Tuesday 11 February 2014

Milton Road/Gilbert Road junction redesign

There are new proposals from Cambridgeshire County Council to upgrade the junction where Gilbert Road meets Milton Road - you may recall this junction from earlier near-death experiences such as this one, and this one.

Its pretty obvious that we need to fix this junction - if you click on the first near death experience up there you can stroll around it on Google Maps. Its pretty damned awful whichever way you come at it - the cycle path disappears either side of the junction on Milton Road, with two lanes of traffic heading in to the city stuffed between the island and the railing I always expect some poor sod to be cheese grated by a car against the metalwork. Coming the other way, if you want to go straight on you have to cross a left turning lane of traffic, which as you'll see from the second 'oh crap I'm going to die' moment above is a real barrel of laughs. 

Whats proposed then? Well we're losing the railings, which is a start. And we could see traffic reduced to 1 lane in each direction right at the junction - although I'm dubious about how that would work heading in to town where we already see cars illegally queuing back in to the bus lane, I don't get why they won't continue to do so. And we're getting ASL's with feeder lanes in both directions too, which will be handy in case we forget to hurl ourselves into the blind zones of HGV's without this handy prompt to do so. 

Gilbert Road/Milton Road junction plan - not entirely sucky.
Shamelessly lifted from Cambridgeshire County Council Website.
Coming towards town (right to left on the above picture) is going to remain awful. Right turning cars will, as ever, stop in the junction area to turn, and drivers going straight on will swerve around them into the path of cyclists. Or, in other words, just when we need it the most we lose all protection. It would be better to use the space freed up by removing the railings, with a small amount of the road space, to give us continuous armadillo protected provision across the junction. 

Coming out from Gilbert Road turning, it seems crazy that there's no direct route from the end of the on road cycle lane on to the shared use on-pavement facility. At present most kids hop off the road early, ride around the corner and on the shared use - if all the codgers seeing them had monocles you can be sure they'd all drop off in protest. So giving a drop kerb, losing a few feet of grass verge and a route on to the pavement here would make a heck of a lot of sense.

But just once in a while I like to pretend I'm a 'big picture' kind of guy. And thats whats missing from this plan - whats the big picture for Milton Road? It can't continue as it is, the shared use facilities are shocking, disregarded by most commuter cyclists - its a hostile, unpleasant route and we need a long term plan to turn the 75% approval for more road space for cyclists in Cambridge into a reality on key routes like this one. This doesn't take us towards fully segregated cycling on Milton Road. It arguably gives us a marginal gain, but I don't see it preventing the current issue of cyclists coming in to town bypassing the junction on the pavement. 

So lets take a step back and ask what we really want for all of Milton Road - surely what we're after is a fully segregated cycle route along the length of the road, with the same priority over side roads as the road does. I would argue that this new scheme is tinkering around the edges - lets not try to make bad provision more palatable by blurring the edges like this. Lets ask what the big plan for Milton Road is - and if there isn't one, lets make one. And lets make THIS fit in to THAT. 


  1. You're quite right that it isn't terrible, but is just tinkering. You're also quite right on the redevelopment.

    Question: the Elizabeth Way junction. Rebuild as a proper, CROW compliant separated cycleway with priority roundabout, or change entirely to traffic lights?

    As for the Mitchams Corner end, the only "solution" I can see ever truly working involves bulldozing the houses and connecting Milton Road to Victoria Avenue at a straight cross roads.

    1. Which Elizabeth Way junction? Newmarket Road or Chesterton Road? Actually, the answer is pretty much the same for both - while they have heavy car traffic there is also no viable alternative for cycling (the underpass at Newmarket Road simply sin't ever going to be that), so we need to upgrade both of them. And as they're both massive, with enormous footprints, I can't immediately see any reason why we oughtn't have fully segregated routes around the outside, with full priority over the side roads. Actual Dutch style rather than the faux-Dutch style we're seeing at Perne Road. Of course there'll be whinges 'but its ring road' and 'but the cars', but frankly we've got to plan beyond that - car traffic isn't passing through those routes in anything like an acceptable rate, the only answer is to get more of the local trips by other modes. Cycling has to be prime candidate here in Cambridge.

      As for Mitchams Corner, I need to think about that. No easy answers there!

