I could be sure of using it to get off ahead of the traffic. But an ASL I can only get to when its quiet? An ASL I can only use when the traffic isn't really all that bad anyway? Thats an insult. Its both impractical and unhelpful.

And of course these ASL's, like all of the others you'll normally see, will not be enforced by the police so they will not be obeyed by motorists. There is no evidence of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, at any time, enforcing cycle lanes. You can drive through them or park in them as frequently as you like - you won't get stopped for doing so. And the motorists know this - so already these new ASL's are being widely flouted by motorists.

Oh,  wait, the white line and the bike mean its there space? Surely not.
I'd go so far as to say that on every occasion I've looked there has been a car stopped in the ASL on Lensfield Road, there has been a bus in the cycle lane in Hills Road, and it has been physically impossible to reach the ASL without taking an extreme risk in the traffic if you're heading towards the Station from town. Be under no illusions, this is a scheme designed to look good if you're trying to convince a moron that you don't despise cyclists. But it doesn't help us. 

So who was this FOR? Well it isn't for us. Its not really for pedestrians either - if that were the case the traffic islands would be bigger and you wouldn't have a silly chicane to negotiate. You'd also straighten out the wide, sweeping corners to give proper straight routes for those crossing. It isn't for the bus passengers - bus lanes are no more continuous or navigable than they were, and the bus drivers will still be stuck behind cyclists (who will in turn be stuck behind the bus thats blocking access to the ASL). This is a design BY motorists FOR motorists. Because ultimately thats all Cambridgeshire County Council care about - theyre running scared of the car lobby like most local politicians across the country are. Moaning minnie motons are their only priority.

So we've been swindled out of a big cash spend that ought to have been for cyclists. Is there nothing positive we can take from this? Well, actually, yes there is.

I confidently predicted that after this was built, Cambridge Cycling Campaign would cling to whatever slim positives they could and continue their traditional smug back-slapping with the County Council. It seems that we've seen number of changes at the Campaign, and they're sticking to their guns rather than selling out as they previously have. This looks like a sign of maturity from the group - and I wholeheartedly welcome that. Finally standing up for who we really need to help - those who want to cycle but who don't dare because of junctions just like this.

So what now guys? They've nicked cycling money and spent it on complete crap. Critical Mass demo in protest, starting at Parkers Piece, ambling around the city centre at rush hour time, finishing off at Shire Hall? Carpe diem (I gather it means 'catch the Frisbee'). Name the date, Cambridge Cycling Campaign. See you there?


  1. The lines on Hills road for the motor traffic haven't been painted yet, so motorists are queuing too far over to the left, blocking the cycle lane. The lanes were due to be painted tonight (Friday), although I don't know if rain changes that.

    I personally predict that when the lines are in this will make a difference to the frequency of encroachment, but won't solve the problem. I don't think I've ever known a painted cycle lane, mandatory or not, that wasn't treated as a stop-off or extra left-hand turn lane at least some of the time.

  2. If there is to be a protest, it should involve hundreds of cyclists completely blocking this diseased car-sick junction for an hour or two at peak time. Enough is enough. Being nice gets us nowhere.

  3. I don't really understand the point of Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) anyway? Surely all it does it encourages cyclists to pass motorists on the left, then motorists to overtake them as soon as the traffic moves again.

    The alignment Northbound from Hills Road makes no sense anymore - there's not enough room for cars to pass the dangerously placed bus stop on the Southbound ... so they'd be better to relocate the bus stop, and reallocate the space to a Northbound cycle lane?

    Also, not that I'm a fan in general, as they seem like deathtraps, but wouldn't a central cycle lane have made sense, so that bikes could get into the middle while the traffic is stationary and then not be in conflict during the green phase?


    P.S. Is that Hester from Aveva?