    2. Elizabeth Way / Chesterton High St is hilarious in the mornings. Majority of traffic is going across the roundabout from Milton Rd to Elizabeth Way, and has priority over the High St. Pretty much the only way anyone exits Chesterton High St is when the toucan crossing goes green on Elizabeth Way, backing up traffic on the roundabout, and sometimes people don't queue across the exit so you can go between the stationery queue to reach Chesterton Rd.

      Easier on a bike, of course.

      Mind you, I use that toucan more often that not myself these days, as due to difficulty of leaving the roundabout, the queue for it backs up as far as the post office most of the time.

      Anyway, I digress. There is a camcycle response, I will see if it can be put on the site.

    3. Will look forward to seeing Camcycle response. Hoping that the 'no more half measures' thing will apply this time!

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Think my re-posted comment was just eaten. But here's the Camcycle response http://www.camcycle.org.uk/blog/2014/02/18/milton-road-gilbert-road-junction/

    6. Doesn't suck as a response - but when will Camcycle start insisting that if the scheme is not entirely favourable to cyclists you won't support it?

    7. The main issue with this scheme is the funds available, which I believe is about 20K. That can't be anything more than a paint on the road scheme. If a paint on the road scheme can make things a bit more convenient for existing cyclists, and remove dangers such as pedestrian railings, I'm okay with that. It won't create any new cyclists.
      The other thing about a 20K scheme is that it doesn't preclude spending more money even quite soon should, say, s106 money become available. Removing lanes of queueing motor traffic creates the space to use this for segregation in the future. The two-stage approach might even be beneficial - get the controversial bit out of the way on the cheap, and when people see that the sky hasn't fallen in, the physical remodelling is easier to get through. It's almost experimental.
      I think that's very different from, say, some kind of 900K scheme which delivers little more, using dedicated cycle safety funding, and ruling out further expense for a decade.
      Although the scheme isn't entirely favourable to cyclists in the sense that it's not the end goal for this junction, it's not really favourable to anyone else - this is being done for cyclists. There might be a knock-on benefit for pedestrians if this gets some cyclists off the pavement and on to the road, but it's not a pedestrian scheme.

    8. Yet Camcycle supported another very bad, very expensive scheme recently, namely Perne Road.

      Seems to me the campaign is trying to have it both ways - you're supporting sub-standard cheap schemes on the grounds that you might get higher value schemes that make things better later, while also supporting bad schemes that cost a lot of money. I don't get how thats a coherent approach.

      This gives the impression that the campaign is, as ever, playing cyclists off against the county council. It looks like you're being reasonable to retain your seat at the top table with the council. Like if you criticise too much you'll not be listened to so you'd better not create any waves.

      Sorry, but I can't agree with the campaigns stance on this. Until cyclists unite behind demanding better, we're never going to get what we need. A constant drip, drip, drip of bad schemes will never add up to getting the whole right - why ought it?

  2. Here is some input I provided to the (members-only) Cycling Campaign discussion on this topic. Reposted here by request:

    "I'm coming to the opinion that the changes should be more substantial [than proposed]. It isn't very often that there is the opportunity to adjust junctions, and junctions are the most dangerous part of the road network. If our goal is segregated cycle routes, and I believe it should be, then we should be pushing for segregation where possible through junctions too. If we don't push for segregation at this junction now, when will we ever? We will be left with segregated routes down wide easy non-contentious roads, precisely where we need them least.

    "I imagine the £20k budget is pretty arbitrary based on the improvements that officers brainstormed, and so could be adjusted if there is good rationale.

    "I'd argue that we need a segregated cycle lane through the junction heading southbound on Milton Road, either segregated with curbs (preferable), planters or armadillos (less preferred -- they tend to be ignored by drivers in practice). It should not be traffic light controlled. However, it will need some attention at pedestrian x-ings to make sure priority is handled appropriately.

    "Without this segregation, cyclists will be at risk whenever a right-turning vehicle waits to turn into Gilbert Road. Following vehicles will push dangerously left-wards into the cycle lane to bypass. It will be an accident waiting to happen.

    "Ultimately this can then hook up with segregated lanes down Milton Road, which surely are what we would seek eventually. But even if it doesn't it would be a useful piece of infrastructure in its own right.

    "Heading North on Milton Road, there is also scope for a protected priority left-turn off Milton Road onto Gilbert Road, and heading East on Gilbert Road there is scope for a protected priority left-turn off Gilbert Road onto Milton Road shared use."